The Obstinate Lawmakers
Two things members of the House of Representatives just won’t stop from doing: building a new Rp 1.13 trillion luxurious office building, and making expensive comparison study trips abroad.
Nudirman Munir, a deputy chairman of the House’s Ethics Council, made an outrageous remark! He said the decision to go ahead with the construction of the new building was simply based on an assessment that lawmakers needed more space as the current building was too cramped.
“We need to queue at the toilet to pee each time we have a meeting at 7 a.m.,” Nudirman said, relentlessly defending his case.
He also said a new building would be an icon reflecting the state of the nation. “If the legislative building doesn’t look good, the nation won’t look good either. Just look at Cambodia, a poor country, but it has a beautiful parliament building,” he argued.
Nudirman’s boss, House Speaker Marzuki Alie, also decried public criticism, saying the objections did not represent the opinion of most people. Both Nudirman Munir and Marzuki Alie will surely go down in history.
Founding President Sukarno ordered the construction of the DPR building in the 1960s. It was built with idealism, as a symbol of the people’s sovereignty. In the ensuing years, it witnessed many historical feats of the people in bringing about change and toppling a dictatorship.
Meanwhile, the design of the new building looks like an inverted U, which does not at all represent the Indonesian character. It is a copycat product of 16 similar parliament buildings found in France, China, Chile and elsewhere. The inverted U-shape has no philosophical value nor impression of a house built to accommodate the people’s aspirations.
On another front, Nudirman defended the legislators’ comparison study trips abroad as being of the utmost importance, otherwise lawmakers would resort to the 5 Ds, which stand for datang, duduk, diam, dengar and dapat duit (come, sit, quiet, listen and get money).
A former deputy chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), Erry Riyana Hardjapamekas, was of the view that lawmakers don’t have to spend all that money. The funds could be better used to promote education and build schools. He doubted that the overseas trips would bring much benefit.
If the legislators are serious about making comparison studies, they could work with international parliaments to get the information. Imagine, the total cost for nine lawmakers visiting the United States, Turkey, Russia and France reached Rp 4.5 billion. That included airfare, pocket money for the lawmakers, a lump sump for their accompanying secretaries, insurance and what is called representation funds for each member.
Despite all the criticism, the lawmakers remain defiant and ignorant. In Javanese philosophy, such an attitude is often described as kere munggah mbale Petruk dadi ratu. That refers to Petruk, one of the five loyal subordinates of the king in Javanese wayang shadow puppet plays, who rises from the lower ranks to become a rich ruler. But then he changes from a simple, humble, loyal and honest character to become an ignorant individual. He distances himself from the people and neglects ethics. Sounds kind of like our lawmakers, who portray themselves as powerful individuals, an exclusive class in society.