Jokowi tells Cabinet to skip House meetings

The beleaguered peace process between President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's Great Indonesia Coalition and the opposition Red-and-White Coalition in the House of Representatives has still not been finalized, with the President ordering his ministers to refuse to attend meetings with lawmakers.

An instruction to skip all meetings - circulated in a letter by Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto and echoing an earlier call from State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno - has angered House members, who vowed to use their power to challenge Jokowi's administration if officials insisted on missing meetings with the House.

In a letter dated Nov. 4, Andi called on all Cabinet ministers, as well as other officials including the Indonesian Military (TNI) commander, the head of the National Police, the TNI chief of staff, the head of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) and the attorney general, to postpone all meetings with House leaders and House internal bodies, including its 11 commissions, in order to allow the House to consolidate the truce that followed an agreement reached by the two coalitions.

Earlier, Rini issued a similar call prohibiting all officials of state-owned companies from attending meetings with lawmakers until the House had enacted the adjustments to chairmanships of all its internal bodies as mandated by the peace pact.

"The government has nothing to do with the House's [internal] procedures. Everything's been done. [All House commissions] now have all their members, so don't make excuses. It's unconstitutional," House deputy speaker Fadli Zon said on Monday.

Fadli, a politician from the Gerindra party, went on to warn officials that the House could strong-arm them into presenting themselves if necessary. "We will continue to invite [officials] to meetings. Let there be no doubt that we will take firm action if they refuse to come after the third request. We can force them to come here."

Chairman of House Commission III overseeing legal affairs and laws, human rights and security Azis Syamsuddin, meanwhile, lambasted Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Hamonangan Laoly, a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's (PDI-P), for skipping two meetings slated to discuss the recruitment of a new Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) commissioner to replace the retiring Busyro Muqqodas.

"[Yasonna] told us in his letter that he could not come to today's meeting because he was to attend a meeting with President Jokowi," Azis said.

Yasonna attended a meeting with the House's Legislation Body (Baleg) last week to discuss the National Legislation Program (Prolegnas).

Besides potential forced summons and blocks put on funding for their programs, government officials may also face tough questioning sessions with lawmakers, as the latter look likely to exercise their right to inquire into the government's decision to raise fuel prices.

Responding to the House's bitter reaction, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo confirmed the order issued by the Cabinet Secretary.

"Of course it's true. If we [the government] go to one House meeting, it will be deemed wrong. If we go to another House meeting, it will also be deemed wrong. Then what?" Jokowi asked reporters on the sidelines of an event at Bogor Palace in West Java on Monday.

He was referring to the unsettled dispute between the two coalitions, as a result of which several House commissions do not yet have a definitive list of members, with several party factions still refusing to submit lists of lawmakers for the commissions and other internal bodies.

"If the House has settled the matter, then they can contact [the government to attend House meetings]. Why should they summon [the ministers now]? What for?" Jokowi said.