The Jakarta Post
A proposal from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) to restore the authority of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) to set the direction for the government and the objectives of the state has won support from political groups.
The government's direction and the state's objectives for the next five years could be incorporated in the presently defunct State Policy Guidelines (GBHN), which the PDI-P has demanded reinstating.
PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri said on Wednesday that the MPR, a powerful legislative institution under the New Order regime, should have its power returned so the country had a reference point to determine what to do and where to go in the long term.
'It's time to rethink the country's development plan [...] In the Reform Era, liberalization has been a distraction from the country's principles. The practice of democracy, then, drastically changed. The state now has no clear direction,' Megawati said.
The country's lack of guidelines, she claimed, could be seen in the exploitation of natural resources, the increasing poverty rate and a lack of recognition for local wisdom.
Megawati proposed the idea during a PDI-P national working meeting held in Jakarta in January.
The eldest daughter of founding president Sukarno and the fifth president of the country learned the concept from her father. However, it was Sukarno's successor, Soeharto, who made the idea a reality in 1969.
Under Soeharto, the GBHN were passed by the MPR and implemented by the president. Thus, all regions had to follow the guidelines. Regional autonomy was not as strong as nowadays and regions' ability to explore innovation remained weak.
In the post-Soeharto era, the MPR could threaten to use the GBHN to impeach a president who did not effectively implement development policy, as the president was held responsible by the Assembly.
A Constitutional amendment in 2001 removed the MPR's status as the highest state institution and axed the GBHN altogether.
Indonesia's development has since followed the National Long-Term Development Plan (RPJP) and National Mid-Term Development Plan (RPJM), deliberated and approved by both the executive and legislative powers. Consequently, there are no longer clear sanctions if a president does not work in line with his or her development plan.
The PDI-P could reinstate the GBHN through a fifth Constitutional amendment, which Megawati said would be a limited amendment. It would add to the MPR's authority to pass the national development policy outline, as outlined in the Constitution.
MPR Speaker Zulkifli Hasan of the National Mandate Party (PAN) said all factions had agreed to re-establish the state guidelines, except the Democratic Party.
'Ten factions and regional representatives in the MPR agree that the GBHN is important for the country, but the Democratic Party has yet to reveal its stance on it,' Zulkifli said.
To create a comprehensive basis for the guidelines, Zulkifli said the MPR would seek advice and recommendations from academics, government institutions and constitutional law experts.
If the new concept of the GBHN is passed, it will likely come into effect for the MPR's 2020-2024 period.
'We will make sure that the GBHN will not restrict the president's authority. It will only guide what the president should do to ensure sustainable development for the country, in line with campaign promises,' Zulkifli said.
Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie agreed that Indonesia needed a long-term development plan set by the MPR based on recommendations from the public, so the government did not have to seek advice from foreign financial experts who could discredit the country.
'Such guidelines are important, so the president can't arbitrarily change the long-term plan,' Aburizal said.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is of the opinion that the current long-term and mid-term plans are more effective, measurable and accountable than the GBHN, because they are made and implemented by the same person.
'We need an in-depth review and consideration before deciding to reinstate the GBHN, including whether it will become a more comprehensive guideline than the RPJM,' party deputy chairman Syariefuddin Hasan said.
Ravik Karsidi, chairman of the Indonesian Rector's Forum (FRI) advisory body and rector of Sebelas Maret University (UNS) in Surakarta, said reinstating the GBHN did not mean a return to the New Order regime.
'The guidelines are more ideological and aim to provide a comprehensive outline for development, while the RPJM is more pragmatic and more like a strategy,' Ravik said.
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