Sun, 13 Aug 2000

Factions agree on TNI/Police decree

JAKARTA (JP): All 11 factions in commission meetings at the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) here on Saturday agreed to propose a decree which will ensure the Indonesian Military (TNI)/Police's presence in the Assembly.

In a sub-commission meeting of the Assembly's commission in charge of decrees, factions agreed to accommodate the TNI/Police's political aspirations by giving them a presence in the Assembly, as they do not vote during the general election.

The consensus on the draft further signals the strong support for a constitutional amendment, being discussed in another commission, that would constitutionally force their presence in the Assembly despite a strong public outcry.

The only contentious debate on the draft decree seems to be on the technicalities and details, particularly on the TNI/Police's neutrality in politics.

Legislator Mutammimul Ula suggested that the decree also assert that TNI and police members cannot be members of political parties.

"The addition is aimed at giving a guarantee and a legal assurance of TNI/Police neutrality," Mutammimul from the Reform faction said.

Article 5 of the current draft merely states that the TNI/Police act neutral and are not involved in practical politics.

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Tayo Tarmadi from the TNI/Police faction rejected the proposal and said that by saying it acts neutral was sufficient as it already encompasses neutrality over all political aspects.

"(But) we understand such a suggestion as the TNI/Police were in the past used by a certain political party," Tayo said.

He then defended the need to maintain the existence of the TNI/Police in the Assembly, at least for the time being, especially in providing counsel from a defense and security perspective.

Apart from the decree on the presence of the military faction in the Assembly decree, a decree on the separation of the TNI from the police was also being drafted as a follow-up to President Abdurrahman's decision on the matter in July.

The three commission meetings, on constitutional amendments, decrees and recommendations to the executive, had become the central activity of the Assembly's Annual Session which is entering its second week.


Meanwhile, President Abdurrahman Wahid's physical limitations received serious attention from members of the Assembly's Commission C, charged with a draft decree evaluating state institutions' progress reports, including the President's.

Several members of smaller, but no less vocal, factions suggested that the Assembly invoke a 1973 decree on the President's health to press him to relinquish his power.

The decree could in effect legalize Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri's top role in the Cabinet.

Sahruddin Tandjung of the United Development Party (PPP) faction said the President's health problems would remain a serious obstacle in the government's efforts to achieve progress in the future.

"We have frequently witnessed the President sleeping in several meetings with the House. Many presidential tasks have already been done by the Vice President," he said.

Oddly, it was the Reform and PPP factions, grouped in the "central axis", which, along with the Golkar Party, helped Abdurrahman be elected in October.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and Golkar factions are also proposing a draft decree recommending the President entrust technical matters in running the government to the Vice President.

Separately in Commission A on constitutional amendments, its vice chairman, Slamet Effendy Yusuf, doubted whether the commission could conclusively deliberate all proposed amendments due to the complexity of the legal issue.

Slamet, a Golkar legislator, pointed out that the 238-member commission only had four days left to fully review and adopt a 76 chapter constitutional draft before handing over its findings to the plenary session on Tuesday.

Commission chairman Jacob Tobing indicated that the Assembly would likely set up an independent commission to thoroughly study the amendment draft, especially on items touching sensitive issues.

Several legislators from the eastern part of Indonesia also demanded on Saturday a stronger constitutional guarantee that the regions would have more say in their local affairs.

"We object to Chapter 18, which states that the central government gives wide-ranging autonomy to the regions. The autonomy is the right of the regions and not a gift from the central government," said Love the Nation Democratic Party faction's Gregorius Seto Hariyanto from West Kalimantan. (rms/prb/jun)