Mon, 14 Aug 2000

MPR moves to formalize task-sharing formula

JAKARTA (JP): The People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) moved a step closer on Sunday to formalizing the task-sharing arrangement between the President and Vice President, although not through a separate decree.

The Assembly's wishes became clearer when all factions represented in the Sub-commission C1 drafting team agreed to prepare a draft decree containing a recommendation for President Abdurrahman Wahid to delegate day-to-day technicalities of running the government to Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

The factions included Abdurrahman's National Awakening Party (PKB) which had previously threatened to walk out of the MPR Annual Session now underway if such a decree was endorsed.

Although finally approving the proposal, the United Development, Crescent Star and Reform factions were of the opinion that such a recommendation was not enough. They insisted that the Assembly issue another decree regarding the management of Abdurrahman's administration on the grounds that the President was prone to issuing inconsistent statements.

"We will seek approval from all members of the sub-commission tomorrow (Monday)," Ma'ruf Amin of the PKB faction, who presided over the team's meeting, said.

Deputy chairman of Commission C Rully Chairul Azwar indicated that a vote would be taken at Tuesday's MPR plenary meeting if the three factions refused to drop their push for a separate decree.

Commission C which is appraising the progress reports presented by the high institutions of state, is divided into Sub- commission C1 which focuses on the President and Sub-commission C2 which deals with other institutions.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and the Golkar Party factions, which between them hold 367 of the 700 MPR seats, sought to include the delegation of duty in the draft decree on the Assembly's evaluation of the state institutions' progress reports after realizing that it would be against the Constitution to issue a special decree on the matter.

"The decree will contain not only the Assembly's recommendations to the government, but an instruction for the President to delegate the technicalities of government administration to the Vice President," Amien Aryoso of PDI Perjuangan said.

Sofyan A. of the Golkar faction conceded that the major factions in the commission, except for the PKB faction, had agreed that the planned decree would cite the President's statement made last Wednesday that he would assign new duties to Megawati.

"The planned decree will regulate the Vice President's new tasks of taking over the technicalities of the day-to-day running of government and to prepare the next Cabinet's agenda," he said.

Alvin Lie of the Reform faction said a special decree was necessary due to President Abdurrahman's inconsistent ways.

"We are determined to propose an additional draft decree because the President is not firm in his stance on this matter," he said.

Ferry Tinggogoy of the Indonesian Military (TNI)/National Police faction acknowledged that the draft decree which was agreed upon would undergo long deliberation starting with the subcommission, then the commission and finally the Assembly's plenary session.

"We are afraid that the Assembly will not reach an agreement on this matter through deliberation because the PKB faction will oppose it. If the factions resort to a vote, the draft decree may win support from at least two-thirds of the 700-member Assembly," he said.

Constitutional law experts, however, said that whatever the form of the decree, it would represent a violation of the Constitution by trespassing on the president's prerogatives.

"Either a decree on recommendations or a special decree, they will certainly breach the Constitution," Bagir Manan, a professor at the Bandung-based Pajajaran University, said after attending a consultative meeting with the Assembly's Commission A which is deliberating draft decrees on amendments to the Constitution.

He instead suggested that the Assembly issue a decree to support the President's promise to delegate some of his workload to the Vice President.

"The MPR cannot go farther than that. Although it is the highest institution of state, it must not violate the Constitution," Bagir warned.

He said the decree would only be legitimate if the MPR amended the Constitution regarding the president's duties beforehand.

From Yogyakarta, Muchsan, a professor of constitutional law at Gadjah Mada University, suggested that Abdurrahman, in his capacity as head of state, issue a presidential decree on the task-sharing arrangement with Megawati.

Echoing Bagir's view, Muchsan said the delegation of duties in the government could not be formalized through an MPR decree because it was against the Constitution.

"The MPR may just recommend that the President issue a presidential decree on the matter," he said.

He added that a president in his capacity as head of government could share the running of the administration with his vice president.

"It is legal, okay. And it is the president who remains in charge of the government, despite the delegation of duty to the vice president.

"However, he or she cannot delegate power to the vice president or anybody else. The vice president may just share with the president the day-to-day running of the government," he said.

If the MPR insisted on issuing the decree, he added, the MPR would be engaging in authoritarianism.

"Anyway, the Assembly has the authority to declare that a president is no longer capable of performing his duties and to then issue a decree removing him or her from office and appointing the vice president as president," he said. (rms/jun/44)