House deals severe blow to Jokowi

House deals severe blow to Jokowi

The ruling coalition of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo suffered a severe blow on Tuesday after it failed to stop two controversial initiatives in the House of Representatives.

In spite of opposition from Jokowi's Great Indonesian Coalition, House lawmakers in a plenary session passed a legislative bill that provided the legal basis that would allow lawmakers to make use of a total of Rp 11.2 trillion (S$1.1 billion) in so-called constituency funds.

This sum is a portion of state funds that have been earmarked for regional development projects proposed by lawmakers, using a mechanism that they have yet to decide upon.

The decision to pass a House internal regulation allowing lawmakers to make proposals for projects funded by the budget was made despite strong objections from three political party factions from the ruling Great Indonesia Coalition: the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the People's Conscience Party (Hanura) and the NasDem Party.

By striking the gavel bringing an end to the plenary session and any objections raised against the motion, House Deputy Speaker Fahri Hamzah shifted the burden on to President Jokowi, who will have to deal with the influx of basic infrastructure project proposals resulting from the bill.

According to the bill, all 560 legislators of the House will have up to Rp 20 billion of state funds earmarked each year to develop their respective electoral districts.

"All things considered, the public will soon see the goodwill behind our decision to pass [the bill]. Don't forget that everything will go through a governmental mechanism - we're just here to listen to the people's needs," Fahri said in his closing speech at the House on Tuesday.

PDI-P lawmaker Arif Wibowo said the party rejected the proposal because members of the House were no longer representatives of their electoral districts, but rather a representative of all people in the country.

"In the medium and long term, this programme will actually make it more difficult for the nation's integration process - it will widen the discrepancies among regions," Arif explained in his protest on Tuesday.

PDI-P lawmaker Hendrawan Supratikno revealed that the decision to reject the proposal was a direct order from the party's chairwoman, Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Responding to the House's decision, Yenny Sucipto from the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (FITRA) said there remained no basis upon which legislators could justify adding a new component to the state budget.

"Responding to the people's aspirations is one thing, but it doesn't mean that it's ground for proposing a new component of state spending, especially since the legal basis is only an internal agreement on the matter," Yenny said.

In the plenary session, the House also decided to press ahead with its plan to start the amendment process of the 2002 Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law, ignoring Jokowi's stance rejecting the proposal.

House Legislation Body (Baleg) chairman Sareh Wiryono had asked the government not to withdraw its support for the KPK Law revision.

Sareh said that it was urgent to amend the KPK Law to strip the anti graft body of its wiretapping authority and mandate the institution to synchronize its work with other law-enforcement agencies.

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