Apr 17, 2024 Last Updated 3:10 AM, Apr 15, 2024

Not your local member

Published: Sep 30, 2007

Teacher: Children, children. Get out your notebooks. Carefully take down what I have to say. Today is 1 October, the Day of the Supernatural Power of Pancasila. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is installing the members of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) as well as the new Parliament (DPR) of our Republic of Indonesia. The MPR will meet in March 1998 for its once-in-five-years gathering.

Our country is not a kingdom, a military junta or a communist state, whose sovereignty lies in the hands of a king or a leader from the military or the working class ruling arbitrarily. No, clause 1, paragraph 2 of the 1945 Constitution states that 'sovereignty is in the hands of the people, and is fully enacted by the MPR'.

The MPR consists of members of the DPR, along with delegates from the provinces and from functional groups. The constitution stipulates that the MPR chooses the president and regulates the direction of the state. The president then makes laws together with the DPR.

In our beloved Indonesia today the DPR has 500 members, and the MPR 1000. It is constituted like this: each member of the DPR represents 400,000 people and each member of the MPR represents 200,000 of our people. Are there any questions?

Student: Yes, sir. In the newspapers and on television they say there are elected and appointed representatives. Can you explain how that is the case, sir?

Teacher: In the last election the representatives that were elected to the DPR were only those members belonging to the parliamentary factions of Golkar, the United Development Party (PPP) and the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI). There are 325 from Golkar, 89 from the PPP and 11 from the PDI. On the other hand 75 members were appointed as the Abri faction. As a result, out of 500 DPR representatives, 425 were elected and 75 were appointed by the president.

Student: Excuse me, sir. I have a question. Each member of the DPR is supposed to represent 400,000 people, aren't they, sir?

Teacher: Yes. work it out yourself, 200 million Indonesians divided by 500 means each member of the DPR represents 400,000 people, correct?

Student: In that case, the 75 Abri members times 400,000 makes 30 million people. Is that right, sir? In that case our country must have the largest military force in the world.

Teacher: No, our country's armed forces don't even reach a million. But Abri membership in the MPR/DPR is a special right not possessed by the other civil political parties. Furthermore, that privilege is needed for these changing times in order to protect Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. You children have to understand this well. For the moment we will not consider it to be in conflict with clause 27 of the constitution about the equality of all citizens. Try and read thoroughly about this topic by yourselves.

Student: But tell us how the Abri representatives get chosen, sir. Are they chosen by the Abri leadership, or by the president, or like our election of student reps, by a meeting of Abri members conducting an open election?

Teacher: Enough, enough! Don't ask about such matters. Later on you will understand when you are at university. Then you will study about democracy in theory and practice. For the present, just accept the fact that Indonesia is a Pancasila Democracy.

Now I will explain about the membership of the MPR. The 500 DPR members automatically become members of the MPR. The other 500 members are appointed by the president. It works like this. Each provincial parliament selects its provincial delegates. They can be military area commanders, governors, chairmen of the provincial parliament, or just anybody considered to have enough authority to represent a region. So in practice the president just has to appoint the delegates suggested from below, a total of 149 people.

Then there are the functional group delegates consisting of 100 people. They are appointed by the president. The process of candidature and election is never clear. Nor are the groups which get represented ever announced. Amongst the 100 are people like Mr Yogi Memet (Interior Minister), and Mrs Hartini Hartarto (wife of another cabinet minister).

Student: Sir, does Mr Yogi represent the functional group of Ministers of State, while Mrs Hartini Hartarto represents the functional group of Wives of Ministers?

Teacher: Now, I don't know how it works. In the school text book it is not at all clear what the functional groups are and how their delegates are chosen. Aside from that, the president also appoints members to the MPR from the three political parties, depending on the balance of power in the DPR. Thus, Golkar gets another 163, the PPP 45, the PDI 5 and Abri gets 38 more.

Student: During the general election one campaigner said that all members of the MPR ought to be directly elected. How many are elected that way right now, sir?

Teacher: Those elected directly are only the 325 from Golkar, the 89 from PPP and the 11 from PDI, 425 in total. So out of 1000 people in the MPR, only 42.5% were elected and 57.5% were appointed.

Student: Sir, if 57.5% of the MPR was appointed by President Suharto and later the MPR chooses Mr Suharto as president again, won't fractious foreign journalists make the headline: 'The Suharto People's Assembly elects Suharto as President'?

Teacher: That's enough, try not to think about whatever outsiders might feel like writing. What is clear is that the composition of the MPR and the DPR is the best that we have for the present. What is the evidence? No one dares to oppose the system, and that includes the intellectuals and the respected religious leaders. The only ones who do not like it are small groups who have been shoved aside or are on state pensions, or students and young people who are always demanding that the five laws on politics be rescinded. But they only ever indulge in empty chatter. They have no idea how to rescind the laws or what to replace them with. That is enough of this lesson for today.

Student: Excuse me please, sir. One final question. According to clause 2, paragraph 1 of the constitution there should only be delegations of regional and functional groups in the MPR. But we have also put them in the DPR. What do you think, sir? I also once read in the newspaper that Golkar is actually not a political party. But then what are they doing occupying the DPR? Surely it is enough for them to just be in the MPR. What do you think?

Teacher: That is enough, my boy. Don't go trying to count the number of clauses in the constitution you consider to have been broken. They have not been broken, it is just that they have yet to be fulfilled exactly as originally intended. It takes time. Maybe in the future when Pancasila has become more truly supernaturally powerful. Possibly at that time the constitution will be enacted consistently and as purely as the driven snow. That is all for now. See you tomorrow. Good afternoon.

Istiqlal, 8 October 1997.

David Williams was the translator.

Inside Indonesia 53: Jan-Mar 1998

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