Wed, 02 Aug 2000

MPR receives empowerment to call Special Session

JAKARTA (JP): Repeated assurance from People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Amien Rais did not stop an ad hoc committee from approving on Tuesday a controversial ruling that will allow the legislative body to call for a Special Session during an Annual Session.

Representatives of all factions in the ad hoc II committee for nonconstitutional amendments, except the National Awakening Party (PKB), agreed on a proposal to amend Article 50 in the Assembly internal ruling, which was presented by 28 legislators on Monday, with the aim to empower the Assembly.

The amended article stipulates that the House of Representatives and the Assembly Annual Session can recommend a Special Session to hear the President's account of his or her policies. The current article simply says that the Assembly convenes for a General Session every five years, an Annual Session and a Special Session.

Chairman of the committee, Rambe Kamarulzaman from the Golkar faction, said the change would be brought before 700 members of the Assembly, who will convene for an Annual Session from Aug. 7 through Aug. 18, for approval.

"Don't read into the proposal too much, as if it is an effort to topple the administration of President Abdurrahman Wahid," Rambe said.

The PKB faction staunchly challenged the proposed amendment to the Assembly internal ruling.

"It's not because of Gus Dur. We don't want the country's president to be changed every year no matter who the president is," PKB faction chairman Taufiqurrahman Saleh said, referring to the President by his popular nickname.

Taufiqurrahman said he feared that Assembly legislators would arbitrarily exercise their right to demand a Special Session.

PKB's other legislator Soebijakto Tjakrawerdaja questioned the committee's agreement since it had not been discussed with the Assembly's ad hoc committee I for constitutional amendments.

Soebijakto, who is the former minister of cooperatives, small and medium enterprises under former president Soeharto, said the proposal was against the Constitution.

"The Constitution states that only the House of Representatives can call a Special Session to ask for the president's accountability report," he remarked.

PKB had earlier questioned the proposal, which was signed mostly by Golkar Party legislators, since it had not been discussed by the committee previously.

Article 106 of the Assembly's internal ruling says a proposal to amend the ruling needs at least 25 signatories. Most legislators, however, would have not been aware of the ruling if Rambe and the other 27 legislators did not exercise their right.

"The article has not been used since 1983," Rambe said.

The committee also unanimously agreed to change Article 49 of the internal ruling, which allows the Assembly to not only listen to the president's progress report, but to evaluate it, Rambe said.

"The Assembly could give recommendations related to the report. But not to reject or accept the report," he contended.

A plenary session of the Assembly working committee, which prepares the incoming Annual Session, will be held to decide the results of the deliberation of ad hoc committee I for constitutional amendments and ad hoc committee II. (jun)