The Speaker of the House from the Indonesian Parliament led a delegation of parliamentarians recently to the US and had several meetings at their Embassy in Washington DC. Present at one of these meetings with the ASEAN Business Council at the Indonesian Embassy last Thursday, 10 September was Philip Morris. The meeting with the ABC was significant enough for the Indonesian Embassy to highlight it in their press release. This raises all sorts of red flags especially since a pro-tobacco bill is currently being debated in the Indonesian Parliament.
These past few weeks, the Indonesian Parliament has been rushing to finalize a pro-Tobacco Bill by Sept 20 after which it will be sent to the President. This bill, said to be sponsored by the Indonesian Kretek community, basically seeks to strengthen the tobacco industry and roll back tobacco control. For example one of the clauses in the Bill is for cigarette packs to carry text-only warnings – when pictorial health warnings are already being applied to cigarette packs since June last year.
According to a 2013 expose in Tempo, Philip Morris International’s local subsidiary Sampoerna sponsored an academic paper prepared by Gadja Mada University to support a draft tobacco bill which was submitted by the Defenders of National Committee of Clove Cigarettes in 2011. This bill was supported by more groups and adopted by the Legislative Body in 2013. The Legislative Body then drops the tobacco control bill which was also being considered.
Parties to the WHO FCTC last year adopted a decision at COP6 to protect foreign missions from the influence of the tobacco industry under Article 5.3. Philip Morris meeting with officials at an Embassy function well illustrates what Parties must avoid. Unfortunately as a non-Party to the FCTC, Indonesia is oblivious to this.