Jakarta Globe | Insight

Companies Screen Employees for Signs of Radicalism

Jakarta. Inside busy offices in Jakarta, human resources departments are now hard at work screening social media posts of job applicants for signs of radical or extremist views.

Intolerance and radicalism have taken center stage in Indonesian politics, as politicians are keen to fan sectarian divides to gather support from their electorates.

Though radical employees disrupting a place of business is not yet heard of in the country, employers are wary of complications that such groups could cause.

In December, local bread manufacturer Sari Roti found itself at the center of a mass boycott after the company tried to distance from a protest movement initiated by Islamic hardliners who were demanding the ouster and arrest of incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy.

An executive working at one of the country’s largest food and beverage makers, requesting anonymity, said his company has anticipated backlash after the government decided to disband the Islamist organization Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia due to anti-Pancasila activities.

“We have several employees who were in HTI […] we are watching them closely of course, though as long as they follow company guidelines and are productive, there is no reason for us to fire them,” the executive said.

Suryantoro Waluyo, country head of human resources at Standard Chartered Bank, said he would also be open to keeping on ex-HTI members as employees, as long as they are professional and respectful towards others.

“The main point is diversity. I think as a human being we should accept diversity and respect other people as individuals.”

However, Suryantoro said he draws the line on activism within the office, claiming that he would fire staff members who spread radical ideas in the workplace, or those who could implicate Standard Chartered in any political movement. “I am very clear […] this is the office and they must not recruit members or holding meetings here. Otherwise, I will kick them out,” he said.

Other companies hold various religious programs and social outings to stay in tuned with their employees and prevent radical ideas from taking root at the workplace.

“During [company gatherings], we always remind our employees to respect each other even though we have different backgrounds […] we are Indonesians,” said Daniel Budirahayu, Bank Victoria’s president director.

Still other executives are less concerned with the spread of radicalism, believing in the plurality of their workforce as a means to prevent divisive ideologies from gaining influence.

“We are open. We always have briefings and meetings. Our main concern is not that kind of issue, our main concern is productivity,” said Iswar Deni, the corporate secretary at Pan Brothers, a textile manufacturer with more than 40,000 workers across Java.

Iswar also said that the company has an internal monitoring system in place to quickly spot anything unusual with employees.

The government has also ramped up efforts to root out radicals within state agencies. Technology and Education Minister Mohamad Nasir said last month he would ask for the resignation of lecturers at state universities across the country who align with HTI and violate Pancasila.

Bank Indonesia, the country’s central bank, has fared better than other state institutions, with zero reported cases of employee radicalization. Indeed, bank employees are forced to make an annual vow not to align themselves with any political party or mass organization.

“Even a strong [political] comment on social media would warrant warning from their supervisor,” said Rosmaya Hadi, a deputy governor of Bank Indonesia. “Either directly or indirectly, any actions and deeds displayed by Bank Indonesia employees will be associated with the bank.”

Writing by Dion Bisara