Red cross or red crescent?
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The House of Representatives has sent 20 legislators on a Rp 1.3 billion (US$135,804) junket to Turkey and Denmark, in a move activists have criticized as further wasteful government spending.
Apparently unaware that Google could help them determine whether the national flag of Turkey features a crescent symbol and Denmark’s flag is adorned with a cross, a number of lawmakers decided to take a trip to the two countries to investigate in person, ostensibly to reconcile their difference over which symbol the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) should use.
The price tag for the Denmark trip is over Rp 660 million, with the trip to Turkey costing Rp 636 million, data from the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (FITRA) shows.
Chairman of the House’s legislative body Ignatius Mulyono defended the overseas trip, saying that it was necessary to break the deadlock in the deliberation of the PMI bill.
He said that some of the lawmakers wanted to check if Turkey, a majority-Muslim nation, used a crescent as the logo for its red cross society. He said some lawmakers objected to the use of a cross given the fact that Indonesia was a majority-Muslim country.
“We want to find out if we can keep the red cross logo or if we could use both,” he said by phone from Turkey on Wednesday.
Ignatius and 10 other House members are in Turkey, while another group is currently in Denmark.
The two groups departed on Sunday and are expected to return home on Friday.
Ignatius hoped that the debate would be settled amicably after the two groups presented their findings from the trips.
Lawmakers from Muslim-based political parties have argued that the Indonesian red cross society should adopt a red crescent as its symbol, arguing that other Muslim countries have adopted the symbol.
A number of local humanitarian groups have also used red crescent as their symbol.
Achmad Dymiaty, the deputy chairman of the legislative body from the United Development Party (PPP) faction, said that the red cross symbol had been the only big issue that arose in the deliberation of the bill.
“This is a new bill so we need a comparative study to see how the logos are used overseas. We don’t want to pick the wrong cat from the sack,” he said as quoted by tempo.co.
Activists have criticized the trip as wasteful government spending.
“The House leadership should evaluate the foreign trip comprehensively to assess whether it is necessary to help with the bill’s deliberation,” said Sebastian Salang, the executive director of legislative watchdog Formappi.
Sebastian said that like most overseas trip by politicians, these trips were a ploy used by lawmakers to get travel stipends, which could reach up to Rp 4 million per day per person, and travel as tourists.
Sebastian also said that the logo of the PMI was not big of a deal and the bill itself was not on the priority list of legislation for this year.
“This is a sectarian issue which has nothing to do with the bill’s deliberation. Besides, the House should focus on other bills that are of greater relevance to the public,” he said.
He said that if the lawmakers were serious about deliberating the bill, they should have focused on the PMI’s structure, authority and functions.
“If they take the logo so seriously, it indicates their stupidity and narrow-mindedness,” he said.