Thu, 31 Jul 2003

Less workload prompts MPR to cut short Annual Session

M. Taufiqurrahman and Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) looks set to cut short its upcoming Annual Session due to a lighter workload compared to previous sessions.

Unlike the past five years, when the Assembly was working on constitutional amendments, the 700-strong lawmaking body will tackle low-key issues.

MPR Speaker Amien Rais said on Wednesday this time around the Annual Session was unlikely to draw much public attention given the mundane issues it would discuss.

"The whole session could be completed in no more than five days," Amien said.

Originally the session was scheduled to run from Aug. 1 to Aug. 10, costing taxpayers Rp 20 billion (US$2.4 million), around the same amount spent last year.

For this year's Annual Session, the MPR has three main agenda: to hear progress reports presented by the President, the House of Representatives (DPR), the Supreme Audit Body (BPK) and the Supreme Court, to review over 100 obsolete decrees enacted between 1966 and 2002 and to establish the constitutional commission.

There will not be a separate commission to respond to the progress reports from the state institutions.

A member of the special ad hoc committee tasked with preparing the Annual Session schedule, Rully Chairul Azwar, said only two commissions would be needed during the session.

"Commission A will focus on the constitutional commission and Commission B will concentrate on the review of obsolete decrees," he told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

As far as the obsolete decrees are concerned, the Assembly will be facing tough debate over the decree on impeachment of founding president Sukarno and on the banning of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and Marxism and Leninism.

The 2003 Annual Session will not be the last for the MPR legislators of the current tenure. Next year, it will convene for the last time to hear accountability reports from the President, DPR, BPK and the Supreme Court. It will also hear the report from the constitutional commission on its achievement during its first six months of existence.

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American journalist faces jail but says not guilty

Prosecuted into two months imprisonment for immigration offenses, an American freelance journalist defended he did not commit any acts or activities violating Indonesia's immigration law.

Chief prosecutor Efdal Efendy requested to the panel of judges to sentence the defendant two months imprisonment because he has been convincingly and legally proven to have violated Article 51 of Law No. 9/1992 on immigration.

"In his status as foreign citizen, Nessen failed to report on the change of his address in Indonesia to the local immigration office. He also did not have a permission from the Indonesian government to work in the country," he said.

He said Nessen was guilty of failing to produce his passport and visa when questioned by authorities. He also did not report to police when he entered Aceh, did not have permission to work from the manpower ministry, and did not have a press card from the Indonesian foreign ministry and information ministry, Effendi said.

The prosecutor also read the testimony of four government officers from the Foreign Ministry, Manpower and Transmigration Ministry, Justice and Human Rights Ministry and the office of information minister who could not attend the court session.

According to the testimony of Heri Sudarmanto, chief of the service section for foreign workers at the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry, confirmed that the defendant has never request labor permission from the Indonesian government.

Nessen was arrested June 24 when he turned himself in to the army after traveling with rebels of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) for three weeks.

The military said they suspected him of spying for the rebels, who have been fighting for an independent homeland in the oil- and gas-rich province.

Nessen and his lawyer Amir Syamsudin who directly after the reading of the submission made their own defense in the court session, denied the charges as irrelevant.

"Nessen is not proven to have committed faults indicted by the prosecutors and I request the honorable judges to acquit him of the charges," said Amir

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Violence against press rising: Rights body

Although the iron fist of the New Order regime has ended, rights violations and the repression of the press continues in various forms, ranging from intimidation and sexual harassment to physical threats and has also led to the murder of press members.

The National Commission on Human Rights' (Komnas HAM) team to monitor the freedom of the press disclosed on Wednesday that the police had failed to curb the violent incidents even though complaints had been filed by press institutions.

"Violence against journalists occurs not just in conflict-torn areas such as Aceh and Papua, but also in other places," the chairman of the team, Anshari Thayib, said.

Referring to several cases of violence against the press, the team said that it would review press law No. 40/1999 to ensure that journalists were free in their provision of educative news to the people.

The cases included the present restrictions imposed by military authorities on the coverage of the ongoing war in Aceh province, and the recent assault of Tempo reporters and an editor by angry protesters inside the Central Jakarta police station.

"Fanaticism sometimes motivates people to attack the media," said Anshari, referring to the attack on Radar Malang daily by the Arema Malang soccer club's fans, and the intimidation of Rakyat Merdeka daily's freedom of press in 1999. He said police had failed to take action against the perpetrators.

The police were also criticized following the recent attack on the Tempo (magazine) office by about 200 people claiming to represent Tommy Winata, a businessman widely known for his close relations with high ranking officers of the military and police.