JAKARTA - Indonesia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs and its new halal body BPJPH have approved temporary recognition of Germany-based Halal Control GmbH that was stripped of its recognition by LPPOM-MUI.
The temporary recognition will stand until a formal agreement of halal certification cooperation is signed between the relevant authorities representing the governments of Indonesia and Germany, BPJPH head Prof. Sukoso told Salaam Gateway.
"Firstly, the decision comes after we received the request from Mr. Tatari and his lawyer,” said Prof. Sukoso.
The BPJPH head said Halal Control GmbH general manager Mahmoud Tatari, his lawyer in Indonesia Ahmad Ramzy, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, the German Embassy in Indonesia, and Indonesian-German Chamber of Commerce came to see him to request the reversal of the removal of Halal Control GmbH from the list of halal certifiers recognised by LPPOM-MUI, the former halal certifier in Indonesia.
“They are seeking justice for their clash with LPPOM-MUI several years ago. We are very sorry that their business was hampered as a result of that case, and they have already lost a lot,” added Prof. Sukoso.
Halal Control GmbH was in May this year removed from LPPOM-MUI’s list after a case it first lodged at the end of 2017 with Indonesian police surfaced and started receiving media attention. The German company maintains the case involves the head of Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), Lukmanul Hakim, extorting money from it to renew its licence. Renewal of recognition for foreign halal certifying bodies is not meant to be charged save for “visit expenses” to cover the cost of MUI officials travelling to inspect foreign certifiers.
“Honestly, I feel it’s a big shame for us, with this corruption scandal involving an Indonesian halal certification agency," said Prof Sukoso referring to LPPOM-MUI.
The government’s BPJPH officially started operating on October 17, taking over from LPPOM-MUI as the sole, and national, halal certification agency for Indonesia. Islamic clerical body MUI served as the only halal certifier in the country for some two decades.
"As head of the halal certification agency, I want to defend the honour of all ulama and Indonesian people that already have integrity. We think this case cannot be left alone and should be solved by the state, otherwise, it can harm Indonesia’s national honour and worsen trade cooperation in general between Indonesia and Germany,” said Prof. Sukoso.
“So we built a “bridge” with this temporary recognition letter," he said.
National halal certifiers such as BPJPH recognise halal certificates issued by foreign certifying bodies that it approves. This recognition is based on the capability of the foreign certifying body to comply with their halal standards and procedures. For recognised foreign certifying bodies and the companies whose products they certify, this means access into the Indonesian market. This is an important source of business for halal certifying bodies that are paid for their services by companies seeking entry into Indonesia.
FOREIGN HALAL CERTIFYING BODIES RECOGNITION PROCESS
Unlike under LPPOM-MUI, recognition of foreign halal certifying bodies must go through a series of checks and balances before they can be officially recognised by BPJPH.
Prof Sukoso said several steps need to be carried out for an agency such as Halal Control GmbH to receive full recognition.
The most urgent is government-to-government mutual recognition of halal certification cooperation.
In the case of the Rüsselsheim-based Halal Control GmbH, there will be a clause that stresses that all German products entering Indonesia should meet halal certification requirements in accordance with UU JPH law. As well, Indonesian products entering the European country should adhere to its halal certification guidelines.
"So each of us are able to export to each country. Although we already have UU JPH and government regulation about halal certification, we might need to hold several focus group discussions with them to draft the mutual recognition," said Prof. Sukoso.
Halal Control GmbH a year ago already submitted all documents required to meet article 46 (2) JPH Law regarding foreign halal certifiers, and they are currently being verified by BPJPH, said Prof Sukoso.
The current regulations governing halal certification clearly states that BPJPH has the authority to control recognition of foreign halal certifiers, and that LPPOM-MUI is currently one of BPJPH's partners serving as halal auditors and issuers of fatawa, National Standardisation Agency of Indonesia (BSN) Accreditation and System Director Donny Purnomo told Salaam Gateway.
Companies can apply for halal certification to BPJPH, which can also issue Indonesia's halal certificate based on recognition of the certification from the country of origin, and other accreditation bodies that are a part of the International Accreditation Forum Multilateral Recognition Arrangement (IAF MLA).
For foreign halal certifiers to get full recognition, as mentioned also in article 28 number 4 and 5 Government Regulation Number 31, BPJPH will work in coordination and consultation with Indonesia's National Accreditation Committee (KAN).
"To get full recognition several things are required, among them is accreditation from an accreditation body that has a recognition agreement with KAN,” said Donny.
“Then we'll cooperate with the country of origin's accreditation body, as long as it is registered as a member of IAF MLA and affiliated to the Standards and Metrology Institute for the Islamic Countries (SMIIC) or the International Halal Accreditation Forum (IHAF),” he said, referring to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) SMIIC and the Dubai-based IHAF.
“If they are not yet registered, the accreditation process will be conducted directly by us (KAN). Even if they have already become members of IAF MLA, we still have to always coordinate with the country of origin's accreditation body in the cross-border context,” he added.
“But before all those steps are put in place, BPJPH can issue a temporary recognition, like in the case of Halal Control GmbH Germany, for example," he said.
Mahmoud Tatari, General Manager of Halal Control GmbH Germany told Salaam Gateway the decision gives a positive signal to the global halal community, and will build confidence in Indonesia’s halal certification process.
"The temporary recognition letter bridges and gives our clients the possibility to export their goods to Indonesia. The only halal authority BPJPH is endorsed by law 33 (JPH)," he said.
Halal Control GmbH said it will continue to pursue its case against LPPOM-MUI.
It has met different institutions, including government anti-corruption commission KPK and police headquarters, according to Mahmoud. He said investigations are ongoing.
"Well, our endeavours on integrity will certainly be continued until the case is solved in the right way," he said.
(Reporting by Yosi Winosa; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim firstname.lastname@example.org)
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