Civis 005/2016

In the external context of the church, the 1999-2002 Amendment on the 1945 Constitution changed the political paradigm from state sovereignty to sovereignty of the people. Even though the Preamble of the 1945 Constitution clearly states that the Republic of Indonesia is based on the sovereignty of the people, Article 1 Clause 2 of the pre-amended 1945 Constitution stated:

“Sovereignty is in the hands of the people and is fully executed by Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat (People’s Consultative Assembly).”

The pre-amended 1945 Constitution asserted that “the Assembly is considered as the representation of the people who hold the sovereignty of the state.”

The pre-amended 1945 Constitution actually did mandate the state to fully carry out the sovereignty of the people. The People’s Consultative Assembly — a state institution — is even “considered as the representation of the people”. As a result, the sovereignty of the people becomes the sovereignty of the state.

However, fundamental change came through the 1999-2002 Amendment of the 1945 Constitution. After the amendment, Article 1 Clause 2 states:

“Sovereignty is in the hands of the people and is implemented according to the Constitution.”

This change dismantled the People’s Consultative Assembly’s monopoly — and thus, the state’s monopoly — on sovereignty. The people acquired back its sovereignty. The Constitution is cemented as the elemental precedent which regulates the implementation of the sovereignty of the people. As a constitutional state (Article 1 Clause 3), every legislation in Indonesia other than the Constitution must defer to the Constitution, which includes its Preamble that contains aspirations for Indonesia and Pancasila values (Article II of Additional Regulations).

We can find two relevant implications out of this.

Implication: Citizens with Rights and Responsibilities, Not Helpless People

First, every citizen must learn how to employ his or her sovereignty according to the Constitution. What is the point of the Constitution giving sovereignty to the people if the people don’t do anything with it? That’s why it is integral that citizens learn how to be citizens. Citizens have rights and responsibilities that are protected by the Constitution. Now is not the time for citizens to sit back and let government officials handle all of the nation’s problems.

The phenomenon of people applying to be government officials and running to be people’s representatives in droves is a result of being influenced by the old paradigm. As if change can only be done from the seat of a government official. Whereas with the amendment on the constitution, the people are the stockholders and owners of this country. A government is a body of officials elected to run the country. We must learn our rights and responsibilities as citizens so  we can supervise and oversee this body of officials. The principle guide: the Constitution. Citizens who act as citizens are the key to strengthen civil society. That’s why we need to educate the people, including members of the congregation, on how to be citizens. (To be continued).

(Delivered in The Church and Post-New Order Politics seminar held at Oase Intim Foundation in Makassar, February 13, 2012).

The Writer

Matius Ho, M.S. Executive Director of Leimena Institute; Vice Secretary of Leimena Academic Foundation (2000-2005); Graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA) in 1997; and London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (UK).