Constitutional commission put off till 2003
Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Despite disagreement on two contentious articles, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) is expected to endorse the final phase of the current constitutional amendment process during a plenary session on Friday, but has delayed the establishment of a constitutional commission until 2003.
The two articles, one on the composition of the MPR and one on religion, remain a source of contention and now have to be brought before the plenary session on Friday after the commission tasked with their deliberation failed to reach a decision (see table).
Assembly Speaker Amien Rais, meanwhile, expressed optimism that the plenary session would endorse the fourth batch of amendments.
"We are grateful that only two articles are left for deliberation. Even with the two articles being brought before the plenary session, I'm sure it will not be a difficult issue to solve," Amien said on Thursday night.
The United Development Party (PPP), the Daulatul Ummah Party (PDU) and the Crescent Star Party factions are insisting that the Jakarta Charter be included in Article 29 of the 1945 Constitution. The other factions have agreed to bring Article 29 as well as Article 2(1) on the composition of the MPR to the plenary session, which will make the final decision.
Article 2(1) is crucial because the fate of the 2004 general election hinges on its endorsement. The bill on general elections is hanging in the balance, pending the amendment of Article 2(1).
Amien also said he was convinced an agreement on Article 29 would be reached without a vote.
"There's no need for a vote, because we can expect wisdom, mutual respect, that would make voting unnecessary," Amien added.
There are fears that the decision on the two articles, particularly Article 29, will be made through a vote. Voting on these two issues is feared to open a possibility of horse- trading.
Commission A on the amendment of the Constitution also agreed last night to set up a constitutional commission through an MPR decree.
The factions finalized the drafting of the decree last night after four hours of deliberation from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Faction leaders then reported on the decree to President Megawati Soekarnoputri at her residence on Jl. Teuku Umar, Central Jakarta.
According to the decree, an MPR working body will be tasked with the establishment of the constitutional commission and will be given a year to complete the assignment. It will decide the form, membership and powers of the commission and submit the results to the Assembly's Annual Session in 2003 at the latest.
Commission A chairman Jakob Tobing also hinted that despite disagreement over the constitutional commission, the fourth raft of amendments would be endorsed.
Commission A reconvened at 10 p.m. last night to finalize the decree.
Earlier, the factions had disagreed on basically everything about the commission, including its name. The Golkar Party faction, for example, proposed a completely different name, the national committee for the improvement of the Constitution (PNPK).
A vote on the contentious issues would end the debate but legislators have hinted that they would prefer a consensus.
The public has been concerned about the possibility of deadlock in the constitutional amendment process. Early in the Annual Session, a group of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) legislators had tried to block the amendment process. The PDI Perjuangan legislators, supported by members of the Interest Groups faction, managed to collect about 200 signatures to oppose the fourth batch of amendments.
They claimed, among other things, that the MPR no longer had the authority to pass the amendments.
The Interest Groups faction, whose membership in the MPR is threatened by the endorsement of the latest amendments, have also tried to garner support to reject the amendment process.
Articles of contention
Article 2 Paragraph 1
Alternative 1: The People's Consultative Assembly consists of members of the House of Representatives and members of the Regional Representatives Council elected in general elections, plus the Interest Groups elected by the House of Representatives, as regulated further by law.
Alternative 2: The People's Consultative Assembly consists of members of the House of Representatives and members of the Regional Representatives Council elected in general elections and regulated further by law.
Article 29 Paragraph 1
Alternative 1: The state is based on one Supreme God.
Alternative 2: The state is based on one Supreme God with the obligation for followers to practice sharia.
Alternative 3: The state is based on one Supreme God with the obligation for adherents to practice their religions.
Article 29 Paragraph 2
Alternative 1: The state guarantees the freedom of its citizens to practice religion and to worship according to their religion or faith.
Alternative 2: The state guarantees the freedom of citizens to practice religion and to worship according to their religion.