Fri, 11 Jun 2004

Mega, Wiranto at odds over autonomy

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta

At least one presidential candidate disagrees with the incumbent president's view about the current revision deliberations of the 1999 Autonomy Law by the lame-duck House of Representatives.

Gen. (ret) Wiranto wants the law to be handed to the new legislative members, who will be inaugurated in October but incumbent President Megawati Soekarnoputri hailed the House's recent decision to make revisions to the law.

New members of the People's Consultative Council (MPR) will be inaugurated about a month after the Sept. 20 presidential election. The MPR will be comprised of the 128 Regional Representative Council (DPD) members -- a new body -- in addition to the 550 House of Representatives (DPR) members.

"The revision is urgent since it is required by the amended 1945 Constitution, while implementation of autonomy has raised numerous problems in most provinces," Teras Narang, a member of the Megawati-Hasyim campaign team, said on Wednesday.

The law was implemented in 2000 and has since caused confusion in some areas. Pro-revision people argue that the revised law needs to be done as soon as possible for democratization in the regions, while rival camps think that a revision would be best done by the newly elected members of the DPD because of their intimate knowledge of local problems, as it is made up of four DPD members from each of the 32 provinces.

The House decided to revise the law to allow the citizens to directly elect governors, regents and mayors and to settle numerous problems resulting from the implementation of the law, said Teras who also heads the House's special committee tasked to deliberate on the revision of the law.

Ryaas Rasyid, a member of Wiranto's national campaign team, said Wiranto would ask the new members of the MPR to review the two laws if he won the presidential election.

"He has repeatedly called on the government to delay the revision of the law until November because the regional representatives will have a better idea about what revisions should be made to the law; but the government has pressed ahead with the lame-duck House members," said Ryaas, who is a former state minister of regional autonomy affairs.

The ongoing revision has sparked protests from many regents and mayors who fear that the four-year decentralization process could be halted.

Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno defended the revision process by this House, saying most regions supported the move to settle disparities among themselves.

Ryaas, one of the key architects of the Autonomy Law, lashed out at the ongoing process and said the minister knew nothing about autonomy.

Hamzah Haz and his running mate Agum Gumelar support the current government's policy on the issue, saying many regional chiefs and local elites have violated the law.

"Pak Hamzah and I fully support the ongoing revision of the regional autonomy law because we have to nurture the growth of democracy," Agum said in a closed-door campaign in Cibitung, Bekasi, on Tuesday.

Agum cited the number of large-scale corruption conspiracies committed by local legislators in many regions as an indication of a deviation in the implementation of the law.

Amien Rais, a candidate nominated by the National Mandate Party, is a strong proponent of the law.

"The regional autonomy is a fixed price the central government has paid to the regions through a national consensus by the MPR to maintain the Indonesian unitary state," he said in a recent debate with presidential candidate Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Susilo and his running mate, Jusuf Kalla, support the ongoing revision to decide what authority should be accorded the provinces, regencies and municipalities, and what should be kept in the hands of the central government.

"It is most important that we decide it together without anyone losing face in the bargaining process," said Susilo in the debate.