Fri, 02 May 2003

`Education bill against constitution'

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), arguably the most influential faction in the House, has called for more time to discuss the controversial national education bill to prevent friction in society.

PDI Perjuangan faction chairman Roy B.B. Janis said on Thursday that the substance of the bill was not in line with the Constitution.

Roy, who was accompanied by faction members Firman Jaya Daeli, Emir Moeis and Willem Tutuarima, refused to identify the contentious articles.

The most debated issue in the bill is Article 13, which states that all students have the right to take religious classes given by teachers of the same religion, regardless of whether they are Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim schools.

Should the House endorse the bill, all religion-based schools will have to hire special religious instruction teachers from various religious groups and provide special places of worship for each religion represented in its student body.

The bill specifies that a school is required to provide religious teachers if students from a certain religion number more than ten.

Debate has increased, with Islamic groups supporting the bill, while Christian schools reject it.

"Should we insist on endorsing the bill, we will be at risk of national disintegration," Roy said.

Taufikurrahman Saleh, chairman of the House special committee deliberating the bill, said Thursday that there were ideas to endorse the bill on National Education Day on May 2 or on National Awakening Day on May 20.

However, Taufikurrahman, of the National Awakening Party (PKB) faction, said the ideas had not been discussed. "We will open discussions on the bill next Monday."

Separately in Surabaya, East Java, leaders of Islamic organizations staged a rally outside the provincial legislative council in support of the endorsement of the national education bill.

The delegation, headed by Fasich of the Muhammadiyah Muslim group, conveyed a joint statement by 39 Islamic organizations in East Java, Antara reported.

The groups supported the stipulation that all students will have religious classes from teachers of their own religion.

Should the bill be passed into law, the groups also urged the government to take action against those violating the law.

Former president Abdurrahman Wahid also rejected the bill, saying the government must not meddle in religion.

Abdurrahman, former chairman of the largest Muslim group in Indonesian, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), said the government should focus on its core roles.

Jos Rahawadan of the Indonesian Nationhood Unity (KKI) faction said that all Christian schools would display banners on May 2 in rejection of the bill.