Headlines

As polls approach, only
one priority bill passed
in first House session

The dedicated few: A plenary meeting marking the end of the current sitting season at the House of Representatives in Jakarta on Friday was attended by only 224 of the total 560 lawmakers. The high level of absenteeism, such as this, has been blamed for the House’s extremely low productivity. (Antara/Wahyu Putro)
The dedicated few: A plenary meeting marking the end of the current sitting season at the House of Representatives in Jakarta on Friday was attended by only 224 of the total 560 lawmakers. The high level of absenteeism, such as this, has been blamed for the House’s extremely low productivity. (Antara/Wahyu Putro)

In yet another sign of poor performance, the House of Representatives endorsed only one from 33 priority bills that should have been passed in the first sitting session of this year, which ended on Friday.

After working 67 days, starting Jan. 7, lawmakers only endorsed the bill on preventing terrorist funding in February, after deliberating it for a year.

In the plenary on Friday, they were forced to delay the passage of two contentious bills — on mass organizations and deforestation — due to public opposition.

The House’s plenary only managed to ratify two international conventions: the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Utilization, and the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.

The House, however, did endorse three minor bills on the establishment of the Konawe regency in Southeast Sulawesi; Tembrauw regency in West Papua, and Morowali in Central Sulawesi. The three bills were not included in the national legislation program.

Previously, a deadlock between political factions at the House had forced lawmakers to prolong discussions on a bill to amend Law No. 42/2008 on presidential elections, which stipulates that in order to nominate a presidential candidate, a political party or coalition of parties must secure 20 percent of seats in the House or win 25 percent of the popular vote in the legislative election.

 The House has set a target to pass a total of 70 priority bills by the end of this year, a target that seems increasingly unlikely as lawmakers have virtually abandoned the House in favor of reelection planning a year ahead of the legislative election, slated for April 9, 2014.

Last year, lawmakers completed only 25 out of a total 69 bills in the national program; while in 2011, they completed only 24 from 70.

The long-standing issue of lawmakers’ absenteeism, which is worsening as the election moves closer, has raised concerns from House speaker Marzuki Alie over the legislative target that the lawmakers have missed again this session.

“My colleagues had promised to complete at least 16 bills by the end of this session, which has not materialized due to poor attendance. I am deeply concerned, but I don’t know what to do because I don’t have the authority to force lawmakers to attend meetings. I would fire all lazy lawmakers if I had the authority,” he said recently.

Separately, chairman of the House’s Legislative Body (Baleg), Ignatius Mulyono, said the division of labor in the House made it difficult for lawmakers to perform. “It’s a huge challenge for political parties with less representation at the House to distribute their limited number of lawmakers to all meetings while, at the same time, they also need to attend bill deliberations with working or special committees,” he said.

Mulyono suggested that the House divide the 560 lawmakers into three different groups — one for bill deliberations, one for monitoring and the other for budgeting.

Nonetheless, he cited a lack of a clear legislative concept between the House and the government as a foundational problem that hampered national legislative achievement. “Different stances and interests have often put lawmakers and the government at loggerheads over certain bills, which leads to delays,” Mulyono said.

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