Jakarta. The House of Representatives on Monday celebrated its 65th anniversary with a muted response to mounting public criticisms of its recent performance. House Speaker Marzuki Alie, addressing a plenary session called to mark the occasion, only touched on the issues affecting the legislature during his speech.

“The House completely understands the people’s criticisms of its legislative functions, seeing the small numbers of bills we have deliberated,” he told a nearly half-empty chamber. “Therefore, various efforts have been undertaken to confront this challenge and look for breakthroughs.”
Since starting its tenure in October, the House has only managed to pass seven bills, already forcing it to halve its initial target of completing 70 bills this year. Marzuki, who is from the ruling Democratic Party, asked the public to understand that the House also had to deliberate with the government over bills, and the process was invariably a long one.

“The people need to be informed of this so there will be no more talk about the legislature not being serious enough when deliberating bills,” he said. House Deputy Speaker Pramono Anung, from the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), conceded the work of the current legislature left much to be desired.

“This is self-criticism. We know that our legislative functions have not been met,” he said, adding however that the House was ahead in its monitoring schedule. Lawmakers have been under fire recently for their high absenteeism, preoccupation with monitoring as opposed to action, such as with the highly-politicized Bank Century bailout, and according additional funds to build new offices for themselves.

But the criticisms appear to have fallen on deaf ears, with the plenary to mark the anniversary attended only by 337 of the 560 House members. A House official also reiterated its intention to plow ahead with the building of its new Rp 1.3 trillion ($144.3 million) office tower. Sebastian Salang, from the Concerned Citizens for the Indonesian Legislature (Formappi), a governance watchdog, said that the lawmakers’ performance during their first year had been “very disappointing.”

“They should have used this anniversary to reflect and evaluate, not to brag about themselves,” he said.
Sebastian said the poor attendance record of the current crop of legislators had adversely impacted on the legislative process.
“Their productivity is very low. I don’t even think I can say that either their legislating, budgeting or monitoring functions can be singled out as noteworthy,” he said.

“Compared to the many things that they have been asking for, what they have given back has been very little.” Nonetheless, Marzuki argued that the House had made some breakthroughs, citing moves in June to establish Wednesdays and Thursdays as “Legislation Days” in order to accelerate the deliberation of bills.

(source : Anita Rachman | August 30, 2010 (Jakarta Globe) )