ANYTHING is possible under the sun,” Amien Rais said. Politics, too, is like that–the impossible becomes logical and wins out in the end. The latest example is the failure of a proposal put up by the House of Representatives (DPR) factions to add one more commission at the Annual Session of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), now under way in Senayan, Jakarta. The proposed additional Recommendations Commission was to provide evaluations of the performances of the president, DPR and Supreme Court. Even though the proposal was supported by seven DPR factions, last Wednesday’s consultative meeting of the MPR and DPR leaderships rejected it.
That meeting only agreed to form three commissions for this year’s annual session: one to discuss the Constitutional Court, another for the evaluation of 1960-2002 MPRS/MPR Decrees, and the last to discuss the MPR’s procedures.
Chatibul Umam, a member of the National Awakening Party (PKB) faction, said that the Recommendations Commission is important in evaluating the progress reports of the three top state institutions mentioned earlier. What’s more, claims Chatibul, under Assembly Rules Article 97 clause 2, the MPR does have the authority to hear, and subsequently provide the results of its discussions on, the reports given by these three institutions.
But in an acrimonious debate, the two-hour meeting rejected the proposal, even though it was supported by the PKB faction, Regional Representatives, the Reform faction, Special Interests Group, United Development faction, Golkar Party, and Indonesian Unity factions. However, the proposal was opposed by a coalition of the PDI-P, People’s Sovereignty, and the Military/Police factions. “What was most disappointing in this,” commented Chatibul, was that, surprisingly, Amien Rais, “had listened to the PDI-P’s stance.”
The PDI-P’s position was expressed by Jacob Tobing. The party deputy chairman thought that bringing up the issue of a Recommendations Commission signaled that the MPR was not serious in carrying out its mandate under the 1945 Constitution. His grounds were that under the amended constitution the MPR is no longer the highest institution of state. Ideally, said Harjono, another PDI-P member, even if this annual session put the reports from the president, DPR and the Supreme Court on its agenda, that could still only be considered as part of a transition period towards a new system for the MPR. So, the president’s report would still be made, and the factions would still present their views, but the MPR, “would not issue recommendations as a binding decision. It would only be a public communiqué,” Harjono explained.
The three commissions formed had already been stipulated in MPR Decree No. III/MPR/2002, which was signed on August 11 last year. This has also been strengthened by the discussions of the Special Ad Hoc Committee of the MPR’s Working Body, which were reported at a meeting on July 23. This Working Body has been tasked with discussing the budgets for the 2003 and 2004 annual sessions, together with their programs and schedules.
So, is the door to having a Recommendations Commission now fully closed? The PKB faction believes other doors may still be open: through more discussions at the sitting of Commission C or the plenary one. Chatibul believes that this is possible because the proposal had been supported by seven factions–a majority. Another opportunity will also open up when the factions present their views. But he also sees that the tricks employed in the session may well block his proposal. “The members’ microphones are frequently turned off in a plenary session,” he said. He pointed to the experience at the opening session which rendered those MPR members who wanted to interrupt powerless to do so.
MPR Speaker Amien Rais said that criticism, however sharp, of the president’s performance could be made through public debate. However, he said, such criticism, “should not then be turned into recommendations containing corrections or criticisms, as in the past.” Last year the MPR annual session did issue recommendations in the form of MPR Decree No. II/MPR 2002, to accelerate the recovery of the economy.
Amien himself excludes the possibility of a change in the constellation of the MPR, which would open up the opportunity for the formation of a Recommendations Commission in the current session, which has cost more than Rp20 billion. Indeed, anything is possible under the sun.
Abdul Manan, Yandi M. Rofiandi (TEMPO News Room)
TEMPO, AUGUST 11, 2003-048/P. 15 Heading Cover Story