House Speaker Marzuki Alie said the Indonesian public is exaggerating in their criticism of a recent trip abroad by lawmakers, and stressed that the trip was neither uncommonly expensive nor decadent.
“There are billions of rupiah in ministries’ budgets to go abroad,” Marzuki said. “The House of Representatives just uses some billions, and [people] make such a fuss.”
Marzuki also claimed that under his leadership, the House of Representative has decreased its budget for trips to foreign countries.
“We have decided that [lawmakers are] allowed to go abroad only if it is related with bill deliberation,” he said. “There is no supervision on it, but if people ask what is the result, it is the law that we passed.”
A recent trip undertaken by members of the House of Representatives’ Legislative Council to study a Red Cross logo has been widely criticized as a perplexing waste of money by the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency.
Twenty members of the Legislative Council (known as Baleg) reportedly flew to Turkey and Denmark on Monday to conduct a study on whether to keep the current logo, or to change it to a red crescent to better reflect Indonesia’s Muslim population.
The House approved a travel budget of Rp 1.3 billion ($135,000) for both visits.
Buy chance, an Indonesian living in Denmark saw members of Baleg on a boat tour on Copenhagen Canal, snapped a picture, and sent it to Detik.com, drawing instant and fervent criticism.
But Marzuki said that a boat tour is normal while traveling, but was not Baleg’s main purpose — he said the team needed a break.
“Why not allow people to rest for a day after working?” he asked. “Banning them to do so is inhuman.”
Bukhori Yusuf, a member of the House Budget Council, said that the boat tour was not planned, and insisted that the trip was necessary to the plan the change in logo.
“Indonesia is a country with a big population and big Islamic and Christian communities,” he said. “We need to ensure their spiritual conditions.”
Deputy chairman of the House Budget Council Dimyati Natakusuma said that the boat tour was not against mandated ethics, unless lawmakers visited night clubs.
“It’s only killing time to see the environmental condition in Copenhagen,” she said.
Another lawmaker, Honing Sani, said that they spent their own money for the boat tour.
“It only cost around Rp 92,000,” Honing said.