Jakarta – "Deep mistrust" among factions and government representatives has been blamed for the House of Representatives' failure on Tuesday to notch up any progress in its deliberation of the political role of the country's 4.1 million public servants.
A source close to the deliberation described how legislators from Golkar and the United Development Party (PPP) – under pressure to complete the reading of three political bills by a Jan. 28 deadline – lobbied intensively with government representatives over the question of whether civil servants should be allowed to join political parties.
"There's a high level of mistrust among them," the source said, pointing out how the deadlock could not be broken for days because factions refused to budge.
"Golkar is now a cornered rat due to public pressure in this case ... we have to find a loophole to save the deliberation process while giving Golkar a chance to bow out without losing any face," the source said.
Golkar insisted that public servants be allowed to join parties, while the United Development Party still insisted they should be neutral Golkar has recently shifted its stance, showing itself willing to have the question dropped altogether from the bills, as long as it is later regulated in another piece of legislation.
PPP is willing to have the issue dropped, but still demands that a presidential decree is issued banning civil servants from politics. It insisted the government supported this alternative. The government has not commented on PPP's assertion.
The source said the Armed Forces (ABRI) faction is seen as a likely broker in the bargaining process because it has the capability of "stabilizing" matters and of lending dynamics in political developments.
"PPP and PDI should let Golkar win its proposal on electoral districts but Golkar should give way in its battle over civil servants' political role," the source said. suggesting a way out.
On electoral districts, PPP and the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) argued for proportional representation in voting for House legislators to be conducted at the regency level, while Golkar argued that it be done at the provincial level.
Meanwhile, parties that are not represented in the House of Representatives (DPR) contributed to the ongoing debate.
On Tuesday, the rector of Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University, Ichlasul Amal, defended Golkar's argument in favor of allowing civil servants to join parties.
"Why does PPP insist on having civil servants banned from politics when it actually has the chance to win the civil servants' support?" he said. Also from Yogyakarta, Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, the ancient city's governor and hereditary ruler, on Saturday also backed Golkar's stance. He only warned civil servants not to bring along their "different political aspirations" to work. "That could be dangerous," he said.
Rubiyanto Misman, rector of the Jenderal Soedirman University in Purwokerto in Central Java, was among those to attack Golkar's position. "If Akbar Tandjung visits a village, how will local officials know whether to treat him as Golkar chairman or as the minister/state secretary?" he asked.
Criticism also came from parties not included in the House of Representatives, namely the People's Awakening Party (PKB), the National Mandate Party (PAN), the Crescent Star Party (PBB) and the Muslim Community Party (PUI). Most of them united in their call for civil service neutrality in order to ensure a free and fair general election.
PKB's deputy chairperson Chofifah Indar Parawansa said: "The bureaucracy can be neutral only if it is not linked to a socio-political function. It should operate its public service function only."
To allow bureaucrats to perform their career professionally without being burdened by a socio-political function which has been the case for over 30 years – PKB suggested the Indonesian Civil Corps (Korpri) be dissolved.
PUI chairman Deliar Noer reminded Golkar to let the bureaucracy be true public servants. "After 30 years the civil service needs to be made neutral and that means not allowing them to join political parties."
PBB deputy chairman Hartono Mardjono also expressed the same demand. "We agree with PPP that civil servants must not become members or executives of political parties," Hartono said.
PAN chairman Amien Rais – himself a civil servant – also wanted the bureaucracy to be neutral. "I myself will quit as a civil servant because there is a bigger interest that I have in fulfilling my role as a party chairman," Amien said.
Legislator Abu Hasan Sazili of Golkar – who also chairs the DPR's Special Committee deliberating the bill – stayed firm on the organization's stance. "What's important is not to herd the civil servants to support Golkar," he said after meeting with a delegation from the National Coalition group led by playwright Ratna Sarumpaet. The group also pressed Golkar to alter its stance over the issue.