Tue, 03 Jun 2003

Legislators told to delay education bill endorsement

Kurniawan Hari The Jakarta Post Jakarta

House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Muhaimin Iskandar urged fellow lawmakers on Monday to resolve all of the contentious issues in the national education bill before bringing it to a House plenary meeting for endorsement.

Legislators deliberating the bill have yet to resolve three issues -- the introduction that serves as the basis of the bill, the function and role of national education, and the recognition of five religions in the country.

House Commission VI for education affairs agreed earlier to settle the issues through a vote should lawmakers fail to reach a consensus.

However, Muhaimin said legislators should avoid voting on these issues because that would have a serious impact on the entire nation.

"Legislators must not insist on endorsing the bill if they cannot accommodate the people's aspirations. We can vote on the presidential elections bill, but we cannot do that on the education bill," Muhaimin said during a meeting with a delegation from Makassar, South Sulawesi, and councillors from Nias, North Sumatra.

Muhaimin said a hasty endorsement of the education bill would create disharmony among the people.

Commission VI members and Minister of National Education Abdul Malik Fadjar are negotiating to settle the three issues before the bill's scheduled endorsement on June 10.

Muhaimin of the National Awakening Party (PKB) emphasized that the bill should accommodate the aspirations of the people.

At least two parties, PKB and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), have called for a delay in the bill's endorsement.

During the meeting with Muhaimin, the delegations from Makassar and Nias demanded that the House not endorse the bill, some of whose articles they said were not in line with the 1945 Constitution.

Anwar Arifin, a deputy chairman of the commission who took part in the meeting with the delegations, said legislators deliberating the education bill came from various backgrounds.

He said legislators from Aceh and Padang, West Sumatra, brought with them Islamic values, while lawmakers from Papua and Ambon introduced the values of Protestantism and Catholicism.

Anwar said the articles in the bill reflected the maximum compromise legislators could reach.

Separately, the Inter-Islamic Universities Cooperation, which claims to represent dozens of Islamic universities, met with House Speaker Akbar Tandjung to demand the House endorse the education bill immediately.

The spokesman for the group, Qomari Anwar, said the education bill accommodated the aspirations of the people, therefore there was no reason to delay its endorsement.

Qomari, the rector of Hamka University, said the meeting with the House speaker was attended by representatives from 18 Islamic universities in Jakarta, Bandung (West Java), Yogyakarta, Riau, Makassar (South Sulawesi), Palembang (South Sulawesi) and Surakarta (Central Java).