Sat, 24 May 2003

Past political compromises bring misery to councillors

Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

The mounting problems plaguing members of the Yogyakarta provincial legislative council, including alleged graft, are the price of political compromises they made in the past, a top councillor says.

"This is the consequence of deals we made in the past to share power and position among ourselves. What we failed to foresee was that we would pay dearly for them," deputy speaker Nur Ahmad Affandi said.

He was referring to the countless problems beleaguering the provincial legislature, which climaxed in a letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs Inspectorate General to the Yogyakarta governor last month that questioned the Rp 6 billion (US$714,000) that had been allocated as allowance for Yogyakarta legislators.

In the letter, the inspectorate general said the misuse of the fund violated Government Regulation No. 110/2000 on financial affairs of regional legislature, as the fund was not part of the provincial budget.

Eventually, the governor decided to stop paying the allowances, which amounted to two-thirds of the councillors' monthly net salaries. Each councillor took home Rp 6.2 million.

Later, the provincial prosecutors' office named six of the councillors as suspects for allegedly misusing the funds, even though all 45 legislature members had received allowances.

Political moves followed, with a group of councillors from various factions filing a motion of no confidence against the legislative speaker and his five deputies on the ground that they were incompetent. The councillors recently changed their demand and asked the legislative leaders to improve their performance.

"As one of the council leaders, I myself feel there has been a lack of coordination and an unclear division of labor within the legislature, which has resulted in our poor performance," Achmad said.

Unlike other provinces, leaders of the Yogyakarta legislature do not hold ex-officio positions heading the council's three committees on program and planning, internal affairs and budgetary affairs.

Achmad said the situation had contributed to the sub-standard performance of the legislature, and that the problems facing the legislature mostly dealt with the council's work mechanism and draft bylaws deliberated in the three committees.

He blamed the unfavorable working system on political deals among the factions to distribute power and posts in order to maintain equity.

Therefore, he suggested that the structure of the legislature be revamped to put an end to a disruption in its working mechanism.

"In this case, we have to amend the internal ruling," said Achmad, adding that it would not be difficult to realize if all factions had the good will to do so.