Thu, 30 Aug 2001

Lawmakers or troublemakers?

Although the legislature is 56 years old today, this nation has held only two democratic general elections, in 1955 and 1999. The era between 1959 and 1998 was the long, dark years of authoritarian rule under presidents Sukarno and Soeharto, who both turned all democratic values upside down.

So, history has given us very little experience in the application of democracy. And, sadly, the two elections failed to produce a dominant political party or a proper relationship between the representatives and their constituents. Until now we still hear the public saying that they do not know who their representatives are in the House of Representatives. If they encounter a problem in the community these people increasingly take to the streets to get their message across or register their complaints with any faction in the House.

History has also recorded how much time we have wasted on pampering despots. Sukarno dissolved a democratic parliament but refused to hold a general election. Soeharto maintained a rubber- stamp legislature comprised of hand-picked legislators before he started his series of dirty general elections.

All drafts of new laws were sponsored by Soeharto's regime. His political machine, the Golkar Party, did not have to busy itself with the job, while the only two political opposition parties allowed to exist, the United Development Party (PPP) and the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), did not have to consider the matter because their ideas would be killed before they were conceived.

A positive change occurred between June 1998 and January 2001. While B. J. Habibie, Soeharto's successor, also sponsored many bills, the House passed 69 bills into law.

Now, with political stability more promising and the new government enjoying the support of the legislature instead of attracting resistance and antagonism, the House is challenged with relinquishing its recent habits. The House's continued inaction will be anathema to the struggle for reform and continue to bog down every activity within and outside the government.