IO – The “regions” refer to a territory in the archipelago formerly called the (East) Indian Archipelago or the Dutch East Indies, which in Greek are called “Indos Nesos”.
The territory itself stretches from Sumatra to Papua (the western half of the island of New Guinea). These regions abdicated their sovereignty in order to form a new nation: the Republic of Indonesia, founded on 17 August 1945. The newly-united nation agreed to cherish and nurture the welfare of its citizens, the Indonesians, including those living in the provinces. It also agreed to establish the sovereignty of the people and the regions.
Therefore, the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia included Regional Representatives as a component in the People’s Consultative
Assembly (MPR)whose duty it was to pursue regional interests through the Parliament.
At that time, the Regional Representatives had voting rights to select and appoint the President (and Vice President), impeach the President, and draw up State Policy Guidelines (GBHN). This arrangement lasted until 2004 (MPR 1999-2004 period). The “original” 1945 Constitution was altered or amended four times starting from 1999 to 2002, after the retirement of President Suharto.
Ironically, the amended Constitution is often labelled as a “faux” one, because it nullifes the role of the regions. The Regional Representatives
(and group delegates) were removed and replaced with a Regional Representative Council (DPD), whose members are elected through general
elections, similar to the members of the House of Representatives (DPR).
However, the rights of DPD members have in fact been crippled. They have no voice in passing laws. This is a strong betrayal of the regions that have renounced their sovereignty and helped establish the Republic of Indonesia.
The DPD members number 136, almost 25 percent of the 575 members of the House. Yet, they are merely considered as “cheerleaders” by those in the Parliament. They have no signifcant function. They can only propose laws, but have no voting rights to regulate laws.
For that reason, it comes as no surprise that many laws passed in the Reform era are not sympathetic to the regions. Natural resources are massively exploited, ruining the regions and their people. Lands are
being ruthlessly exploited for plantations, mining or housing, and the
areas only suffer further.
Only a handful of business people and rulers, known as “the oligarchs”, are able to enjoy the abundance of natural resources. Those people even became the fat cats of Indonesia.
At the same time, the majority of local people work as plantation, mining, or housing laborers on their precious land. Not only that, but they also have to face adversities such as natural disasters, inevitably caused by the colossal exploitation of natural resources.
Without a doubt, this has violated the inter-regional “agreement” outlined in the 1945 Constitution. The regions are no longer sovereign. They are unable to determine their destiny. They do not even have a voice to constitute laws addressing the interests of their respective regions.
No wonder so many people live in impoverishment. Fairness and prosperity are nothing but a dream.
Therefore, the MPR has to restore the sovereignty of the regions immediately. It has to reinstate the rights of DPD members to be equal to the rights of DPR members. At the very least, members of the DPD should
acquire the same voting rights as members of the DPR in all matters, including establishing laws. The DPD should also be allowed to nominate
the President and Vice President, aside from nominations from political parties.
If the DPD’s rights are not reestablished promptly, it is not impossible that the regions would eventually choose to revoke the mandate they gave during the founding of the Republic of Indonesia because the state institutions, the Government, DPR and MPR, have violated the inter-regional agreements written in the Constitution. It was also agreed that
sovereignty is in the hands of the people, and regional autonomy is in the
hands of the locals.
Hopefully, the political elites will be wise enough to exercise fairness for every region in Indonesia, and immediately correct the ongoing unjust structures. It should start by restoring the DPD’s voices in the Parliament so that Indonesia can uphold its goal as a united nation.