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Golkar sticks to guns on civil servants in

Jakarta Post - January 5, 1999

Jakarta – The ruling Golkar is holding out for the right of the country's four million public servants to join political parties, turning its back on mounting calls for the bureaucracy's neutrality in elections.

Golkar deputy chairman Marzuki Darusman said on Monday that barring civil servants from becoming members or executives of political parties would create "problems" He added that "the (civil and political) rights of citizens is stipulated in the Convention of the International Labor Organization . the rights must not be curtailed".

The chairman of the Indonesian Civil Servants Corps, Feisal Tamim, proposed that civil servants should retire if they wished to join political parties. "A civil servant must choose whether to be a civil servant or to be a politician," said Tamin, who is also the secretary-general of the Ministry of Home Affairs

At the core of the debate is whether the new law on political parties – passed by the House of Representatives (DPR) sooner than the Jan. 28 deadline – should bar civil servants from joining political parties

The government originally wanted to impose the ban as a guarantee of the bureaucracy's neutrality. But it later bowed to Golkar's wish by proposing an additional clause providing an avenue for civil servants to enter politics. A civil servant wishing to become a political party member or executive must "take leave without the state's stipend".

Other factions – the Indonesian Democratic Party, the United Development Party and the Armed Forces – ultimately agreed to the new proposal, but a final decision has yet to be reached. Tamin even proposed that civil servants wishing to join political parties seek "early retirement" instead of "just taking leave"

Golkar legislator Yasril A Baharuddin attacked such move as the "killing" of the civil servants' economic rights. "Golkar wants civil servants to be neutral, that civil servants not be allowed to become members of executive of political parties but, if they wish to, they must (only) take temporary leave," he said. "Because they might want to resume as civil servants. "

Andi Mattalatta, Golkar faction chairman at the DPR, seconded the argument "Golkar will fight for civil servants rights as citizens. As a well-educated component of the nation, civil servants will be able to help improve the performance of political parties (as members) and this doesn't refer to Golkar only."

Andi conceded the problem was how to ensure that civil servants, especially those in high ranking positions, did not abuse state facilities for the interests of their own parties.

Marzuki proposed that preventative measures be regulated through other laws. "In the United States, Australia and Japan, civil servants are allowed to wear two hats, " said Marzuki, who is also chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights

Despite the debate, factions deliberating draft laws on elections, political parties and status of the legislatures expressed their commitment that the bill on political parties be passed before the Jan. 28 deadline.

Four issues requiring further deliberation are civil servants' political rights, the non-elected seats to be allotted to the Armed Forces, the state ideology Pancasila, and on adjustment to the proportional representation voting system.

Legislator Budi Harsono, who chairs the deliberation on elections bill, said all factions were still waiting for "guidance and instructions" from their respective leaders in the faction central boards.

But Budi said the debate regarding ABRI seats and the structure and position of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), DPR and regional DPR would conclude by Friday. "I'm still optimistic we can solve (outstanding problems)."

On Monday's deliberation, Budi said the matter discussed concerned which of the 300 societal groups would be selected to have representatives in the MPR. "We are discussing how to reduce the number to under 100," he said.