Fri, 09 Aug 2002

MPR blasted for delay in establishment of commission

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Experts and activists blasted the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) on Thursday for putting off the establishment of a constitutional commission until 2003.

Alarmed at the decision reached last night, the Coalition for A New Constitution blasted the Assembly for the delay, and charged that the reasons cited for the delay were illogical. The coalition also criticized the Assembly for failing to grasp the urgency of setting up the commission during the MPR's Annual Session, which is scheduled to end on Saturday.

Political observer and coalition member Mochtar Pabottinggi said the delay would only create more problems, the consequence of the numerous problems contained in the amended 1945 Constitution, with its overlapping laws and regulations.

"We believe that establishing a constitutional commission now during the ongoing Annual Session of the MPR would not cause any political problems, such as hampering the 2004 general election or revoking the results of previous amendments to the Constitution as feared by the legislators," he said during a hastily called media conference.

"Rather than halting the democratic process, the commission would reform the Constitution, a main agenda of the country's reform process in order to eliminate abuses of power," Mochtar said.

Overlapping clauses in the amended Constitution, especially on the separation of power between the legislative and executive branches, have the potential to cause tension and political instability in the future. This is because the amended articles do not provide the space for a democratic state system, according to the coalition.

The coalition, which began campaigning for a constitutional commission in 1999, pointed out that the amended Constitution would serve as an umbrella for the 2004 general election and the direct presidential election, as well as the constitutional commission.

Hasyim Muzadi, chairman of the country's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), threw his support behind an independent commission.

An independent commission, Hasyim said, "will ensure that the amended Constitution will be accepted by the general public instead of causing conflicts, as demonstrated by the results of amendments by legislators".

The Government Watch also backs an independent commission, saying members of the commission should be impartial and the commission should not include politicians or bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, a group of noted figures signed a statement on Thursday urging the immediate establishment of the commission.

The signatories included noted lawyer Adnan Buyung Nasution, NU deputy chairman Solahuddin Wahid, Muhammadiyah member Moeslim Abdurrachman, former military chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto, activist Hariman Siregar and General Elections Commission member Mulyana W. Kusumah.

"There should be a law, or a government regulation in lieu of a law, which stipulates the requirement for commission members, the commission's composition, tasks and functions, and its working mechanisms to ensure its independence," Mulyana said.