DPD optimistic about becoming senate by 2014

The House of Regional Representatives (DPD) expressed its optimism about a further amendment to the 1945 Constitution by 2014 to give full authority to it to become recognized as a senate.

“I am optimistic there will be an amendment to the 1945 Constitution by 2014, the last year the nation will be led by a first generation pro-reform national leader. After this, the country is expected to be led by a leader who will be the result of the reform movement and to implement a two-tier parliamentary system,” House of Regional Representatives Speaker Irman Gusman said in a discussion and visit to The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Accompanying Irman during the visit were DPD Deputy Speaker GKR Hemas, deputy chairman of the DPD’s legislative committee Parlindungan Purba, Bahar Buasan of Bangka Belitung and DPD secretary-general Siti Nurbaya.

The constitution has been amended four times between 1999 and 2002, recognizing the existence of DPD as a law-making body with limited power. The constitution allows it to propose to the House of Representatives bills related to regions, fiscal balance, natural resources, religion and education and the 2003 Law on the composition of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), DPR and DPD, limiting its powers only to giving legal considerations on all bills and to have limited hearings with the executive body.

Irman said further that despite these limited powers, the DPD continued lobbying and strengthening its role on the national political stage to convince all sides, mainly the government and the House of Representatives, on the necessity of amending the constitution to empower the new state institution and to make it equal to the House in ensuring a two-tier (bicameral) parliamentary system with its check-and-balance mechanisms.

Following intense lobbying with political parties, the DPD has been allowed not only to give legal considerations but also to deliberate all bills related to regions, fiscal balance, education and religion as laid down by the 2009 Law on the MPR, DPR and DPD.

“With an [additional] amendment by 2014, the Constitution is expected to lay down the DPD’s full powers in its legislative, budgetary and control functions, making it as powerful as the DPR,” said Irman.

He also said the DPD has also reached agreements with the MPR, DPR and the executive body which implicitly accepted the DPD as being of equal status to them.

He cited for instance the agreements on annual joint sessions to hear presidential speeches and on MPR, DPR and DPD leadership meetings and on the master plans for the parliamentary buildings.

Hemas said she and 28 other regional representatives have formed a caucus with women legislators from the DPR to fight for gender equality and women-related issues, including on health and poverty.

“The caucus will continue fighting for the proposed 30 percent quota for legislative candidates for women in the next legislative elections,” she said citing an example.

Irman, Hemas and Parlindungan said the DPD was committed to promoting pluralism and local cultures while all 132 will-be senators from the 33 provinces supported one another in practicing pluralism.

Asked about the emergence of many local sharia bylaws, Irman said the Home Ministry should review them to prevent undermining the pluralist spirit of the people.

“The Home Ministry must review the sharia bylaws or bring them to the Supreme Court for judicial review,” said Irman.

Parlindungan said that besides a law center, the DPD also had its legislative body to review contentious laws and bylaws and to ensure harmony with the constitution which guaranteed the freedom of religion.