Yogyakarta Debate Moves From Street to House

By webadmin on 10:33 pm Dec 16, 2010
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Armando Siahaan

Jakarta. The government on Thursday finally submitted to legislators its draft amendment to the law on Yogyakarta’s special status, with analysts predicting a highly politicized deliberation that could end in bitter disappointment for the people of the province.

At the heart of the controversy is a proposal that the post of governor of Yogyakarta no longer go automatically to the province’s sultans, the hereditary rulers.

Instead, the government has suggested that the governor be elected by the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) in Jakarta.

The government’s stance, anchored by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s claim that the current system is undemocratic, has set off massive protests in Yogyakarta.

Pramono Anung, a deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, said on Thursday that he hoped the submission of the bill would “reduce the prolonged polemic” surrounding the issue.

However, Arya Fernandez, an analyst from the Charta Politika consultancy, said that all the submission had done was “shift the debate from the public to the political domain.”

While he acknowledged it would help take the edge off the protests, this did not necessarily mean that those supporting the sultan as the perennial governor would get what they wanted.

“The question now is whether the parties in the ruling coalition will support the government or turn their back on its proposal,” he said.

With most of these parties having so far only weighed in on the issue informally, Arya said that once the bill was up for deliberation, “things can easily change.”

Similarly, Ari Dwipayana, a professor of politics at Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University, said the final outcome of the bill ultimately depended on “the internal solidity within the coalition.”

He said it was very likely that the Yudhoyono administration, backed by the Democratic Party, would persuade its partners to agree to the proposal.

He also said that although many individual members of coalition parties had spoken out against the government’s proposal, political bartering and negotiations could see them change their stance.

In the proposal, the sultan would be given the new post of prime governor, with the power to approve regional regulations and have a say in budget planning.

However, he would also be entitled to run for governor without the backing of a political party, as is required in other provinces, thus setting up the possible scenario of the sultan filling two roles at the same time.

Deliberations on the bill will not begin until January, as the House enters another recess on Monday.

Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi said the government would abide by the final outcome of the deliberations.

“If there’s a difference of opinion between the government and the people of Yogyakarta and other public groups, that’s part of democracy,” he said.