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Scholars oppose reintroduction of security decree

Jakarta Post - August 16, 1997

Jakarta – Observers criticized as inappropriate and groundless a motion to reintroduce a People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) decree that would give a president extra power.

Constitutional law expert Harun Al Rasyid and political analyst Deliar Noer separately expressed opposition against the campaign by House of Representatives legislators to revive the 1988 MPR ruling on preemptive security measures.

"It isn't necessary to legalize the President's authority to take preemptive security measures through an MPR decree," Harun told The Jakarta Post yesterday. "Do they think the country isn't safe for people to live in anymore?" Deliar said. "What this country needs is ordinary regulations because its situation is normal."

The decree granted the President the authority to take preemptive measures against security disturbances and subversive activities. It was adopted as part of Indonesia's Broad Guidelines of State Policies in 1988, but was later dropped from the guidelines in 1993. The ruling Golkar, the United Development Party (PPP) and the Indonesian Democratic Party decided recently to include the substance of the 1988 decree in their drafts of the 1998 state guidelines.

Harun pointed out that there was a universally accepted principle that a head of state has emergency powers that authorized him or her to take preemptive security measures.

The decree was first adopted in 1966 and maintained until the 1988 general session of MPR. It formed the basis for the establishment of the now defunct Kopkamtib (Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order) which, in the 1970s, was given the task of handling major social and political crises. The body was not only successful in fulfilling its objectives, but was also feared.

Harun said the existing Criminal Code and the 1963 Subversion Law actually had provisions that allowed for such preemptive measures. Deliar turned his criticism toward the legislators whom he said were not independent in their handling of state affairs. He said legislators might feel inferior before the executive branch of power, namely the President.

"They should realize that their power is equal to that of the executive branch," he said. Some political observers previously expressed concern about the possible reintroduction of the decree, saying it would give a president even greater authority than what the Kopkamtib had in the past.

Separately yesterday, Golkar's secretary-general Ari Mardjono reaffirmed his organization's support for the reintroduction of the decree. "It's necessary to give the President the authority to take preemptive measures because we will face even greater security risks and challenges in the future," he said.

He admitted that the call to reintroduce the decree actually came from President Soeharto when he opened a training course for legislators last week. Harun said he suspected that more than a "precautionary security motive" was behind the reintroduction of the decree.

"The decree was dropped in 1993. Why reintroduce it for next year's meeting of MPR?" he said. Deputy chairman of PPP Jusuf Syakir said the 1988 decree was dropped in 1993 because none of the five factions in MPR requested its reintroduction. He said PPP would bring the issue up at a party meeting soon.