A Speech Delivered at the Australian Senate
Australia-Indonesia Relations Committee,
Canberra, Monday, March 14, 2005
Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
AS it stands now, we have two bodies of parliament in Indonesia recently promulgated through the amend-ments of the so called “The 1945 Constitution.” Namely, The old House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat: DPR) and the new House of Regional Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah: DPD). On top of the two as an umbrella, we retain the old Supreme House: Peoples Repre-sentatives Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat: MPR).
Questionably, therefore, you may count them as two (bicameralism) or as three (tricameralism), depending on how you look on them, and how they are shaped or functioned as described in the amended Constitution. They are two if you think of the MPR as a joint session umbrella, or they are actually three separate bodies since the MPR also functions regularly for various purposes, though largely already trun-cated, while the DPR and the DPD function regularly also simultaneously.
The MPR which used to be considered as the supreme state legislative institution under which all other state bodies stand, now, according to the amended 1945 Constitution, has limited functions and no longer regarded as being supreme. It stands as on a par with, and no longer above, other state bodies, such as the The House of Representatives (DPR), the House of Regional Representatives (DPD), the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, the State Prosecutor General, the State Auditor, and the President. The difference is no longer in status but in functions.
The MPR now functions in a mere four realms: one, amending the Constitution whenever needs arise; two, installing the new President and Vice President now elected directly through general elections; three, electing the new President and/or Vice President when they are permanently incapacitated; and four, abdicating the President and/or the Vice President based on the recommendation of the DPR and conformed by the Supreme Court. And five, if you may add, socializing the amended Constitution and MPR decrees to the public.
The newly emerged Senate, namely, the House of Regional Representatives (DPD), on the other hand, appeared on the Indonesian political stage as a lame duck. It was meant to be an equal partner to the already existing House of Representatives (DPR) and dedicating and focussing its func-tions to help strengthening the regions which for so long were under the armpits of the dominant central government. With the switch from the centrally controled regions to having now a wide range of autonomies, a new phenomenon now arises.
The promulgation of the new house: DPD, was a result of the long awaited efforts of the Regional Group Faction (Fraksi Utusan Daerah) in the MPR for which the Faction had to fight vehemently for the existence of the Senate; whereas at the other end, stood political parties which were opposed to or only halfheartedly endorsing the appearance of the new regional house. Harsh speeches and even physical turmoil came to the open in the rostrum of the MPR General Assembly, in 2001, prior to the promulgation of the new house.
Now the DPR — the House of Representatives –, and the DPD — the Senate –, with the MPR as the umbrella, exist side by side. You may call it a bicameral, or a tricameral, house of the Indonesian parliament; you are free to say so.
The DPR as a whole is largely predominant; not only that it has four times as many in number (550) as with the one of the DPD (128) in the joint body of MPR (678), it has far stronger legislative power as to the newly born lame DPD. The accomodation given to the DPD is only in as far as proposing a new law to the DPR, and the rest is left to the DPR to formulate, deliberate and pass the law. The DPD may be asked by the DPR to join the deliberation but not to vote. The DPD, moreover, is restricted in its power to matters pertinent to the regional issues, including: regional auto-nomies, central and regional relations, forming, enlarging or uniting districts, managements of natural and other economic resources, issues pertaining to education and religion, and those that are related to central and regional financial pro-portional balances. The DPD may also supervise the imple-mentation of laws in such matters including also matters that have to do with state revenues and expenditures, and with taxations, as well as in matters pertaining to education and religious affairs in the regions. The DPD then puts forward the supervisory findings to the DPR for further considerations and deliberations. What is more, no rights for reviewing as given to the DPR are given to the DPD, whereas such rights are essential for the DPD to be considered as a legislative body. In the strict sense of the word, the DPD, therefore, is not yet a full-fledged legislative body of a bicameral parlia-ment; it is only an appendix to the DPR in formulating the laws.
