Tue, 15 Jan 2002

House takes no stick to lazy legislators, cuts committees

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The House of Representatives (DPR) failed on Monday to get tough with its members who are facing mounting criticism for being "lazy" when it comes to attendance at official meetings.

Asserting that punishment was the last resort, House deputy speaker Tosari Widjaja said that the legislative body would reduce each member's workload to allow them to attend more House- sanctioned meetings.

"We will encourage the physical presence of legislators by re- arranging the schedule of the meetings and trimming down the number of special committees," Tosari told reporters after presiding over a closed meeting of the House's steering committee.

The statement contradicted earlier remarks by House Speaker Akbar Tandjung who said that all factions had agreed to hand down penalties to the lazy legislators.

According to Tosari, leaders of factions in the House were of the same opinion that punishment would be administered if the latest efforts failed.

The proposal to cut the number of House special committees received unanimous support during the two-hour meeting. Each legislator will now work for up to three committees when the House sits.

A Golkar legislator, Priyo Budi Santoso, said that the legislators were already overburdened with activities in their respective commissions, not to mention jobs related to their membership in various House committees and other House bodies.

"Last year, I worked for my commission, the House administrative body and three different inquiry committees. It was hard to attend all the meetings arranged by the various bodies," he told The Jakarta Post.

It has been a common practice among legislators to sign the attendance list of a meeting but skip it for various reasons.

The House's internal regulations revised last October require legislators to attend all meetings.

Tosari added that the steering committee had also agreed to avoid conflicting schedules of House meetings.

"If there is plenary meeting, there will be no other meeting scheduled for the day," he said.

Many legislators have been using the meeting of inquiry committees as an excuse for their absence from a plenary meeting or other meetings.

The latest example of legislators' poor discipline came when only 34 of the 76 members of the House steering committee showed up for a meeting last week, resulting in a delay for failing to reach the quorum.

"There will be no overlapping. There will be no more excuses for legislators to avoid a meeting," Tosari said.

He admitted that the decision to reduce the number of House committees would slow the deliberation of bills.

Tosari, however, said the situation would be a temporary one as the House was looking at measures to improve the speed of the passage of legislation through the House.