PDI-P casts first stone at unloyal legislators
Fabiola Desy Unidjaja and Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Banyumas
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) will replace over 20 lawmakers from legislatures across the country for various reasons, including defying the party's order, a party spokesman said on Tuesday.
However, PDI Perjuangan deputy secretary general Pramono Anung added that legislative members critical of President Megawati Soekarnoputri's policies would not necessarily be fired. Megawati is the party's chairwoman.
Terminating critical legislators from their posts was a common practice during the leadership of former dictator Soeharto to silence his opponents. Such draconian measures, however, supposedly came to a halt after Soeharto fell from grace in May 1998.
Laws on political parties and the composition of the House of Representatives (DPR), the Regional Representatives Council (DPD), and the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), both endorsed in 2003, reinstated a party's rights to replace lawmakers.
During Soeharto's New Order regime, a similar law was used by party chiefs to dismiss legislators who expressed any sort of opposition to party or government policy.
Political party's right of recall, or power to replace legislators, was scrapped at the dawn of the prodemocracy reform movement in 1999 as many considered the mechanism a means to silence any expression of opposition.
The argument was that legislators were elected by the people, and it was the constituents that had the right to dismiss their representatives from legislative body not the party leaders or the president of the country.
Due to various complaints from political parties, about a lack of a legal mechanism to discipline defiant members, the right of recall was reinstated into the political party law.
Endorsed this year, the law stipulates that a political party has the right to dismiss its legislators from any legislative body in the country.
Unlike before, when legislators were often recalled at the whims of party leaders, the General Elections Commission (KPU) now has to verify a political party's request to recall its representatives in the House or provincial legislatures.
Pramono claimed on Tuesday that the step backward from the ideals of the democracy movement was not meant to gag critical members.
"We will not recall those who are vocally critical in voicing people's aspirations as we consider them as party assets," Pramono said.
He added that PDI Perjuangan would recall those who had set up their own parties or had been dismissed from the party for other reasons.
Under such a criteria, only Dimyati Hartono would be recalled from the DPR. Dimyati quit some time ago due to her stand on a number of issues that clashed with party policies, specifically Megawati's demand that everyone support Jakarta governor Sutiyoso's election bid, and now has set up a new party.
Other PDI Perjuangan legislators/councillors that will be recalled come from Jakarta, Lampung, Surabaya and other areas. They are accused of defying Megawati's orders to support the candidate of her choice in elections of regents or governors in their respective regions.
PDI Perjuangan Banyumas branch in Central Java had planned to recall 11 of its 19 councillors from the party, while Cilacap planned to recall four of its eight councillors.
"We'll fire those councillors because they are no longer members of PDI Perjuangan, so we have to replace them with other people who are loyal to the party," Pramono said.
2. 2x27 Lawmakers divided over education of justices
The House of Representatives (DPR) special committee deliberating the constitutional court bill remains divided over the educational background of justices appointed to the court.
Committee deputy chairman Zainal Arifin of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) said Tuesday the committee had split into two groups, with one insisting that only law graduates had the chance to sit as justices in the court, while the other maintained that statesmanship was more important than educational background.
"We have not yet reached an agreement on that issue," Zainal told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
He emphasized that the issue of educational background was the only issue dividing committee members.
The members, according to Zainal, had already accepted the composition and authority of the planned constitutional court as spelled out in the newly amended Constitution.
The planned constitutional court would have nine members, with the authority to dissolve a political party, settle election disputes, resolve disputes between state institutions, review legislation and determine whether or not the president had committed a wrongdoing.
The president, House, and the Supreme Court will each appoint three justices to the constitutional court.
All factions also agreed that the constitutional court would not function as a court of "justice" but a court of "law" -- meaning all decisions of the constitutional court had to be based on the Constitution and on evidence, while the justice element would only offer a limited amount of discretion.
Separately, committee chairman Zein Badjeber of the United Development Party (PPP) pledged on Monday to submit the bill for endorsement on July 31 to an extraordinary plenary session, the first to be held during a recess.
Committee deputy chairman Ali Masykur Musa of the National Awakening Party (PKB), meanwhile, concurred with Zein, saying that legislators would finish deliberating the bill on time.
He added that stipulations regarding the role and authority of the constitutional court had been agreed by all nine factions.
Earlier, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said that the government needed more time to discuss the bill.
The date for the establishment of the constitutional court had been established by the amended Constitution -- Aug. 17, 2003.
Yusril, however, proposed a change to the deadline, arguing that the time available for deliberation was not enough.
The idea to delay establishment of the constitutional court came from President Megawati Soekarnoputri, who had earlier said that the substance of the bill was very important and required extensive discussion.
Zein revealed that all factions had agreed to adopt the term "request" instead of "litigation" for anyone demanding that the constitutional court settle a disputed election result, dissolve a political party, follow up on an accusation by the House that the president had committed a wrongdoing, or review existing legislation.
He also said that the procedure would not involve litigation but a request made by a specific group to the constitutional court to process the dispute.
Without litigation, Zein added, there would be neither a prosecutor nor a prosecuted party.
3. 1x30 Govt urged to reconsider peaceful solution to Aceh conflict International pressure has been mounting of late for a peaceful and quick settlement of the Aceh war with Germany joining in the call on Tuesday for a return to the negotiating table.
