Fri, 18 May 2001

House refuses to budge on G-15 summit

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid faces possible international embarrassment when he hosts a G-15 summit later this month after legislators on Thursday refused to reschedule a key plenary session which could spell a vote of no confidence against his administration.

The House of Representatives' Consultative Body after a meeting here refused to change the date of the plenary session which falls at the same time as an international summit of the Group of 15 (G-15) scheduled for May 30 to May 31.

The Consultative Body took the view that the House plenary session to determine the next step in the memorandum process must proceed according to the guidelines which stipulate that the censure must be responded to exactly one month after its issuance.

House deputy speaker A.M. Fatwa, who chaired the meeting, later told journalists that "all factions agreed with the decision."

The National Awakening Party (PKB) and the Love the Nation Democratic Party (PDKB) at an earlier meeting agreed to oppose the decision.

The government had initially asked for the plenary session to be moved back a few days due to the summit meeting.

The May 30 plenary session could see the House calling for a special session of the People's Consultative Assembly which could determine the fate of the presidency.

Reform faction Chairman Hatta Radjasa pointed out that the provisions of Assembly Decree No.3/1978 on memorandums of censure and the timing of plenary sessions left little room for interpretation.

"It (a delay) would also violate Article 105 of the House's standing orders which states that the plenary session can only be postponed for 24 hours and no more," Hatta said while arguing that both events could be held simultaneously.

Separately, Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab said the government regretted the House's decision.

"But many of the heads of state and heads of government have confirmed their attendance, so we'll go ahead," Alwi told The Jakarta Post by telephone.

All 17 member states of the G-15 will send a representative to the meeting.

According to the foreign ministry, leaders from Algeria, Colombia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Nigeria, Senegal, Venezuela and Zimbabwe have confirmed their attendance while Brazil, India, Iran and Argentina will send their second-highest ranking executives.

He stressed that the timing of the summit was "an international commitment which has been agreed upon since last year."

Meanwhile, political observer Kusnanto Anggoro acknowledged that the plenary session could put Abdurrahman in a very awkward position as he hosts the international dignitaries.

Instead, he suggested that the government reschedule the summit.

"The government shouldn't force the summit to be held during that same period. It would make it appear as if they are trying to win international support when they have already lost ground," Kusnanto told the Post. "It's like inviting guests around when the house is on fire," he remarked. (dja)