House taking advantage of corona epidemic to push Omnibus Law through

CNN Indonesia – April 2, 2020
Workers hold placards opposing Draft Omnibus Law on Job Creation – Undated (Fin)

Jakarta – The House of Representatives (DPR) agreed to proceed with deliberating the Draft Omnibus Law on Job Creation during a plenary meeting in Jakarta on Thursday April 2. The decision is seen as taking advantage of the corona virus pandemic to accelerate the deliberation of the controversial draft law (RUU).

DPR Deputy Speaker Azis Syamsuddin from the Golkar Party, who chaired the session, read out the presidential letter (surpres) on the Omnibus Law which the government submitted to the DPR on Wednesday February 12.

“On the matter of the Draft Job Creation Law it has already been taken to a Bamus [Consultative Body] alternative consultation meeting and it has already been agreed to submit it to the Legislative Body [Baleg]”, he said during the meeting which was televised on the TV Parliament official website on Thursday.

Syamsuddin also read out another letter from President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on the submission of the Draft State Finance Law on handling Covid-19. Following this, he asked for agreement from all of the DPR members present to enact the Draft Omnibus Law on Job Creation.

“Can we agree to [deliberate] the Draft Job Creation Law after we have submitted it to the Baleg. Can we agree?”, asked Syamsuddin.

“Agreed!” shouted the DPR members present.

The presidential letter was agreed to even though two political party representatives opposed it. Democrat Party faction member Benny K. Harman and Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) faction member Aboe Bakar Alhabsyi opposed the deliberations on the draft law and asked the house to instead prioritise handling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Syamsuddin however equivocated saying that the agenda for the plenary meeting – including agreement on deliberating the Omnibus Law – was based on an agreement by the Bamus which represents all of the political party factions and leaderships in the DPR.

Separately, parliamentary watchdog group Forum of Concerned Citizens for Indonesia’s Parliament (Formappi) researcher Lucius Karus said that the House is taking advantage of the corona pandemic to smooth the way for deliberations on the Omnibus Law.

“The suspicion is that there has been a message from other parties urging them to finish the deliberations as quickly as possible. The pressure from these other parties seems to have made them appear to be taking advantage of this pandemic so they can achieve the mission of [passing] this draft law”, he told CNN Indonesia on Thursday.

Karus said that it is unusual for the DPR to step on the gas at the start of a legislative sitting period. In terms of the majority of people’s needs the controversial draft is not urgent. The House, said Karus, should instead accelerate the handling of the corona virus.

“It should be that the plan to deliberate draft laws in the midst of the current situation be put aside”, he said.

Separately, the Civil Society Coalition for Security Sector Reform also opposed the DPR’s plan to deliberate the Draft Omnibus Law because they see it as lacking transparency.

The Coalition is made up of Amnesty International Indonesia, the Institute for Public Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial), the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta), the Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat), the Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers), Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), PILNET Indonesia, the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace and the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI). They are calling on the DPR to avoid short-term political interests under the current difficult situation.

“Halt the deliberation and enactment of all controversial draft laws, such as the RUU on the Constitutional Court, the RUU on ASN [State Civil Servants], the RUU KUHP [Draft Criminal Code], the RUU on Correctional Institutions and the RUU on Job Creation”, wrote the Coalition in a written release received by CNN Indonesia on Thursday.

As reported, the Draft Omnibus Law on Job Creation was proposed by the government. A presidential letter, which represents a request by the government for the DPR to begin deliberating the law, was sent to the DPR along with a draft of the law on Wednesday February 12.

After a plenary meeting agrees to deliberate a law, the DPR submits the draft to the DPR’s Legislative Body which then discusses the law. Following this, the deliberations on the law can begin. (dhf/arh)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Setuju Bahas Omnibus Law, DPR Dinilai Manfaatkan Wabah Corona”.]