Mon, 14 Aug 2000

Calls to defer amendments grow

JAKARTA (JP): Calls to postpone the consideration of constitutional amendments to a more "appropriate" time are growing as many argue that the nation is currently still too unsettled to deal with such fundamental changes to the 1945 Constitution.

An alliance of Muslim, Catholic, Protestant and Hindu student organizations said they were very disappointed with the quarrels and politicking going on at the Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly.

They charged that fundamental issues in the Constitution were being comprised in the debate as a result of individual political interests.

"We are very disappointed with the politicking involved in the Annual Session. Amendment of the constitution is too high a price to pay just to satisfy the political parties' conflicting interests," said Syaiful Bahri Anshori, chairman of the Muslim Youth Organization (PMII).

"Stop amending the constitution as it looks likely to lead to a worsening of the national situation," he said speaking to journalists here on Saturday.

Syaiful said that now is an inappropriate time for the Assembly to make fundamental decisions as to the state's founding principles, ideology and institutions, while political and ethnic conflict continues to rage.

"How can the Assembly make fundamental changes concerning the nation's future while people in Aceh, Maluku and North Maluku are killing one another. A majority of the people are also feeling angry and hungry because they are jobless while the economic crisis continues to decimate their lives," he said.

Adhyaksa, chairman of the Indonesian Youth Committee (KNPI), concurred and warned that the present situation will worsen if the Assembly and other state institutions do not pay serious attention to the economic crisis, the conflicts raging in several provinces and the absence of legal certainty.

He said the Assembly should postpone amending the constitution and instead focus on how to deal with the unsettled conditions.

"The Assembly, as the highest institution of state, must be capable of encouraging all branches of the state, including the government, to undertake total reform so as to create a new Indonesia," he said.

Adhyaksa also called on the Assembly and the government to take steps to strengthen the middle class so as to promote change.

Similar concerns have also been conveyed by some Assembly members who have noted the "gap" with the Assembly seeming to be preoccupied with its own world while ignoring the critical realities faced by the people.

Lt. Gen. Achmad Rustandi, chairman of the Indonesian Military/National Police faction in the House of Representatives, said the annual session's agenda has yet to address the real conditions and the serious problems faced by the nation and people.

"Most legislators have focused their attention on power and the planned cabinet reshuffle. They forget that they sit here to uphold the people's sovereignty. And the Assembly has yet to come up with the necessary policies and decisions to address the people's grievances," he said.

Achmad also supported the call for amendments to be deferred as there are many sensitive and crucial issues which need to be thoroughly debated first.

He said the annual session has yet to really attract the people's attention because it has yet to touch their daily needs.

"I'm sure a majority of the people do not care about the amendments to the constitution, the preparation of draft decrees and the political issues being debated during the Annual Session because what they need is a better life and circumstances whereby they can work under conditions of security," he said.

Jacob Tobing, chairman of the Assembly's Commission A preparing the constitutional amendments stressed the importance of setting up a team of experts to help the Assembly amend the constitution.

"The constitution contains many crucial things and they should be entrusted to constitutional experts for deliberation," he said.

Al Amien Kraying, chairman of the Forum for Alumni of the Indonesian Nationalist Student Association (GMNI), said the Annual Session has failed to adopt policies or take decisions to solve national problems.

"The annual session looks likely to fail in promoting solidarity among all the nation's components so that the problems the nation is facing may be solved," he said. (rms)