Sat, 01 Apr 2000

Government submits general elections bill to the House

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Home Affairs Surjadi Soedirdja submitted to the House of Representatives on Thursday the general elections bill which recommends that the government set up an independent election commission.

During the House plenary session to hear the first reading of the bill, Surjadi openly labeled the current General Elections Commission (KPU) not independent and partisan.

Established last year during the term of former president B.J. Habibie, the present KPU comprises representatives of 48 parties which contested the 1999 polls and five government representatives. It has long been criticized for internal bickering and allegedly misusing funds.

The Supreme Audit Agency reported recently that alleged corruption within the commission had cost the government over Rp 5 billion.

Surjadi said the new elections commission would consist of just nine members in order to emulate its counterparts in developed countries.

"The members of the new KPU should have no links to any political party and be known publicly for his or her integrity," he said.

House Deputy Speaker Muhaimin Iskandar, who presided over the session, promised that the bill would be endorsed by the end of May.

"Since the KPU matter is urgent, we will work hard to finish the deliberation of the bill as quickly as possible," Muhaimin from the National Awakening Party (PKB) said.

If passed, the bill would replace the one-year-old Election Law endorsed prior to the polls in June last year.

Muhaimin suggested that President Abdurrahman Wahid issue a decree to freeze the current KPU to pave the way for an investigation into alleged corruption practices in the commission.

KPU member representing the government Andi A. Malarangeng shared Muhaimin's view, asking the police and prosecutor's office to seal the commission.

"The police should close down the commission to prevent any attempt to destroy evidence of the graft case," Andi, who is also an expert staff member at the Office of the State Minister of Regional Autonomy, said.

He said the earlier moves by certain KPU members, who set up a honorary council and a presidium to replace retiring chairman Rudini, were illegal since Rudini's resignation bid had not yet been accepted.

KPU members, mostly from small parties, named Djuhad Mahdja from the United Development Party (PPP), Agus Miftach from the Indonesian People's Party (Pari) and Benny Mustapha from the Indonesian Workers Party (PPI) the collective chairmen following Rudini's announcement of his resignation.

The commission also appointed outspoken Sri Bintang Pamungkas, who is also chairman of the Indonesian Democratic Union Party (PUDI), to the top post of the commission's honorary council. (jun)