Fri, 09 Aug 2002

Disagreement causes delay, forces MPR to extend session

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

During a plenary meeting of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) on Thursday, it was decided to extend the Assembly's Annual Session by about nine hours after legislators failed to reach a consensus on several items in the fourth batch of constitutional amendments.

The Annual Session had been scheduled to end on Saturday at noon, but will be extended to 9 p.m.

Legislators were scheduled to hear on Thursday final reports from three ad hoc commissions working on the constitutional amendments, but the reports were delayed to give Commission A time to finish deliberating several crucial issues. Faction and commission leaders took the opportunity to hold a series of lobbying sessions.

Discussion of two crucial items in the fourth batch of constitutional amendments, Article 2 on the composition of the MPR and Article 29 on religion, have failed to yield a consensus among the factions. Demands for the establishment of a constitutional commission have also taken up a significant amount of time.

Initially there were hopes the commission could be set up during the Annual Session, with most factions apparently in support of its establishment.

However, it soon became clear from the proposals for the commission that none of the Assembly factions shared a similar platform on the composition and role of the commission, a fact that led to a deadlock.

Instead of focusing deliberations on the proposed constitutional commission, the United Development Party (PPP), the Reform and the Daulatul Ummah Party (PDU) factions further delayed the amendment process by demanding the inclusion of phrases to specify which article or articles of the Constitution would be applied.

Hadar N. Gumay of the Center for Electoral Reform charged that legislators were not serious about the constitutional commission.

"They use the issue to show the public that they are accommodating the people's aspirations," Hadar said.

Three commissions are expected to give a final report on their work during a plenary meeting on Friday.

All 12 factions are scheduled to deliver their comments on the reports on Saturday morning, and are expected to approve the reports later in the afternoon, from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Assembly Speaker Amien Rais is expected to deliver the Annual Session's closing speech at 9 p.m. on Saturday.