Indonesian Lawmakers in a Tiff Over New Health Minister

The controversy surrounding the new health minister has created the first public quarrel between members of the new House of Representatives, with the House speaker canceling a planned commission meeting. Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih’s appointment was controversial because of her close links to a US Navy research laboratory project, Namru-2, that the previous health minister had accused of engaging in nonscientific activities, including espionage. The House Commission IX on health, chaired by Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker Ribka Tjiptaning, had been scheduled to meet Endang on Wednesday morning, but House Speaker Marzuki Alie, a Democrat, apparently sent out instructions on Tuesday night for the meeting to be canceled. Marzuki said he had scratched the meeting because he deemed that there was no clear urgent agenda that could justify summoning Endang. “What’s the purpose? The internal commission is not solid yet. Everything should run by a proper mechanism,” he said, adding that the House should be more concerned about meeting its legislative goals. He added that he hoped the meeting with the minister could be delayed until the commission finished setting its working agenda and legislation target program. Marzuki also said the meeting with the minister was only aimed at criticizing her and would not produce any results. “Don’t summon the minister only to criticize her. There should be a goal.” But Ribka defended the planned meeting, saying the commission had only wanted to meet the new minister. “This incident is strange because all procedures to summon a working partner have been fulfilled,” she said. Ribka said that the meeting would only be an introduction session between the incoming health minister and new health commission members including a discussion about recent developments. “It’s normal if we want to meet our working partner for an introduction because we haven’t really gotten to know Ibu Endang,” Ribka said. She said that the sudden cancellation was an effort to limit the commission’s authority and was worried that it was a sign of things to come. “Why intervene in a mere meeting? Is it because it [the Democrat Party] holds a majority?” she said. Health commission memberCharles J Mesang from the Golkar Party said the meeting was aimed at asking the new minister about her priority program which would be related to the budget that would be allocated by the House.
“We invited her to also ask her about her 100-day program, not to criticize her,” Charles said. He also took issue with Marzuki, saying that in the past meetings with ministers had been beneficial. The House has been previously been criticized for its sharp criticism and irrelevant questioning of PT Pertamina president director Karen Agustiawan in the wake of her appointment to head the state-owned oil and gas company .

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