Thu, 30 Aug 2001

DPR criticized for poor performance on its birthday

JAKARTA (JP): In conjunction with the 56th anniversary of the House of Representatives (DPR), which fell on Wednesday, the performance of the legislature was criticized by both political observers and legislators themselves as being poor.

Miriam Budiardjo, a political observer from the University of Indonesia, said that compared to the House's performance during the New Order era the present legislature had made some progress, but it could not perform well because of the existing electoral system.

"Since the start of the reform era, hundreds of bills have been ratified (especially during the Habibie era) and the House has begun using its budgetary and control functions to ensure checks-and-balances mechanisms with the executive body," he told The Jakarta Post by telephone here on Wednesday.

Miriam observed that the House had placed emphasis on its control function, thereby delaying a great number of bills submitted for deliberation to the House.

Zein Badjeber, chairman of the House legislative committee, admitted the House has yet to perform optimally in exercising its legislative function.

"Out of 50 bills submitted to the House for the 1999-2004 period, 30 are still being deliberated and only a handful of them have been passed into law," he said.

He said the bills being deliberated included draft laws on tax payments, settlement of labor disputes, police, state defense, special autonomy for Irian Jaya and intellectual rights.

Teten Masduki, coordinator of Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), attributed the House's poor performance to the electoral system and the strong role of the political parties.

According to ICW, the House does not represent the people, but rather the political parties and the Indonesian Military. This could be seen from the fact that all the legislators had been appointed by their own parties, while the military still holds non-elected seats.

"This means that legislators are still abusing the public trust because they never have to account to their constituents," he said.

According to Teten, the House is far removed from the people it represents because most legislators pay more attention to their respective parties' political interests than to the problems the people are facing.

According to information supplied by the House's general secretariat, a legislator receives Rp 9.25 million (US$1,055) as his basic monthly salary and enjoys at least 10 different allowances and perks in respect of housing, transportation, electricity, washing machines, health cover, car loans and communications with his constituents.

Aberson Marle Sihaloho, an outspoken legislator from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), concurred, saying the House was unable to do a good job because the legislators were representing not the people but their own political parties.

"Those who have the power in the House are the party leaders, not the people," he said, adding that the current electoral system should be changed to a district system so as to make the legislators accountable.

He said the House had yet to use its control and budgetary functions to improve the government's performance.

"So far, the House has yet to use its budgetary function to force the executive to allocate special funds to create job opportunities so as to cope with unemployment, to provide vocational training to improve workers' skills or to help vulnerable groups as it is required to do by the Constitution," he asserted.

J. Sahetapy, another legislator from the PDI Perjuangan, said the House's poor performance had a lot to do with the low quality of human resources found in the House and the absence of tough measures against legislators who violated the House's code of ethics.

"Some legislators are facing an ethical and moral crisis amid the absence of discipline among the majority of legislators," he said. (rms)