Thu, 30 Nov 2000

Code of ethics draft submitted to House

JAKARTA (JP): House of Representatives' Legislation Body (Baleg) submitted for deliberation on Tuesday a draft of the House code of ethics, which bans legislators from publicly speaking about the substance of any meeting held behind closed doors.

House Speaker Akbar Tandjung said the code of ethics was aimed at improving both political and moral commitments of legislators.

"But it doesn't mean that the code will restrict the legislators from exercising their rights," Akbar, who also chairs the Golkar Party, said after receiving the draft from Baleg chairman Zein Badjeber.

Article 20 of the draft says that legislators are obliged to keep confidential the substance of any closed-door meeting until it is declassified.

The stipulation is being proposed in response to several legislators revealing to the press the results of closed hearings held by the House special committee investigating two high- profile financial cases, namely the Bulog and Brunei scandals which allegedly involve President Abdurrahman Wahid.

After a regular consultation meeting with Abdurrahman in April, some legislators revealed that the President dismissed Laksamana Sukardi and Yusuf Kalla as minister of investment and state enterprises development and minister of industry and trade respectively because of corruption.

Abdurrahman complained about the legislators' failure to comply with an earlier deal reached between himself and the House to keep the meeting off the record. The legislators defended their actions, saying the public had a right to know.

The code of ethics also forbids legislators from taking up side jobs in a bid to avoid conflicts of interest.

Article 16 of the draft says a House member is forbidden, for example, to work as a consultant or a commissioner of a company for fear that he or she would take advantage of their position in the House to benefit the company or vica versa.

The draft (Article 6) also regulates that legislators should personally attend any House session in which their presence is required. Those who fail to appear without clear notification could face disciplinary action.

It has become common practice for legislators to sign an attendance form without attending a meeting.

Article 24 says House leaders can hand down sanctions, including dismissal, against legislators who violate the code of ethics, after consulting the House's honor council and leaders of related factions.

Secretary-general of Abdurrahman's National Awakening Party (PKB) Muhaimin Iskandar has repeatedly demanded the establishment of an honor council. (jun)