Fri, 09 Aug 2002

Protesters say no to sharia, constitutional amendments

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Hundreds of people rallied in front of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR)/House of Representatives (DPR) complex on Thursday to reject amendments to the 1945 Constitution.

The protesters also rejected demands for the inclusion of sharia in Article 29 of the 1945 Constitution.

The protesters came from Front Pembela Proklamasi 45 (the 1945 Proclamation Defenders Front), Gerakan Rakyat Menolak Amandemen UUD 1945 (the People's Movement against Amendments to the 1945 Constitution) and Gerakan Nasional Rakyat Indonesia (the National Movement of the People of Indonesia, or GNRI).

Six were finally allowed into the MPR building and they met with members of Commission A. The commission is finalizing deliberations on several crucial items in the fourth amendment, including a proposal for the imposition of sharia. The proponents of sharia have submitted two alternatives: the first to include seven words from the Jakarta Charter in Article 29 of the Constitution, the second to use sharia as the basis for the Constitution.

According to the protesters, the Unitary Republic of Indonesia is in a state of near-collapse because the amendment process has gone beyond control. The resulting amended Constitution has deviated from the spirit of the nation (as stated in the preamble to the unamended Constitution), and is therefore a betrayal of the country's founding fathers.

"We are not against amendments in principle, but the process has gone too far," said regional GNRI secretary Karyono, without elaborating.

GNRI has also rejected the adoption of sharia into the Constitution.

"We have to be fair. Indonesia is a diverse nation and the adoption of sharia could lead to national disintegration," Karyono said after the rally.

"We must return to the original article. Mas Amien (MPR Speaker Amien Rais) has also agreed to return to the original article," he added, as quoted by Antara.

Meanwhile, another group of protesters accused the Golkar Party of conspiring with other elements of the MPR to stall the amendment process. They demanded, therefore, that the party be dissolved.

The protesters, grouped under student executive bodies from a number of universities including Trisakti and Atma Jaya, and loose student groupings in the Greater Jakarta area, charged that the MPR and Golkar were not serious in implementing the reform agenda.

No violence was reported to have occurred during the rally.

This was the third day of rallies held to coincide with the 10-day Annual Session of the MPR, with most protesters demanding endorsement of the fourth batch of amendments.

The largest rally took place on Tuesday, when thousands of students demonstrated outside the Assembly building, demanding that lawmakers proceed with and endorse crucial amendments to the 1945 Constitution.