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Indonesia: Info Bill Shouldn't Cover State Firms

Information Bill Shouldn't Cover State Firms: Govt

By M. Taufiqurrahman

JAKARTA: (Jakarta Post Online/Pacific Media Watch): Indonesia's House of Representatives and the government began deliberating the long-overdue Freedom of Information Bill on Monday, with the government already showing signs it wants to water down the legislation.

On day one of the deliberations, the government, represented by Communication
and Information Minister Sofyan Djalil, proposed that the hundreds of state
and city owned companies covered by the bill should be exempted from disclosing
financial information to the public.

A House-sanctioned draft of the legislation proposes that the three branches
of the government along with state and city owned enterprises, political
parties, charitable foundations and non-governmental organizations (NGO) disclose their finances to the public.

"What's good about opening (public) access to the business plans or the
corporate strategies of state-owned companies. It will only give advantages to
rival companies," Sofyan told the House Commission I on defense and foreign
affairs.

Sofyan said people could already scrutinize the finances of state-owned
companies through the internal audits of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK).

Sofyan said it was more important for NGOs and political parties to disclose
their financial information.

"Especially the NGOs that receive money from overseas. Who knows how they try
to undermine our country's interests," he said.

Sofyan's remarks were met with a chorus of disapproval from House members.
Representatives from all factions on the commission took turns rejecting the
government's proposal.

The lawmakers said by stopping people from obtaining information from state
companies, the government was attempting to maintain the culture of corruption
in the institutions.

"We all know that state-owned enterprises have become the most corrupt
institutions in the country. They control the bulk of state assets but yield only minimum profits," lawmaker Ade Daud Nasution of the Reform Star Party faction said.

Lawmaker Hajriyanto Tohari of the Golkar Party said it was clear state
companies should be the prime targets of the legislation because they used
taxpayers' money, unlike "political parties and not-for-profit foundations, which collect funds from members and charitable individuals."

The Freedom of Information bill was first proposed in November 2001 but was
not revived for deliberation until last July, before it was again abandoned.

Observers say the bill is a vital tool for fighting corruption and promoting
good governance.

Also present at the hearing was Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid
Awaluddin.

+++niuswire

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