Tue, 15 Jul 2003

Assembly gears up to establish constitution commission

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) is gearing up for its Annual Session wherein it is expected to endorse a decree establishing the long awaited Constitutional Commission, however its functions will be restricted to assessing constitutional amendments in the past.

Far from the public's hope of having a powerful commission, the new body will not have the authority to write new amendments.

"The commission is supposed to be completed two months after the Annual Session. It will help the Assembly for the assessment of amendments," a member of the Assembly ad hoc committee for constitutional amendments Baharuddin Aritonang told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The session will take place from Aug. 1 through Aug. 10, and cost taxpayers about Rp 20 billion (US$2.4 million). It will be the last session to be held by the Assembly during its 1999-2004 term.

Aritonang, from The Golkar Party, said that after finishing the assessment, the commission would report to the Assembly's working body before presenting its report to the Assembly plenary session.

According to him, Assembly members were still debating the number of commission members.

"But we do know that there will be some constitutional experts on the commission," he conceded.

Responding to the quality of the constitutional commission, a member of the Coalition For a New Constitution, Bambang Widjojanto criticized the Assembly members.

"The lawmakers have taken away any power in the Constitutional Commission. It is more like a powerless team of assistants," Bambang told the Post.

The commission, in its current form, would have no power to propose a new constitution, or even to design the structure of any new amendment.

"The only task that will be given to the commission is that it must make reports for the MPR which will then decide all matters," Bambang lamented.

Apart from preparing the decree that will establish the Constitutional Commission, the MPR legislators will also deliberate on the numerous Assembly decrees issued between 1966 and 2002.

Assembly member Aisyah Aminy of the United Development Party (PPP) said that the MPR session could actually revoke some of the outdated or unwanted decrees.

"We are in the process of discussing which Assembly decrees might be revoked and which will not," Aisyah told the Post.

Aisyah is a member of the Assembly's ad hoc committee for MPR decrees.

Separately, Alihardi Kiaidemak who chairs the Assembly's ad hoc committee for budget and program affairs disclosed that the 10-day session would not cost more than Rp 20 billion.

Alihardi added that the members of the Assembly seemed divided on whether to allow the Supreme Advisory Council (DPA) to present its annual report during the session.

As a result of a constitutional amendment last year, the DPA will longer exist as of 2004 and its role will be replaced by a smaller team of presidential advisers.

"We will consult with Assembly leaders about whether the DPA will be summoned to present its report," Alihardi added.

Alihardi of PPP faction emphasized that the Assembly session would not appraise the performance of state institutions. Each faction, however, will be given an opportunity to comment on the performance of state institutions.