Despite public criticism of lawmakers for their lack of discipline and commitment, empty seats in meetings and plenary sessions remain a common scene at the House of Representatives.
The House Ethics Council will soon tighten regulations on lawmakers’ attendance at plenary sessions in order to curb absenteeism and tardiness.
The council said lawmakers can be fired under the new regulation if they fail to attend four plenary sessions in a row. Previously, ethics rules permitted six absences in a row.
“If a lawmaker skips four plenary sessions in a row, they will be replaced with an acting lawmaker,” Ethics Council member Ali Machsan Moesa said.
He said the Council currently relies on fingerprint scanners to record lawmakers’ presence, but the scanners were getting old, ineffective, and needed to be replaced.
“There is a new device that could determine whether a lawmaker left in the middle of a meeting, but the device is expensive,” he said.
He added that leaders should set an example to their members, “but even leaders themselves often come in late, skip meetings or even don’t show up at all.”
Ethics Council member Siswono Yudohusodo said although lawmakers’ attendance is not the main criterion for judging their performance, an appalling number of them are absent without any clear reason.
Siswono suspects lawmakers often put their own personal interests, such as business and party activities, ahead of their duties, or they are simply too lazy.
According to Concerned Citizens for the Indonesian Legislature (Formappi), up to 90 percent of the House’s 560 members displayed an unacceptable level of performance during the last term, among them Pramono Anung, the House’s deputy chairman, and senior Democrat legislator Sutan Bhatoegana.
“The truth is, I always work hard and I even work on holidays,” Pramono responded.
Pramono said the Ethics Council should publish lawmakers’ attendance record so the public could monitor their representatives.
“Even though we are actually busy visiting our constituents, the reports should be published in the media anyway,” he said.
Bhatoegana also threatened to dissolve the House of Representatives Ethics Council and demanded the body name the dates he missed meetings or plenary sessions.
“It’s a complete lie. I will file a complaint. I will dissolve the council if I they insisted I was frequently absent — I will definitely dissolve it!” Bhatoegana added.
Ronald Rofiandri, advocacy director at the Center for the Study of Law and Policies of Indonesia (PSHK), said the frequent absence was the result of the lack of supervision from the political parties and factions.
He said the House did not have a mechanism that could compel lawmakers to work consistently.
“For instance, we don’t have voting days where the legislators’ attendance was really needed in making a decision. Therefore, some lawmakers think their presence isn’t very relevant,” he said.
Ronald added that closed meetings and the House secretary general’s poor management encouraged absenteeism.