Tue, 23 May 2000

Team to amend Constitution facing contentious factions

JAKARTA (JP): The issue of nonelected seats for the military/police at the People's Consultative Assembly and direct presidential elections quickly became contentious issues as an ad hoc committee began proceedings on Constitutional amendment on Monday.

Representatives of the Indonesian Military(TNI)/Police faction in the Assembly's ad hoc committee got little support when they proposed that the Assembly, the highest institution in the country, be comprised of elected legislators and regional representatives along with allocated seats for the Military/Police.

Only one of the other nine factions represented in the Assembly, the small Unity and Nationality Faction (FKKI), expressed support for the proposal.

The other eight factions said the Assembly should only comprise elected legislators from the House of Representatives and Regional Representatives.

"We agreed not to join practical politics in the House but we urge that we be given the opportunity to be involved in the Assembly," TNI's faction spokesman Vice Marshall Hendy Tjaswadi said.

Hendy contended that as an important component of the nation with the same rights and obligations, the Military/Police should be involved in deciding strategic problems in the Assembly.

He argued that such an allotment was necessary because the Military/Police are not represented by political parties.

"The number of seats depends on the Assembly," he said.

The 700 seat Assembly comprises 135 regional representatives elected by local councils, 65 representatives from professional organizations and other nongovernment organizations appointed by the President and the 500 members of the House.

The House itself comprises 462 legislators elected through the general election and another 38 that are uncontested and allocated to the Military/Police faction.

The Military/Police have traditionally been allocated seats since they do not vote in the general election.

There is already a general consensus that the Military/Police faction would no longer be allocated seats in the House.

Despite their arguments, Hendy said on Monday that the Military/Police faction would accept any final decision made by the Assembly in August on the allocation of seats.

FKKI's spokesman Antonius Rahail, defending its decision to support the allocation of seats for the Military/Police, said it was unfair to completely exclude them.

"They are also Indonesian citizens. They should also have representatives in the Assembly," Antonius said.

FKKI consists of minor parties such as the Unity and Justice Party, the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) and the United Party.

Another contentious issue concerns Article 3 concerning the Assembly's authority to appoint the president.

The Golkar Party, the National Awakening Party, the United Development Party (PPP), the Reform Faction and four other factions on Monday proposed that the Assembly's power be limited to inaugurating the president and vice president.

In essence this means an amendment for direct election of the president and vice president.

However, the 1999 general election's highest vote getters, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), supported by the Sociatal Group Representatives rejected any amendment to Article 3.

"People are not ready for direct presidential election. We have to prepare the system first," Valina Subekti of Societal Group Representatives, said.

Valina said the direct presidential election, if it was applied arbitrarily, would result in a leader who's only credential was popularity without quality.

"Maybe in 2009 people will be ready for direct presidential elections," she said.

PDI Perjuangan and Societal Group Representatives make up nearly a third of the Assembly. (jun)