Thu, 12 Feb 2004

Govt refuses to discuss presidency bill

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Lawmakers' hopes of endorsing the presidency bill during their term dimmed after the government rejected on Wednesday the draft unless it is overhauled.

Claiming that almost 70 percent of the draft contents are outdated and contradict the amended 1945 Constitution, the government said the bill should be dropped.

"The House should revise the draft in accordance with the amended Constitution, otherwise the government will refuse to discuss the bill," Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said after a meeting with President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Current House of Representatives legislators will end their terms in August. With preparations for legislative and presidential elections consuming much of their time and energy, the lawmakers will in practice have no time to overhaul the presidency bill.

Yusril said there were no strong reasons for the House to push for the bill's endorsement before the new president was elected.

"There is no urgent need for such a law and it will be a waste of time to discuss a bill that totally contradicts the Constitution," he said.

The bill had been in preparation by the House of Representatives since 2001, but the government decided to postpone the debate as the People's Consultative Assembly did not finish the constitutional amendments.

Although the making of legislation rests with the House, the Constitution requires that deliberation on a bill involve the government.

After four amendments, the Constitution reduces the authority of the president in some areas, but at the same time strengthens the legitimacy of the head of state through the introduction of a direct presidential election.

The amendments were completed in 2002, making the bill's articles on presidential impeachment, presidential prerogative to grant amnesty and other regulations related to presidential powers irrelevant.

"We have gone through the draft over and over again, and we decided that the draft does not merit further deliberation," Yusril said.

The minister said the President had asked him, Cabinet Secretary Bambang Kesowo and State Minister for Administrative Reforms Feisal Tamin to inform the House of the refusal to deliberate the House-sponsored bill.

"We hope the House will agree to revise the draft bill," Yusril said.