Tue, 08 Aug 2000

Government told not to worry about House's criticism

JAKARTA (JP): The House of Representatives called on the administration not to be averse to criticism from the legislative body, saying such censure was a normal democratic process aimed at ensuring a system of checks and balances which was lacking in past administrations.

House Speaker Akbar Tandjung, in his progress report to the People's Consultative Assembly on Monday, said the House was merely performing its control function.

"There has been concern that the government will loose its prestige amid the House's increasing criticism of the executive's performance. With its functions, tasks and power, the House only wants to establish a stable and democratic government," Akbar said.

He said the political elite should also exercise statesmanship in responding to issues, while all state institutions should remain critical of each other in the spirit of unity.

He reminded those present that part of the reform agenda was to reinvigorate state institutions, including empowering the House.

"Democracy can be upheld only if the system of checks and balances between the House and the administration is accepted," he said.

Akbar therefore maintained that differences of opinion between the administration and the House should be perceived as a normal part of democracy.


Akbar, who is also chairman of Golkar Party, said that during the 1999/2000 fiscal year, the House deliberated 36 draft laws, 22 of which had been sent to the President for ratification.

"The House also used its initiative to prepare draft laws on the development of new provinces and another one on bank credits. It also deliberated several other draft laws resulting from the separation of the National Police and the Indonesian Military," he said.

He said the House also was preparing a code of ethics for its members, adding that together with the administration the House was deliberating a National Development Program for the 1999 to 2004 period.

Akbar also revealed that a number of legislators had proposed the House lodge a petition demanding President Abdurrahman Wahid explain the reason behind his dismissal of two economic ministers in April.

He also said a number of legislators proposed investigations be opened into the Bulog and Brunei scandals, and the alleged embezzlement of nonbudgetary funds from the State Logistics Agency.

"The investigations can be carried out in the House's next sitting," he said.

Akbar then called on the administration to focus fully on resolving the country's economic crisis, which he described as a major source of the nation's problems.

"The House is of the opinion that our work will be easier in the future and the political situation will return to normal if we succeed in coping with the economic problems," he said.

The House's progress report generally won the endorsement of regional and interest groups representatives in the Assembly.

Freddy Latumahina, a regional representative from Maluku, said the House's progress report answered speculation that it was embroiled in a malicious spat with the administration.

"The House's progress report was a sincere acknowledgment that criticism fired by legislators are aimed at empowering the legislative body and not at discrediting the government.

"The House should continue to be encouraged to perform its control function," he said.

Valina Singka Subekti, an interest group representative, agreed with Freddy, but said she was skeptical the Assembly, the majority of whose members also are House members, would be able to evaluate the progress report objectively.

Valina further questioned the political motives behind the House's recent interpellation motion, saying the House should not have questioned the President over issues such as the dismissal of the two ministers, but on more pressing matters such as the prolonged violence in Aceh and Maluku.

"Legislators should not use their interpellation right on minor cases but on national problems," she said. (rms/jun)