Wed, 12 Sep 2001

Jakarta Chapter faces mounting rejection

JAKARTA (JP): A proposal to include the Jakarta Chapter in the 1945 Constitution faces mounting rejection from both a noted political observer and members of the provincial legislative council in North Sulawesi and North Sumatra.

Political observer Mochtar Pabottingi said on Tuesday the proposal to include the chapter in the Constitution was an effort to bring the nation into ideological conflict.

"It's unnecessary. Including the chapter in Article 29 will automatically mean including it in the Constitution," Mochtar said on the sidelines of a seminar in Jakarta, responding to the proposal made by the United Development Party (PPP).

Meanwhile, the North Sulawesi Legislative Council, announced on Monday that on behalf of local inhabitants the council strongly rejected the proposal.

The council would soon send a delegation to the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) in Jakarta to submit the aspirations of local people, Syachrial Damapolii, speaker of the council, said.

The Jakarta Chapter, intended to form the basis of the Preamble of the 1945 Constitution, drew debate at the time over the wording "obliging its followers to exercise Islamic laws." The chapter was later dropped from the Constitution.

The debate on this subject reappeared, following last weekend's statement by Vice President Hamzah Haz, who said that in his capacity as chairman of the United Development Party (PPP) the inclusion of the chapter in Article 29 of the Constitution would not threaten other religions in the country.

The decision of the North Sulawesi Legislative Council to reject the proposal was reached at a plenary meeting on Monday. It was backed up by four factions, Golkar, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), Defense Force/Police and the Indonesian National Unity Party (KKI).

Djendry Keintjem of PDI Perjuangan faction said should the Jakarta Chapter be implemented nationwide, the North Sulawesi province would declare independence.

He even urged the local administration to draw a straight borderline from Indonesian territory in preparation for independence.

The Muslim population in the province is smaller than that of non-Muslims. Data from 1998 shows the Muslim population in the province was 1.24 million, while that of non-Muslims is 1.43 million.

Mochtar of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said if the political elite insisted on including the Jakarta Chapter in any laws, it would mean inserting religion into state affairs.

Mochtar welcomed the proposal because it represents the aspirations of party members and reflects democracy. "Please, go ahead. But remember, the Muslim majority, represented by Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, has rejected it," he said, referring to the two largest Muslim organizations. (48/08)