Wed, 31 Mar 1999

Regional administration bill expected to be passed sonn

JAKARTA (JP): Legislators deliberating the bill on regional administration gave assurances on Tuesday that the much criticized draft submitted by the government would be democratic.

Presidential approval for a gubernatorial candidate would no longer be needed -- only "consultation", legislators said.

The legislators were members of the Special Committee of the House of Representatives deliberating the bill, which wrapped up on Tuesday its public deliberation session of the bill.

But committee chairman Chairuddin Harahap of the Golkar faction assured members of the public that they were still welcome to submit recommendations before the bill was passed on April 22. He also voiced regret over the lack of media coverage of the bill's debate.

Chairuddin and Alfian Darmawan of the United Development Party (PPP) faction said the bill -- together with the bill on the fiscal balances of central government and regional governments -- would have wide-ranging consequences to democratization once passed.

Both legislators said that a major consequence of the bill would be a central government administration made smaller in the number of its ministries and that regencies would become the new center of development.

Describing the past deliberation session in the 87-member committee, Chairuddin and Alfian said it had run smoothly.

They said the remaining problem would be the "synchronization" of the bill with the fiscal balances bill, in which debates are still hot over stipulations on how much share of the state budget would be allotted to regional administrations.

The new bills on regional autonomy and fiscal balance seek to redress impacts over years of centralization. One of the impacts is the demand for independence in a number of provinces.

A low share of the state budget in resource-rich areas, government meddling in regional affairs such as the appointment of officials favored by those in power, worsened by rights abuses by the military contributed to built-up resentment in various regions.

"There'll a tough debate coming," Alfian said, adding there would be clashes of central government aspirations and those of the regional governments.

One issue would be "whether we will use percentage (of how much share of funding one province would get) or other parameters to determine it", Chairuddin said.

Common ground

On the issue of regional administration autonomy, Chairuddin said the committee and the government -- represented by home ministry officials -- had reached some common ground.

For instance, unlike existing law no. 5/1974 on government administration which entitles the central government via the minister of home affairs to appoint a regent or a mayor to a regency or a mayoralty -- the bill will allow the process to be conducted only by a regency's legislature.

"Without intervention of the central government," Chairuddin asserted.

Under the 1945 Constitution, a provincial administration would remain the local representation of the central government, Chairuddin added.

"But it has been agreed that the governor will be appointed by the provincial legislature ... with consultation with the President," he also said.

Critics have said a number of clauses in the bill reflect similar tendencies of government meddling in regional affairs, such as, among other things, through a requirement that candidates for governor needed approval from the central government.

Alfian also cited another agreement reached during the bill deliberation with the government, authorizing villages across the archipelago to retain their own characteristics of village administration. The existing law calls for a uniformed administration at the village level among diverse communities.

A recent congress of indigenous people discussed problems caused by the side-stepping of traditional power structures with the installment of such uniform village administrations.

Alfian underscored wide-ranging regional autonomy, which he said was basically targeted at empowering regency's administrations.

"But the autonomy given must be accompanied by a bigger share of funding from Jakarta," he said.

Chairuddin said eight governors and eight regents and officials of regional revenue agencies were among sources which had given input to the deliberation.

In the coming days until April 13, two of the committee's working groups -- one working with the finance ministry and the other with the home affairs ministry -- will be holding closed deliberations. (aan)