Thu, 29 May 2003

Ministers bypass Mega in bill discussions

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Several Cabinet ministers bypassed President Megawati Soekarnoputri when deliberating a number of bills that already had been endorsed by the House of Representatives, State Secretary/Cabinet Secretary Bambang Kesowo said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a hearing with House Commission I for legal affairs, Bambang said being bypassed prompted Megawati not to sign the bills into law.

At least three bills have been passed into law without being signed by the President. These were the bill on state finance, the broadcasting bill and the bill on Riau province.

According to existing regulations, a bill automatically becomes law 30 days after the House endorses it, whether it has been signed by the president.

Despite her refusal to sign the bills, the President is still responsible for their implementation.

Bambang said Megawati was annoyed with certain ministers who decided on critical issues in the laws without first consulting with her.

Prevailing laws stipulate that president assigns relevant ministers to deliberate bills along with the House. The ministers are supposed to consult with the president on crucial issues within the bills.

Bambang said that last April 10, a Cabinet meeting was held to warn ministers to be more disciplined in deliberating bills with legislators.

According to Bambang, some of the articles in the laws not signed by the President would be difficult to implement.

Citing an example, Bambang said the law on state finance mandated the finance ministry to draw up the government's routine and developmental budgets.

This stipulation provoked criticism as soon as the law was endorsed. The main critic has been the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas), which has asked if the new role for the finance ministry would mean the dissolution of Bappenas, which in the past has drawn up the developmental budget.

"This situation shows the poor coordination among Cabinet ministers. That is why the President warned the ministers on April 10," Bambang said.

A lack of coordination among Cabinet ministers also resulted in the endorsement of a forestry law that bans mining activities in forested areas, despite the fact that about 42 mining companies have licenses from the energy and mineral resources ministry to operate in forested areas.

The State Secretariat emphasized that legislators must not attempt to increase the power of certain ministries through legislation, because that authority lies in the hands of the President.

Bambang said increasing the power of a ministry would not benefit the government, and would only create more of a burden for the President.

In response to Bambang's statements, some of the Commission I legislators said a lack of coordination among ministers reflected the poor performance of President Megawati.

"We cannot tolerate this situation because it costs too much," said Happy Bone Zulkarnain of the Golkar faction.

Rizal Djalil of the Reform faction and Zoelvan Lindan of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), which is chaired by Megawati, said that the situation demonstrated a crisis of leadership.

Also, Bambang Kesowo said the government had prepared 20 bills to discuss with legislators.

The bills have been drafted by various ministries. The finance ministry has drafted eight bills, the justice and human rights ministry five bills, the manpower and transmigration ministry one bill, the settlement and infrastructure ministry one bill, the home ministry two bills, the communications and information ministry one bill, the economy ministry one bill and the State Secretariat one bill.

Bambang also said the government had received 27 bills from the House for further discussion.