Mon, 14 Aug 2000

Legislators pessimistic on constitutional amendments

JAKARTA (JP): With the clock ticking fast, hopes that Commission A at the People's Consultative Assembly will complete proposals for constitutional amendments are fading.

Prolonged debate and seemingly inexorable differing views by party factions on Sunday were snagging efforts to swiftly complete the amendments, despite the fact that the commission only has one day left to complete its work.

It is required to hand in its report to the Assembly plenary session on Tuesday.

By the end of the day pessimism had began to creep in. Many members realized that they would not meet the deadline unless a hasty consensus could be achieved.

Assembly members conceded that whatever progress had been made was only on "insignificant" changes to the constitution.

Many commission members, mostly from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and the Indonesian Military (TNI)/Police factions, raised objections, particularly regarding the planned establishment of a house of regional representatives (DPD) and the inclusion of a chapter on human rights.

Their objections seemed to frustrate many of their colleagues because these issues had initially been agreed upon on in the adhoc committee stage.

"I am very upset. It seems they have become very conservative and view the Constitution as a holy book that cannot be changed," commission deputy chairman Slamet Effendy Yusuf said.

Slamet, from the Golkar Party, suspected that some factions were intentionally prolonging the debate in an attempt to obstruct any amendments to the 1945 Constitution.

But he argued that amendments were needed since the abuses of power under former regimes were viewed by the public as a result of an imperfect Constitution.

"Now Old and New Order people are trying to return to the old Constitution," Slamet who was deputy chairman of the ad hoc committee, charged.

Legislator Patrialis Akbar lamented the fact that the results of the ad hoc committee had not been "socialized" to their factions.

"As many legislators are still questioned them, I'm pessimistic we can finish the amendments (in time)," Patrialis, from the National Mandate Party (PAN), said.

During the debate on Commission A, PDI Perjuangan and TNI/Police factions, rejected on Sunday the planned establishment of a house of regional representatives (DPD).

"We should think it over further since it would change the Assembly," PDI Perjuangan senior member Abdul Madjid said, adding that its establishment could encourage regionalism.

Legislator Ishak Latuconsina from TNI/Police Faction also rejected the establishment of such an institution, saying it would cost a lot of money.

Slamet rejected these arguments, saying fears of regionalism were unfounded as the constitution itself strongly upheld the unitary state.

"The DPD would be able to listen more to regional aspirations and would avoid separatism," he argued.

The ad hoc committee earlier agreed that the MPR would consist of the House of Representatives (DPR), the DPD and the TNI/Police faction.

On the planned human rights chapter, questions generally centered around details of the various articles.

"It is too detailed and overlaps with existing regulations," Romson Panjaitan from PDI Perjuangan said elaborating his faction's grievances.

Romson urged that the draft omit the proposed articles on the right to live in a legal marriage and the right to seek asylum, saying they were already regulated.

However, Commission A chairman Jacob Tobing remained confident an amendment could be drafted.

"Be patient. I'm still optimistic about it," Jacob from PDI Perjuangan said after the meeting.

He said that some "sensitive issues" could be postponed, suggesting that the amendment could be discussed by a Constitutional commission.(jun)