Subject: JP: Decision to keep E Timor reps in Indonesian House questioned

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

The Jakarta Post February 1, 2002

East Timor representation questioned

Alex Wilson and Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The House of Representatives' decision to retain four legislators representing East Timor has raised eyebrows as the former Portuguese colony no longer has any official connection to Indonesia let alone the need for political representation.

Skepticism is running high as to whether their existence in the legislative body is still relevant since East Timor has been independent of Indonesian control since September 1999.

Political analyst of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Hermawan Sulistyo suggested that the four seats held by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and Golkar be abolished immediately.

The four legislators, who were all elected during the general elections in June 1999, are Setya Novanto and Natercia Do Menino Jesus Osorio Soares of Golkar and Ronny B.S. Hutagaol and Rekso Ageng Herman of PDI Perjuangan. Only Natercia was actually born in East Timor.

Hermawan said the four legislators should leave the House as the territory they represented was no longer a part of the Republic of Indonesia.

"I do believe that the seats should be abolished now. They don't have the constituents over there any more. Times change, situations change, and they just can't keep seats like that," he told The Jakarta Post here on Thursday.

A chairman of Golkar, Slamet Effendi Yusuf, confirmed the four legislators would retain their seats until 2004, but said they now represented the people of East Nusa Tenggara, a province which borders East Timor.

He said that many East Timorese who had wanted to remain part of Indonesia moved to East Nusa Tenggara and the legislators were now "representing" them.

"They represent the people, not the region," he added.

Hermawan rejected this explanation, claiming it was ridiculous. "You can't move from representing the people of South Sumatra and say my constituents have moved to East Java, now I represent East Java," he said.

Before steps could be taken toward the elimination of the four seats, he said, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) needed to abolish the decree on East Timor, thereby endorsing the results of the UN-administered ballot in 1999.

Senior politician of PDI Perjuangan Sabam Sirait brushed off the skepticism, saying that the four legislators had the legal basis to work until 2004.

"There has been a presidential decree (on their membership), they have been inaugurated, and they have worked. Their term is between 1999 and 2004," Sabam told the Post.

PDI Perjuangan deputy secretary-general Pramono Anung, meanwhile, said the four seats could not be abolished as regulations required the House to have 500 members and no guidelines existed to deal with the current situation.

He said the four members had not just been elected to represent a province. "They represent the people of the Republic of Indonesia, not just East Timor," he added.

Each legislator receives Rp 12.5 million per month in taxpayers' money. If the election in 2004 is scheduled to take place in June, there will be 30 months left for legislators to enjoy facilities at the House.

The cost of keeping them in the House until the 2004 election will be approximately Rp 1.5 billion.

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