335 lawmakers absent from plenary session a day after their inauguration

Inauguration of members of the DPR for the 2019-2024 legislative session. Photo: Twitter/@DPR_RI
Inauguration of members of the DPR for the 2019-2024 legislative session. Photo: Twitter/@DPR_RI

Indonesia’s newly appointed legislators don’t seem to be trying to at least pretend that they care about representing the people, even when all eyes are still on them on the first days of their job.

As reported by Kompas, only 376 members of the House of Representatives (DPR) and Regional Representatives Council (DPD) attended a plenary session yesterday, which was held to decide who gets the leadership seats on the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR). That number is almost half of the total 711 legislators from the two legislative chambers.

Members of the DPR and DPD were appointed for the 2019-2024 legislative session on Tuesday.

All the absences certainly don’t fill anyone with hope that the current crop of lawmakers would be a step up from their predecessors, many of whom often skipped out on important plenary sessions — such as last month’s passing of the hugely controversial RUU KPK bill, which was officially attended by only 187 members of the DPR (though some media outlets counted only 82). 

It’s hardly surprising, then, that a recent survey showed two-thirds of Indonesians were dissatisfied with members of parliament.

There are no regulations making it mandatory for legislators to attend every plenary session. Absentees have, in the past, used various excuses for skipping plenary sessions, such as having to meet with their constituents or that issues deliberated in a particular session are not within their area of expertise.

“If we look at the history of members of DPR and plenary sessions, absenteeism is very normal. There’s an ethical problem in the culture of the DPR,” said political analyst Kuskridho Ambardi, as quoted by Kompas yesterday.

Kuskridho believes that sanctions must be implemented to drive up attendance at plenary sessions. 

“Fines may not have any effect, because their salaries are huge and some of them don’t even need to be paid … Social sanctions may be better. We can start with publishing the names of the absentees.”


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