The formulation of such additional portions in the Constitution (especially Chapters 22 C and D of Part VII A) on the status and function of the DPD was prepared as part of the third amendment of the Constitution in the MPR Nov 2001 General Assembly, prior to the establishment and promulgation of the DPD as such. Since the MPR was dominated by political parties – together with the then still in existent armed forces and functional group factions — which were in effect reluctant to give sufficient legislative power to the new DPD would be, it was apparent that a new conflict dimension would come to the fore when the new DPD was finally born in Oct 2004 of last year.
The DPD members coming from 32 provinces through-out the country with equal number of four for each province instantly found a common fate and thereby work hand in hand to shape a better strategy for the better future. Unlike the DPR members who were elected in a district constituency of a province and campaigned for a political party and under the party banner, the DPD members were directly elected by the electors throughout the province, independently and under no political party banner. Though much stronger in people’s support, they, however, had to face the constitutional limita-tions put forth previously by the political parties as appeared in the amended Constitution. The political parties were reluctant to endorse the strong and equitable position of the new DPD or the Senate fearing that their role through the DPR would be diminished, in addition to the fact that they were afraid of further consequences of the regional auto-nomies which may develop into a more federalistic inclination of the regions. By leaving the DPD as a lame duck, the political parties which may put themselves inside or outside the government, wished to prolong their predominance in political roles in the country, especially at the national level. A “soft” type of bicameralism was often named to the existing bicameral setup.
The political atmosphere in the Senayan MPR-DPR-DPD Complex in Jakarta as of now is relatively calm on the waterfront; although anyone can suspect of an uneasy situation where the two feuding blocs physically mingle, speak and cajole to each other but torn apart below the political surface. Intrinsically it is in the division of political thoughts and philosophies where the one believes in a united centrally governed, though the country is as big as Indonesia, and the other believes in a more autonomously organized, precisely because it is a big country with enormous problems to over-come.
Size-wise, Indonesia is not midget but a huge country just as big as Australia, adding into account the whole maritime territories with thousands of islands, big and small, bridging Australia and Asia, and thus one of the big five in the world. Population-wise, of course, Australia comparatively is scarce, though economically and technologically Australia is a robust and fast moving country. Indonesia, as you know, is now faced with serious problems and difficulties in practically all matters of life. To be honest, it is at present a sick country in the true sense of the word. Indonesia is now jeopardized by rampant corruptions, bureaucratic mismanagements, social unjusts and structural disparities in economic fields and otherwise. Nonetheless, it has a future. It is a rich country, rich in natural resources and rich in culture and social traditions. And it has hopes. The country, however, remains intact.
It is in this respect we see that a more powerful DPD with considerable roles and functions is needed for the good of the country as a whole in the future. Indonesia is too big a country to be handled centrally and autocratically as before. As we see in the global political map, pratically all big countries in the world are based on bicameralism. Like here in Australia, you have the Senate representing the regions or States and the House of Representatives representing peoples, both of which through general elections and political parties.
We in Indonesia could not go as fast, not only that the country is too big to handle, the population is too big to control, and the culture is too diversified, but also that we were faced with complex issues in practically all matters, including politics, economy, technology, education, social issues, etc.
Politically, it turned out, that it is not that easy to switch from our type of democracy — which was heavily spiced with our past heritage, such as feudalism, autocracy, paternalism, militarism, and even despotism – to the type of democracy congruent to the present need.
It is with such panoramic picture of our past and present experience as a nation, that I come here to learn something from you. I want to hear from you your own experience in dealing with politics, and with democracy. We are neighbors – and in the spirit of good neighborhood — and we want to learn from each other. You have had experiences with democracy for already over 200 years, and you have had a Senate beside the House of Representatives in a bicameral system since the early 20th Century. My coming here is to hear and learn from you.
This is my second visit to Australia, and to Canberra, especially. I came here to attend the International Congress of Orientalists, here in Canberra, in January of 1971. It’s already over three decades ago. I presented a paper which then became a PhD dissertation in the field of Sociology of Migration at the then University of Singapore (now National Univ of Singapore), in 1974, being the first holder of doctorate degree in the field of Sosiology in such university. It was the migration and migratory pattern of a society called Minangkabau in Sumatra where women reign but not rule. It is also an egaliterian society where democracy is upheld but where men are subservient to women.