Visiting German Deputy Foreign Minister Kerstin Muller said she would raise the Aceh issue as well as to bring it to the attention of the international community during the Asia Europe Ministerial Meeting (ASEM), slated to be held in Denpasar, Bali next week.
Dialog should be made the number one priority as only it will solve the problems in Aceh, Muller said after a meeting with the chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara.
Both shared their concerns about the gross human rights violations which have reportedly occurred in Aceh since the military offensive against Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels began on May 19 after a five-month truce collapsed.
Muller will represent Germany during the ASEM forum on July 24 and 25, scheduled to be opened by President Megawati Soekarnoputri.
Abdul Hakim said dialog between the government and GAM could prevent further abuses against civilians, who have reportedly suffered the most during the ongoing war, but that martial law was still legal.
"We have to admit that the government's decision to impose martial law in Aceh was based on legal considerations. Therefore, whether we like it or not, it can be legally executed there.
"But what we (human rights groups and the international community) are concerned about is the impact of the policy, namely the rights violations that have frequently taken place since martial law was declared in the territory," Hakim stated.
Other countries like Japan and the United States have expressed dismay over the fractured peace agreement signed in December and brokered by a Swiss-based mediator.
Rights activists have estimated that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since 1976 when GAM was formed to carry on Aceh's decades-long struggle for independence. Many have been raped and tortured as the crackdown on rebels has dragged on, they said.
Abdul Hakim made the point that Muller's visit did not mean Germany would try to interfere with Indonesia's domestic affairs. "We were just having a discussion to seek a solution to the Aceh issue," he said.
The German envoy also presented Komnas HAM with newly updated data on rights abuses in Aceh, including extrajudicial killings and rapes.
Asked whether the German official inquired about the fatal shooting of a German tourist, Lothar Hendrik Albert, while he was traveling in Aceh Jaya regency, Abdul Hakim said: "We did not specifically talk about that, but for sure the German government appreciates our country's legal system."
4. 1x40 Witnesses say Ba'asyir advocated peaceful means Contrary to earlier testimonies, witnesses told the treason trial of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir on Tuesday that the Muslim cleric had not advocated violence and acts of terror as a means of promoting his own version of Islamic teachings.
Abdul Harris, who is a frequent companion of Ba'asyir of the Indonesian Mujahiddin Council (MMI), told the court that ever since his acquaintance with the cleric he had never heard him insult anyone or call for violence.
"In fact he advised us not to resort to violence, even if all members of MMI intended to do so. He was always telling everyone, whether MMI members or not, to be patient in facing injustice and oppression from the government," he said.
He added that Ba'asyir interpreted jihad in accordance with the Koran.
Harris was one of two witnesses presented by Ba'asyir's defense lawyers on Tuesday.
The other, Hasyim, gave almost exactly the same testimony in favor of the cleric.
Ba'asyir is standing trial for his alleged role in a plot to overthrow the Indonesian government through acts of terrorism and a murder attempt on Megawati Soekarnoputri before she assumed power.
He is also allegedly the leader of the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) terror network, which the police believe masterminded a string of bombings across the country, including the Christmas Eve church bombings in 2000 that left 19 people dead and the Bali blasts in October 2002 that claimed 202 lives.
If the primary charges are proven, he could face a 20-year jail sentence.
In previous hearings, Singapore- and Malaysia-based suspected JI members recognized Ba'asyir as their leader and his role in the acts of terror during their testimonies presented via videoconferencing.
Later on Tuesday, the U.S. government turned down a request from Ba'asyir's defense lawyers to present alleged al-Qaeda member Omar al-Faruq at Ba'asyir's trial.
In letter to judges and the lawyers, charges d'affairs of the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia Patrick Truhn said it was not Washington's policy to present a detainee as a witness in a criminal case overseas.
Ba'asyir's lawyers had asked the judges to order the prosecutors to "take into account" an attempt to bring al-Faruq to testify before the court. Al-Faruq is now being detained by U.S. authorities.
"He is the source of all accusations against our client," lawyer Mahendradatta said.
Prosecutor Hasan Madani said earlier he had written to the U.S. ambassador on July 10 to ask for his help to bring al-Faruq to court, but had not received a reply.
Al-Faruq is said to have implicated Ba'asyir in terror plots, including plans to bomb U.S. embassies in Southeast Asia. Prior to al-Faruq giving his account, Indonesian authorities had still to arrest Ba'asyir, citing lack of evidence.
5. 2x28 RI 'observing' the situation in Iraq, not commenting The government has refrained from making any comment on the establishment of an ad interim government in Iraq, saying that the process was still under way and thus required further observation.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Marty Natalegawa told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that the government was closely following developments in Iraq.
"We have noted the latest developments, but our position remains that the United Nations should play a central role in the establishment of the ad interim government," Marty said.
"Another important point is that the ad interim government should receive the full support of the Iraqi people," he added.
Indonesia opposed the invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies, and demanded a greater UN role in Iraq.
Indonesia had also said that it would only recognize a government set up with the help of the United Nations.
Iraq, which has been occupied by the United States and its allies for the past three months, appointed a 25-member council last week to prepare for the establishment of a new government.
The council includes 13 Shiite Muslims, five Arab Sunni Muslims, five Kurds, one Turk and one Christian, each representing the religious groups in Iraq.
Most Arab countries hailed the establishment of the council, while those who opposed the Iraq war have refrained from commenting.
"We consider the establishment of the council an ongoing progress, and thus we need to see what will be the result of the council," Marty said.