Thu, 30 Mar 2000

Observers support MPR bicameral system

JAKARTA (JP): With independence demands on the decline, observers from natural resource-rich provinces suggested on Wednesday that the republic be changed to a federal state which applies a bicameral system.

Speaking on the second day of a seminar entitled "A Unitary State versus a Federal State" here, Tabrani Rab from Riau, Qismullah Yusuf from Aceh and Michael Menufandu from Irian Jaya were of the opinion that regional representatives at the People's Consultative Assembly could function as senators who were equal to the House of Representatives.

"The regional representatives so far are only passive Assembly members who apparently know nothing," Tabrani of Riau University said.

He said the system would enhance decentralization of power and people's participation in the policy making process and curb demands for independent states.

"The unitary system could be maintained but with an implementation of a bicameral system," said Tabrani, an outspoken figure who last year declared himself the president of an independent state in Riau.

President Abdurrahman Wahid said upon opening the seminar on Tuesday that the government vowed to maintain a unitary system but would implement elements of federalism.

Qismullah said that decentralization of power from the central government to provincial administrations was viewed as the adoption of elements of federalism without having to establish a federal state.

"Aceh, like other provinces, has also demanded that decentralization take effect," Qismullah from state Syiah Kuala University said.

He said the decentralization policy needed a legitimate guarantee and clear guidelines to avoid conflicting interpretations between the central government and local governments.

Menufandu supported Qismullah's opinion, saying decentralization would prevent national disintegration.

He suggested that the government involve local figures in addressing all matters related to the provinces.

Political observer Andi A. Mallarangeng, who also attended the seminar, threw his weight behind the idea of implementing a bicameral system, saying it could complement the planned direct presidential election.

"In the future, the president will no longer be responsible to the MPR," Andi said.

He said elements of federalism had already been accommodated in Law No. 22/1999 on regional autonomy and law 25/1999 on fiscal balance between the central government and local administrations.

"With the laws, a big portion of the central government's power is distributed to the provincial or regency administrations," Andi, who is an expert staff member at the office of the state minister of regional autonomy, said. (jun)