Indonesia’s House of Representatives cuts corners in Capital City Law revision

A constitutional law expert said revising a law less than a year after it was passed demonstrated a lack of rigour on the part of both the government and the House.

Yerica Lai

Yerica Lai

The Jakarta Post


President Joko “Jokowi“ Widodo speaks to IKN market sounding participants on September 13, 2022.(BPMI Setpers/Muchlis Jr)

December 19, 2022

JAKARTA – Just nine months after the Capital City (IKN) Law was passed in support of President “Jokowi” Widodo’s Nusantara project, the House of Representatives has agreed to revise the legislation, giving weight to suggestions that the process was rushed and may have violated lawmaking rules.

The House of Representatives agreed at a plenary session on Thursday to include a plan to revise the 2022 IKN Law in next year’s National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) priority list, after the government put forward a revision proposal last month saying it was at the President’s instruction and was urgently needed.

The House Legislation Body (Baleg) almost immediately endorsed the proposal, even though it failed to include a list of proposed revisions or the typically mandatory supporting academic brief.

Article 19 of the 2011 Lawmaking Law stipulates that a bill must have passed prior assessment and have been aligned with other regulations pursuant to an academic brief before it can be considered for inclusion in the Prolegnas list.

The representatives of six pro-government parties represented in Baleg voted in favor of the revision, while the opposition Democratic Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) opposed it. The NasDem Party faction was initially the only one to abstain but later changed course to back the revision.

The proposal’s inclusion in the Prolegnas was scarcely mentioned in the plenary report on the 2023 priority list.

House Speaker Puan Maharani said on Thursday that lawmakers were simply waiting for the draft revisions and the academic brief to be submitted by the government and that the House would start deliberating the proposal after returning from the year-end recess on Jan. 10, 2023.

“We don’t have it yet. It will be discussed once the House receives the draft,” she told journalists after the plenary.

Worrying trend

The fact that the government’s submission was incomplete and was advanced nonetheless has raised some eyebrows, including at Indonesia Legislative Watch (Formappi), which maintained that this was further proof that policymakers had a disregard for the rule of law.

“The theoretical basis for any draft regulation is the academic brief […]. Consequently, a bill’s contents will have no sense of direction if there is nothing to base them on,” said Lucius Karus, a senior researcher at Formappi.

“So it is not surprising if [without a brief] the bill’s intended contents sometimes deviate from what was intended at the outset.”

Constitutional law expert Feri Amsari of Andalas University said revising a law less than a year after it was passed demonstrated a lack of rigor on the part of both the government and the House.

“Eventually new problems arise because there are insufficiencies that should have been identified during deliberations but were instead left out,” he said on Thursday.

Feri also noted that both sides had conspired to hastily pass the bill earlier this year – 40 days after the draft was submitted – a practice that has become more prevalent under Jokowi’s second term in office. The President currently enjoys unimpeded legislative support, with his ruling coalition making up a clear majority in the House.

The government was seeking to refine the funding scheme for its capital relocation project so that more of the state budget could be allocated for construction, among other undertakings, Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said at the Baleg hearing last month.

“[With construction underway], we need to strengthen the legal basis so that our big dream of building a new capital city can be realized,” he told lawmakers at the time.

National Development Planning Minister Suharso Monoarfa, whose ministry was assigned to prepare the brief, said earlier this month that the proposed revision would seek to refine the organizational structure and jurisdiction of the new capital city authority, which is currently headed by technocrat Bambang Susantono.

The revision also seeks to give assurance to investors on land ownership, Suharso said, so they knew that “not only are they able to own land for 90 years or double that, but that the general public is able to purchase the land as well”.

Officials have claimed that only 20 percent of the project will be financed by public funds, but the government has been struggling to attract investors in the new capital.

Japanese diversified tech conglomerate SoftBank pulled out of the project in March, and no other big investor has been announced since, although the Asian Development Bank is assisting with planning and fundraising.

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