Experts Say House Too Powerful for Our Own Good
Anita Rachman | August 18, 2010

Jakarta. It seems no on has a kind word for the House these days. After weeks of intense criticism of legislators for failing to attend plenary sessions and their poor record of passing laws, experts on Wednesday said the House of Representatives was too powerful, at the expense of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) and democracy. 

The solution, they said, is to amend the Constitution to give the council more power and put it on more of an equal footing with the House.

As it stands now, the DPD can draft bills, but only the House has the power to pass these bills into law.

Adnan Buyung Nasution, a lawyer, constitutional expert and former presidential adviser, said evening out the balance of power between the House and DPD would help both bodies better look after the people’s interests.

“The DPD should rightfully have a greater share of power, given that it represents regional interests,” he said during a joint session of the People’s Consultative Assembly, the collective term for the House and the DPD, to mark Constitution Day.

“It must be allowed to stand on an equal footing with the House so that together they can more comprehensively address the people’s concerns. A fifth amendment to the Constitution is called for.”

The Constitution has been amended four times since 1999. The amendments include a restructuring of the national legislature and the imposition of a two-term limit on the president.

Saldi Isra, a law professor at Andalas University in West Sumatra, agreed that the DPD needed to be strengthened through an amendment to the Constitution.

With a more powerful Regional Representatives Council, Saldi said, the country would have a truly bicameral legislature, which he said would be good for democracy.

“Two chambers of the legislature will always be better than one,” he said.

“Any bill going through the House could then be monitored by the DPD, and vice versa. That would finally give us a national legislature with its own checks.”

House Speaker Marzuki Alie, from the ruling Democratic Party, however, dismissed the idea that the DPD was ignored and in need of empowering.

“We listen to their suggestions during bill deliberations, so it’s unfair to say we ignore them,” he said. “If you want to devolve power to them, then devolve it to everyone else while you’re at it.

“We’re the legislators so we’re the only ones who should be doing the job of legislating.”