Tue, 15 Aug 2000

MPR unlikely to complete amendment drafts

JAKARTA (JP): The People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) looks certain to delay its overhaul of the 1945 Constitution after Commission A, assigned with deliberating the amendments, reached agreements on only 23 of 79 draft articles at the end of Monday.

Many considered the draft articles, approved by representatives of factions in the commission, to be insignificant.

Assembly Speaker Amien Rais acknowledged that the 12-day Annual Session would not be enough to complete the deliberation of all the amendment proposals to the Constitution.

"We might agree to postpone the amendment of several sensitive articles," Amien, who also chairs the National Mandate Party (PAN), said.

Until Monday evening, the commission had not started discussing proposed chapters on the Assembly (three articles), the state's administrative authorities (14 articles), the general election (one article) and state ministries (one article).

Drafts of amendments which are difficult to approve include two articles on the establishment of the House of Regional Representatives (DPD).

Article 29 on religion, proposed by the United Development Party (PPP), which inserts an obligation to conduct Islamic law (syariah), has not been discussed by the commission so far.

Amien acknowledged that article 29 was among the articles that will not be changed, but added that PPP had the right to propose the amendment.

"That is what democracy is about. But believe me the article will not be changed," he told on Monday a group of demonstrators, who were demanding the Assembly maintain the wording of the article.

The commission has approved five proposed chapters (23 articles), including chapters on the House of Representatives, national attributes, territory, citizenship and human rights.

After a fierce debate and long lobby, all 11 factions approved article 28 J in the chapter on religion, which states rights and obligations, such as people should obey the law based on moral and religious values.

The addition of "religious values", which was suggested by the Reform faction, was earlier rejected by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and Indonesian Military (TNI)/Police factions.

"We were ready to physically fight for our proposal," legislator Joko Susilo from the Reform Faction told reporters.

Joko said his faction's proposal was aimed at protecting the implementation of human rights, which, he said, violated religious values, such as homosexuality.

The proposal was supported by the United Development Party (PPP), the Crescent Star Party (PBB), Golkar Party and later by the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the Love Democratic Nation Party (PDKB) factions.

PDI Perjuangan rejected the proposal since religious issues were already discussed in a different chapter.

The TNI/Police faction questioned the proposal, saying it had not been discussed in earlier meetings.

Human rights

Another debate dealt with article 28 I (1) of the chapter on human rights, which stipulates the right to live free of torture, slavery and charges based on retroactive laws.

The wording "not being charged based on retroactive laws" was proposed by the TNI/Police faction, Joko said.

He said if the proposal was accepted, human rights violations in the past, such as the Tanjung Priok case, could not be taken to court.

The commission agreed to drop the TNI/Police proposal, Joko said.

Besides the two articles, the Human Rights chapter consists of eight more articles, including the right to live, self-defense (article 28A), to start a family and reproduce within a legal marriage (article 28B).

Article 28C stipulates the right to self-development and education, and article 28D deals with the right to receive legal protection and equal employment opportunities.

The right to uphold religious beliefs, freedom of opinion and to organize is stated in article 28E, while the right to access of information is stated in article 28F.

Article 28H guarantees the right to health services and special treatment for children, the elderly, pregnant women and the disabled.

After an acrimonious debate and intensive lobbying, Commission B, which is assigned with preparing MPR draft decrees, agreed on Monday to delay the deliberation on the regional representatives faction until next year's Annual Session.

The evening meeting, presided by Rambe Kamarulzaman, also reached an agreement that an Annual Session could not recommend a special session. There had been suggestions that the Assembly internal ruling open up the possibility of turning an Annual Session into a special session.

The commission finished deliberation of draft decrees on the separation of the Indonesian Military from the National Police, functions of the Indonesian Military and the National Police, recommendation on the implementation of regional autonomy, Assembly internal ruling, efforts to strengthen national unity and the source and hierarchy of the Indonesian legal system.

"It's a relief that we managed to deliberate all the drafts without any major problems, except for the draft on the Assembly internal ruling," Rambe of the Golkar Party faction announced.

"There were no major changes made to the drafts, but only refinement of the wording," he added.

The commission is slated to deliver its report before an Assembly plenary session on Tuesday.

One of the most important drafts deliberated by the commission was to allow the presence of military and police personnel in the Assembly until 2009, despite mounting protests from human rights activists.

On regional autonomy, it was agreed to give special autonomy to Aceh and Irian Jaya and special consideration to remote areas and frontier regions sharing borders with neighboring countries. (nvn/jun)