Candidates sign political contract with AMAN

Down to Earth No 61  May 2004

On March 26, AMAN signed a co-operation agreement with nine candidates for the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) all from different provinces. According to AMAN, this marked the emergence of a new political awareness among indigenous peoples who have "continuously been the victims of subjection and exploitation, resulting from collusion between the political elite and investors...From one election to another, indigenous peoples have been tricked with false promises." The nine candidates were selected from a larger number of candidates from indigenous communities taking part in DPD and local assembly elections.

Participants at the AMAN Congresses in 1999 and 2003 agreed that indigenous peoples must enter the political arena, by placing delegates in elected institutions at both local and at national levels. The nine DPD candidates who signed the agreement included Zonson Masri, leader of the Meratus Dayak movement and head of the Indigenous Peoples' Union of South Kalimantan (Permada); Nyoman Suetha, an AMAN Council member; Zadrak Wamebu, a Papuan indigenous rights activist; and Idham Hasibun, a PDI-P regional assembly member in North Sumatra province. The candidates have all agreed political contracts to defend adat (customary) rights with the indigenous communities in their own constituencies, by swearing adat oaths as well as signing legally binding political contracts.

"This agreement will strengthen the existing co-operation between AMAN and the DPD candidates," said H. Nazarius, one of AMAN's Council Co-ordinators, from West Kalimantan. "With this agreement AMAN will offer organisational support and work alongside the candidates if they are elected to the Regional Representatives Council, as indigenous peoples delegates."

For AMAN's Executive Secretary, Emil Kleden, the agreement is a form of political education for indigenous peoples. "Indigenous people should only vote for candidates who are willing to be supervised and even to be dismissed from their seat by the indigenous communities who elected them, through the adat judicial system as well as through the formal courts." AMAN has appealed to its members to examine closely candidates' past records on support for indigenous interests. "If organised groups like AMAN make political contracts which bind candidates to their promises, and the candidates abide by the contracts, then democracy in Indonesia can be consolidated," said Aa Sudirman, a senior journalist from the Indonesian daily, Suara Pembaruan, who signed the co-operation agreement as a witness. (AMAN press release 26/Mar/2004)


The Regional Representatives Council (DPD)

Voting for members of a Regional Representatives Council (DPD) was a new element in this year's elections, bringing the number of institutions voted for in April to four: regional assembly members at provincial and district levels, members of the national parliament (DPR) and the DPD.

The 120-member DPD, with four members from each of Indonesia's 30 provinces, is designed to function as second chamber to the DPR, as a kind of senate to counterbalance the powers of parliament. Together with the 500-member DPR, it will make up the new MPR - the People's Consultative Assembly, replacing the appointed MPR members in the previous system.

However, much remains unclear about the powers of this new body. AMAN is concerned that DPD members will only have powers to advise the DPR members on legislative matters, rather than playing a more pro-active and decisive role. Civil society groups like AMAN want the DPD to be afforded greater powers because, unlike parliament, the DPD is not based on the political party system. The DPD therefore offers a unique opportunity for civil society groups to nominate candidates from their own organisations. At the same, time, warns AMAN, it is possible for members of the police or military to be elected members of the DPD, something indigenous communities need to guard against. It is possible that members of the armed forces and police will try to use this route, having lost their allocation of 38 appointed seats in the DPR.

(Source: Tapol Bulletin 175, March/April 2004. This Bulletin also contains a lot of information on the parties taking part in the elections;Gaung AMAN VII, August 2003; WSWS 8/Mar/04)