Mon, 07 Jul 2003

Alumni urge YLBHI to introspect and change

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) should introspect and make significant changes to survive its current financial crisis after three foreign funding organizations cut their donations, say former YLBHI executives.

Noted lawyer Luhut MP Pangaribuan suggested that the foundation should first find out why the foreign donors -- Holland-based NOVIB, Sweden-based SIDA and Belgium-based Triple Eleven -- had cut their funding.

"YLBHI must evaluate whether its programs are still relevant to the current political situation," he told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

Luhut, who had worked for 18 years with the YLBHI, suggested that the YLBHI change its mission, from fighting for democracy to law enforcement.

Similarly, Frans Hendra Winarta, who is a former YLBHI executive and now a member of YLBHI's board of trustees, said the foundation must start its campaign for law enforcement.

"There is no need to fight for politics or democracy any longer because there are many other non-governmental organizations that tackle these issues," he said.

Frans challenged YLBHI to shift its mission and be proactive in drafting laws, which is less popular than political issues.

Luhut further said that YLBHI must evaluate whether the foreign donors decided to stop their funding because of the presence of some "inappropriate officials" in the foundation.

He did not elaborate, however, the foreign donors' decision was made after cofounder Adnan Buyung Nasution took over the foundation.

Buyung has been widely criticized for defending Indonesian Military (TNI) generals accused of involvement in the 1999 East Timor bloodshed.

"YLBHI must honestly accept the results of the evaluation and take further steps to save the institute," Luhut asserted.

Both Luhut and Frans believe that YLBHI would continue to exist and struggle for law enforcement in the country, despite the presence of similar organizations such as the Indonesia Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) and the Women's Association for Legal Aid (LBH APIK).

The three institutes were set up by YLBHI alumni.

"People will always need assistance in legal disputes," Luhut commented.

He believed that YLBHI would be able to settle its problems as long as it stayed consistent in its idealism to fight for law enforcement and provide free legal assistance for the poor.

"Do not worry about donors. They will disburse the funding if YLBHI remains consistent," Luhut said.

Frans, on the other hand, said that YLBHI must start to seek donations from Indonesian donors.

"YLBHI was set up for the poor. Therefore, either the government, rich Indonesian businesspeople, Indonesian lawyers' associations or other members of the society are obliged to donate to the institute," he said.

YLBHI decided in its national meeting in April that as many as 14 Legal Aid Institutes (LBH) across the country, which are under its supervision, would be permitted to raise their own funds in the light of its own financial difficulties.

The LBH offices used to be financially dependent on the YLBHI, the only party previously permitted to raise funds. The YLBHI used to pay out Rp 500 million (US$61,102) a month to finance the operational activities of the LBH offices.