Jakarta – The government and lawmakers have eliminated almost half of the articles in a draft bill on people with disabilities, raising concerns that the bill will fail to address the needs of disabled people.
"My deaf friend was once lost on his way to Yogyakarta – Instead of taking the train that went there, he got on one that went to Semarang [Central Java]. His train was delayed but he couldn't hear the announcement and Jakarta's Gambir station didn't have any running text. Coincidentally, another [train] going to Semarang arrived earlier on the same line so he took it," Election Committee for the Disabled chairwoman Ariani Soekanwo said recently in a press conference.
"If only this country provided cards for the disabled [KPD] for every one of us to show to officials so they could assist us better, that wouldn't happen. We already mentioned the need for KPD in our draft of the law on people with disabilities but now the lawmakers have scrapped it," said Ariani, who is blind.
She went on to say that the 268 articles in the draft recommendation had shrunk to only 151, eliminating 117 articles, making it lose its substance. "The draft was good because it described the details of how the government could fulfill our rights. It was made by an all-disabled team of people who come from various civil society groups, so we know our needs better."
"But now it's shrunk and the content has become too general. We're not sure if the government will implement it because the content has becomes unspecific," Ariani said.
Besides the KPD, lawmakers also scrapped details of discounts the government should give people with disabilities on public transportation fees, electricity and water bills. They demanded a 25 percent concession on each bill.
An article about a minimum quota of employees with disabilities that companies ought to employ was also scrapped. The draft also does not mention anything obliging schools to train teachers in how to teach students with disabilities.
Another big issue, according to Center for Policy and Legal Studies researcher Fajri Nursyamsi, was that Article 1 of the new draft implied that the implementation of the law would be fully coordinated by the Social Affairs Ministry.
"There are at least 19 ministries and institutions that are in charge of the implementation. Why should it all be coordinated by only one ministry? We know that some of the needs that we demand be fulfilled have been arranged by other laws or ministry regulations but in the field, the ministries will throw responsibilities to each other if it's not clear at the start from the law," Fajri, who uses a prosthetic leg, told The Jakarta Post.
"The draft also implies that other details will be arranged under government regulations [PP] but we know the making of a PP also takes a long procedure. It can take a year or more and it might be canceled in the middle if the government doesn't reach an internal agreement," he said.
On the bright side, Fajri said, the draft still detailed a minimum term of imprisonment and fines for those who abused people with disabilities.
A lawmaker from House of Representatives Commission XIII overseeing religion and social affairs, Ledia Hanifa, who headed the working committee for the draft, said that the appointment of the Social Affairs Ministry on the issue did not mean that other ministries would not cooperate to implement it. "The Social Affairs Ministry will be the head of the coordination."
She also explained that the shrinkage of the new draft was because "The old draft recommended by the civil society groups was a detailed law style adopted from the United States".
"From my experience, it will take too long to reach an agreement between us and the government in approving detailed rules. The ministries wouldn't always agree on what the old draft demanded, hence leading to a never-ending debate," she added.
On the rejection of the idea of the KPD, she said that the country issued too many cards, from identity cards to public health insurance cards, thus it would be more effective if the government integrated its systems so an existing card could show if cardholders had a disability.
The Social Affairs Ministry's People with Disabilities Division director Nahar said that the issue was a cross-sectoral problem, hence it would be better to ensure that all related ministries would fulfil their responsibilities in the future.
Lawmakers have targeted to validate the draft into law by the end of the year. (rbk)