Ethics Committee: “House members are getting lazy – they could have been present physically or virtually in Plenary Meetings”

Formappi researcher Lucius Karus. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – The Community Forum Concerning Indonesian Parliament (Forum Masyarakat Peduli Parlemen – “Formappi”) has lodged a protest with the House of Representatives (DPR) Plenary Meeting for validating the Government Regulation in Lieu of Law concerning Regional Elections, held last week, as an invalid meeting for failing to satisfy quorum requirements. The Meeting was attended by only 269 of its 575 members. Formappi researcher Lucius Karus stated that according to the old quorum, an attendance of 269 members does not constitute a quorum, as it is lower than half of the current membership of 575. He further stated that DPR usually covers up insufficient attendance by counting members who asked to be excused anyway. 

Lucius further notes that during the Corona pandemic, virtual attendance is also considered to be legal attendance. “During the pandemic, one of the issues in determining the validity of DPR meetings is that virtual attendance is also considered when determining the quorum,” he said. 

Formappi requests that DPR members refrain from using the pandemic as an excuse not to attend work at the Parliamentary complex. DPR should have considered the Large-Scaled Social Restriction (PSBB) transition as basis for implementing virtual meetings. “DPR members should not use the pandemic as justification for their laziness. They should remember the extent of their great responsibility as the people’s representatives – a responsibility that they have yet to respect through high working spirit and significant (physical) attendance rate in meetings as the Government implements the PSBB transition period. DPR members must not fear going to the Parliamentary Complex to discharge of their duties,” Lucius said. 

In response, Deputy Chairman of the DPR RI’s Ethics Committee Habiburokhman stated that the Meeting may not be optimum, but it has satisfied quorum. According to him, there are two problems faced when DPR works during the pandemic: First, about health protocol, and second, complaints about virtual meetings. He said that the Committee will evaluate the two problems. “Firstly, many of our colleagues have become paranoid after the number of COVID-19 sufferers in DKI soared. Despite this condition, only two lifts operate in the Building. The queues for getting down to GKK from the Nusantara I working chambers are very long. I had to wait a full 20 minutes before being able to go up yesterday. The second problem is the many complaints related to the Meeting apps used, such as difficulty in connecting and other technical issues. We are evaluating these two issues,” he said. 

Habiburokhman further stated that having only two lifts serve 575 members, plus the fact that each member is accompanied by at least 1 staff member, is very risky. One lift can only transport 5 persons due to the COVID-19 health protocol. He stated that Formappi’s request that DPR members not be lazy and afraid to go to work in Senayan is a valid one. However, member attendance is not counted from attendance in Plenary Meetings only. Their attendance in their relevant Committees must also be considered. “It is a good request, and we accept all request. However, to be fair, they should also check attendance in Committee Meetings – those are optimum. DPR members work mostly in their Committees, while Plenary Meetings generally only validate Committee Meeting decisions,” he said. “As a member of the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerakan Indonesia Raya – “Gerindra”) Party Faction, I must mention that our Party allows members to attend meetings virtually. The new normal circular sets the limit of meeting attendance at 60%. Therefore, we request that Faction members who are 50 years old or older to attend meetings virtually,” he said. 

Chairman of DPR RI’s National Awakening Party (Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa – “PKB”) Faction Cucun Ahmad Sjamsurijal reiterates that virtual meetings are valid and satisfy regulations. “What indicators do you use for “laziness”? We continue to discharge of our duties during the pandemic. Go and check the Committee Meeting summaries or Minutes of other organs of the House. Even during recess, we continue to visit constituent bases to educate the people and to distribute various PPEs to them,” he said to the press on Wednesday (2020/07/15). 

As for reduced physical presence in the offices, Cucun reminds that it is in line with the statement of President Joko Widodo, who once requested officials to reduce activities outside the house. Even though DPR members work from home, it does not mean that their productivity and performance suffer. “We DPR members implement work from home fully. We continue to perform our duties by participating in various work meetings and hearings with our partners in the Government. It’s true that some members attend virtually due to physical distancing requirements, which means that the actual physical space available at the office is insufficient to contain all members if everyone attends physically,” he said. 

DPR divides work between physical and virtual meetings due to the Corona pandemic, with a 60% physical attendance requirement and 40% virtual attendance. Cucun states that not all DPR activities during the Corona pandemic is performed virtually. Some meetings and activities are still performed physically. In fact, the PKB Faction continues to accept public audience at a much-lowered scale. 

Cucun hopes that everyone has good predisposition during the pandemic and refrain from causing noise among the people. The accusation that DPR members are lazy is a serious accusation that can cause negative misperception against House members. “DPR members are ordinary people that might catch the Corona virus if we are not careful. Therefore, we also continue to perform our duties with due consideration of health procedures, including maintaining physical distancing in our admittedly restricted space office,” he said. (dan)