Fri, 11 Jun 2004

Presidential candidates asked to discuss ministry bill

Kurniawan Hari, Jakarta

All five presidential candidates have been invited to show up at the House of Representatives (DPR) on Monday to give advice and suggestions to lawmakers on the ministerial offices bill.

Legislator Zain Badjeber, deputy chairman of the committee deliberating the bill, said on Thursday that lawmakers needed advice from the candidates contesting the July 5 presidential election.

"We have invited them all. We do not know whether they will attend the hearing or simply send some of their campaign managers," he said.

The five presidential candidates are Wiranto, Megawati Soekarnoputri, Amien Rais, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Hamzah Haz.

Talks on the ministerial offices bill started after 30 cross- faction legislators proposed the draft legislation last March.

The bill, which consists of eight chapters and 17 articles, mainly deals with the formation, modification and abolition of ministries.

Currently, the president has the sole power to establish a ministry, and does not require the consent of the House. As a consequence, the president can easily make changes to or abolish ministries.

Former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, for example, abolished the politically tainted ministries of information and social affairs in October 1999.

In 2001, however, President Megawati Soekarnoputri revived the social affairs ministry and set up the communications and information ministry.

The draft law divides ministerial offices into two groups -- ministerial offices with portfolios and ministerial offices without portfolios.

It also provides that eight ministerial offices must be filled by the president -- the Offices of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Defense, Minister of Religious Affairs, Minister of National Education, Minister of Heath, Minister of Legislation and Human Rights and Minister of Finance.

The president may also appoint coordinating ministers to synchronize the work of the ministers who are subordinate to them.

The president cannot abolish these eight ministries, but can abolish or establish other ministries with the consent of the House of Representatives (DPR).

Come what may, Zain said, all presidential candidates would have to maintain the existence of the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the incumbent ministers in these departments would form the triumvirate that would take over the reins of state in the event that both the president and vice president were incapacitated.