Fri, 15 Sep 2000

MPR members' planned overseas trip questioned

JAKARTA (JP): The countries two largest political parties slammed on Thursday a planned trip to dozens of countries by 90 members of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) working committee as extravagant and unnecessary.

The legislators are planning to go on tour to promote the results of the recent MPR Annual Session to Indonesian citizens living abroad.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and the Golkar Party, which between them hold more than half of the Assembly's 700 seats, said the trip was inappropriate given the multidimensional crises facing the country.

PDI Perjuangan faction spokesman Yosef Umarhadi said his faction had lodged an objection to the plan and asked all its members to mount a campaign against it.

"We have decided not to support the foreign trip because it will be very expensive and is not in line with our efforts to cope with the economic crisis," he said.

The MPR legislators are scheduled to visit 29 countries in Europe, America and Asia. The trip, for which the Assembly has allocated Rp 5 billion, was arranged based on an MPR recommendation assigning the working committee to carry out a promotional program.

Golkar chairman and House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung said he had asked all his of party's representatives on the committee to boycott the world tour.

"I have instructed all Golkar faction members on the committee to shun the overseas trip because now is not the right time for it. The country is still fighting an economic crisis. Moreover, the session's results should be promoted to people at home first," he said.

Only about one percent of Indonesia's 210 million people live abroad.

Support for the plan came from deputy MPR speaker Lt. Gen. Hari Sabarno, who said working committee members were only following Assembly orders.

"Why not? It's not wrong since it is (based on) an instruction issued in the recent Annual Session. Besides the Assembly has allocated funds for the purpose," he said.

Hari said the working committee should go ahead with the proposal and deliver an account on their arrival home.

"What does 'sense of crisis and urgency' mean? The committee's plan to socialize the Annual Session's results is an institutional decision. So the committee should go ahead with the plan," he said.

He blamed the media for exaggerating the seriousness of the issue.

Before the Annual Session, the working committee visited 29 countries in connection with its constitutional amendment duties. The trip cost the Assembly Rp 25 billion.

Arbi Sanit, a political expert at the University of Indonesia, said the overseas visit was a recreational jaunt rather than a state duty.

"It's tourism. The legislators have the same spirit as the President, who they like to criticize for his frequent foreign trips," he said.

Arbi said the trip was a waste of money because Indonesian citizens living abroad were mostly educated and had access to information regarding the Annual Session via the Internet.

"And most Indonesians living overseas were not really aware of the Annual Session," Arbi said. (jun/rms)