Tue, 11 Mar 2003

House keeps on working during recess

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Despite being officially in recess from March 8 through March 25, the House of Representatives will keep on working to speed up the deliberation of the bill on presidential elections, and the bill on the composition of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), the House and the provincial, regency and municipality legislatures.

Ahmad Farhan Hamid, a member of the House special committee deliberating the presidential elections bill, said that the committee was expected to resume the deliberation of the bill next week, and the process was scheduled to continue until March 24.

"We will hear the government's explanations on the presidential elections bill," Farhan, of the Reform faction, told reporters here on Monday.

Earlier, committee chairman Agustin Teras Narang, of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), said that the plan to work through the recess had been agreed upon by all nine factions on the special committee.

Although the recess lasts for 35 days, the special committee will actually only spend about eight days deliberating the bill, not nearly enough to finish its work.

After hearing explanations from the home affairs minister on March 24, the House factions will present their views and suggestions on March 26.

The House special committee deliberating the bill on the composition of the legislative bodies also plans to work through the recess, but committee chairman Yahya Zaini, of the Golkar faction, was not available for further comment.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) has called on the House to speed up the deliberation of the two bills so that it will have adequate time to draft schedules for the general and presidential elections, and make the necessary preparations.

House Speaker Akbar Tandjung promised that legislators would complete work on the bills during the next session from April 28 to June 27.

The legislators' plan to work through recess will mean more expense for the House secretariat. Legislators receive an allowance of Rp 750,000 per day of attendance regardless of how long it takes for work on a bill to be completed.

Sometimes, legislators also receive bonuses ranging from Rp 250,000 to Rp 500,000 for deliberation of a bill, according to a reliable source.

Meanwhile, the deliberation of the bill on presidential elections will likely be dominated by debates on the requirements demanded of presidential and vice presidential candidates.

The Reform faction has suggested that presidential candidates must be at least university graduates while many other factions support the government's proposal that a presidential candidate should possess at least a senior high school certificate.

"There is no guarantee that a candidate with a university education will not violate the law. Of the utmost importance is that a presidential candidate is wise," said PDI Perjuangan legislator Firman Jaya Daeli here on Monday.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri, who chairs the PDI Perjuangan, is not a university graduate.

Firman said it was more important to specifically bar those officially declared as suspects and those convicted of crimes from running in presidential elections.

He was commenting on Article 6 of the bill on presidential and vice presidential elections, which sets out the requirements for presidential and vice presidential candidates.

The bill submitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs stipulates that candidates must be at least senior high school graduates.