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Jakarta Post

House of missing priorities

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, July 10, 2020   /   08:22 am
House of missing priorities A plenary session of the House of Representatives in Jakarta on March 30. (JP/ Dhoni Setiawan)

Elected politicians everywhere always keep their finger on the pulse and are usually good at capitalizing on issues to gain popularity among voters.

When protests erupted over police brutality in the United States, some local councilors came out with a proposal to defund the police, while members of Congress introduced bills to reform policing in the country. In Taiwan, where members of the population have become increasingly progressive in the past decade, parliamentarians decided to legalize same-sex unions in 2019, making it the first country in Asia to do so.

In these cases, politicians do pose and act as the servant, although their primary goal is to be the master.

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The current members the House of Representatives look like a different breed of politicians. We can't certainly expect these lawmakers to be progressives who work to channel the hopes and dreams of their constituents, but there were moments in the past when, due to either political expediency or commitment to good governance, politicians were able to pass landmark legislation, including the Corruption Law, Regional Autonomy Law and Presidential Election Law, which calls for direct elections of Indonesian leaders.

However, with each election cycle, we get batches of lawmakers that perform progressively worse than their predecessors. Initially, lawmakers failed to meet their legislation targets, producing only two laws in one sitting session and putting off the deliberation of dozens of other bills to the next sitting session. Recently, it only got worse. Not only are lawmakers failing to fulfill their legislative targets, they now don't even have their priorities set.

While the country is in no immediate danger of having its ideology replaced by communism or Islamism, the House has insisted that the Pancasila ideology guidelines bill should be on the top of National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) priority list, expecting that it will be passed by October this year. No one in society asked for this bill and there has been no extensive debate as to whether the country even needs a new regulation on the state ideology.

Other bills on the list that no one wants are the judge tenure bill, prosecutor bill and national development planning system bill, which was added at the last minute at the expense of more crucial regulation like the sexual violence bill and revisions to the Monopoly and Business Competition Law and Forestry Law.

Read also: House drops sexual violence eradication bill from this year’s priority list

The biggest letdown of course is the withdrawal of the sexual violence bill, which has repeatedly failed to pass since 2016. There has been strong opposition from Islamic-oriented parties such as the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), which have made unfounded claims that the bill legalizes adultery and nontraditional sexual orientation while turning a blind eye to the lack of protection for women and children.

By dropping the revision to Forestry Law, the House has missed the chance to prevent more forest fires and respect the rights of indigenous peoples.

Unless the House gets its priorities straight, its credibility is in danger.