Sun, 03 Aug 2003

Factions urge issuance of recommendation

Kurniawan Hari and, A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Factions in the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) increased pressure on Saturday for the Annual Session now underway to issue a recommendation in response to the progress report delivered by President Megawati Soekarnoputri on her administration's performance.

Many believe that, although the recommendation will be not legally binding, it will serve as a critical assessment of Megawati's administration in the past year.

Golkar legislator Priyo Budi Santoso was the first to demand the formation of a commission that would draft the recommendation, when he interrupted the morning session presided by Assembly Speaker Amien Rais.

"Without the issuance of such a recommendation, this Annual Session will be colorless," Priyo said.

Amien Said Husni of the National Awakening Party (PKB) faction supported the demand, saying the recommendation was needed to evaluate the performance of the President and other state institutions.

Husni denied allegations that the recommendation would be used to sweep the mistakes of the President and other state institutions under the rug, and insisted it would serve to improve their future performance.

Pressure for the issuance of a recommendation also came from the Reform faction, which is dominated by Amien Rais' National Mandate Party (PAN).

The widely expressed demand contradicted the statement of MPR leaders, who had said prior to the opening of the Annual Session that it would not become a forum to assess the President's performance.

Public opinion has also been critical of the Annual Session and its unsubstantial agenda. In particular, the public have been riled by the Rp 20 billion bill they will have to shoulder, which includes five-star hotel accommodations for legislators, even those who reside in the capital.

Due to the increasingly vocalized demand during Saturday's session, Amien said there was still a chance for the legislative body to set up an ad hoc commission to draft the recommendation.

The Assembly members will decide on whether to form the extra commission on Sunday, when they will also determine the lineup of Commissions A and B. Commission A is tasked to form the much- awaited Constitutional Commission, and Commission B is to select those obsolete MPR decrees that are to be revoked.

Meanwhile, Roy B.B. Janis of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) faction asserted that his team would not bother with the issuance of any recommendation regarding the President's performance.

"As long as it is confined to and focused on how to improve the work of the President and other state institutions, then it will be fine to produce the recommendation," Roy told reporters on the sidelines of the second day of the Annual Session.

Megawati is the chairwoman of PDI Perjuangan.

Constitutional Law expert Harun Alrasyid of the University of Indonesia (UI) said the Assembly's issuance of a recommendation would not affect the President.

He reminded the public that last year's Annual Session issued a recommendation to the President and other institutions, but that there was no obligation for those institutions to report to the Assembly how they had complied with the recommendation.

"It doesn't mean anything. Legally speaking, a recommendation is not binding," Harun told The Jakarta Post.

Harun emphasized that most of the recommendation the Assembly issued last year were ignored by the President, but no sanctions were made.

During last year's Annual Session, the Assembly recommended that the government continue the peace process to resolve the Aceh issue through dialog.

The government has instead effectively thrown dialog out the window and launched a military offensive against the rebels.

On the issue of Papua, the Assembly recommended that the government implement the Special Autonomy Law in the province; the government has instead divided the vast province into three without approval from the People's Council. The Council's establishment is mandated by law, but has not been set up.

Apart from criticizing the significance of the recommendation, Harun also criticized the Annual Session as a whole.

He said the Assembly should only convene over a vital issue, for example the impeachment of the President or the amendment of the Constitution.

"I think what is going on at the MPR is not an annual session, but a farewell party for lawmakers," he said.