Sat, 18 Mar 2000

Court gives qualified nod to Benjamin's bid

JAKARTA (JP): The Supreme Court said it would accept the appointment of Benjamin Mangkoedilaga as a member of the country's highest court if his qualifications met requirements under the law.

Supreme Court secretary-general Pranowo told The Jakarta Post that his office held no personal objections to Benjamin being appointed.

However, he repeatedly stressed that Benjamin's nomination and possible appointment would need to meet the legal prerequisites for a supreme justice.

He underlined that such legal qualifications took on an even greater importance if Benjamin was nominated as the chief justice.

"We would welcome Pak Benjamin entering the Supreme Court if the House of Representatives (DPR) has considered the nomination ... which I believe will include legal aspects," Pranowo said.

Benjamin has gained widespread public support, including from President Abdurrahman Wahid, to be appointed to the Supreme Court.

However, his name was not included among the 24 nominees submitted by the Supreme Court to the House.

The government and the House have said they would include him along with several legal experts as additional candidates.

Pranowo highlighted the requirements under Law No. 14/1985, which states that nominees to the Supreme Court must be career judges who served a minimum of 10 years as a provincial judge or five years as chief provincial judge.

But the law also leaves open the possibility for noncareer judges to be appointed to the Supreme Court as long as they had a minimum of 15 years experience in the legal field.

"In our consideration, Pak Benjamin is not qualified in either of the terms because he has retired," Pranowo said.

"But I will leave it to the House to decide because they are the one who has the authority (to appoint the judges).

"The Supreme Court only carries out the decision."

Pranowo conceded that it was now a point of interpretation.

"If the House regards Pak Benjamin is now retired and can be placed into the second category (noncareer nominees), it is up to them. It's a matter of interpretation."

Pranowo said his office could only nominate career judges based on their track records. (dja)