Mon, 23 Sep 2002

Autonomy law sparks disputes, undermines national integrity

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The division of power, as set out in Law No. 22/1999 on regional autonomy, tends to create disputes between regional and central administrations and spark sectarian conflicts in society, an official has said.

He compared the law, under which the central and regional administrations enjoy unprecedented exclusive authority, to what took effect in the United States in the 19th century.

"It (the autonomy law) creates tension and disharmony at all administrative levels and brings about inefficiency in public services," Sodjuangon Situmorang, specialist adviser on legal and political affairs to the home minister, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

He suggested that the model for division of power adopted in the law be revised immediately.

According to Situmorang, the division of administrative power between central and regional administrations should be focused on democracy and efficiency.

"The model should provide clear criteria on the need to divide administrative power and the mechanism to exercise it," he said.

Situmorang was awarded on Friday a doctorate from the University of Indonesia for his thesis on regional autonomy.

He said it was now time for Indonesia to adopt a model of concurrent power, under which central and regional administrations held equal authority in dealing with issues.

"This model will result in optimal public services, create an efficient use of natural resources and boost integrity among state administrators," he added.

Constitutional law expert Jimly Ashidiqie concurred with Situmorang, saying that Law No. 22/1999 needed revision to bring it into line with the amended Constitution.

According to Jimly, the law, which was the legal basis for the implementation of regional autonomy in January 2000, contained flaws that undermined national integrity.

Jimly, who took part in the process of constitutional amendment, said that certain stipulations in the law violated Article 18 of the amended Constitution.

He said the idea to review the law had not won support because of worries that such a move could aggravate the implementation of regional autonomy.

"Of course, it would be unwise to change the law immediately. But with regard to the constitutional amendment, the law should be reviewed," Jimly, who was a member of the team of scholars that assessed Situmorang's thesis, told Antara.

He said the general public, the business community in particular, hoped to see the law on regional autonomy revised due to the confusion it had caused.

But he warned the government against justifying the revision as a way of reviving the centralizing tendencies of the New Order government.

In the republic's 57-year history, the law dealing with the division of central and regional administration authority and responsibilities has been changed six times.