Fri, 05 Dec 2003

Court throws out school's civil suit against ministry

P.C. Naommy, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The panel of judges at the South Jakarta District Court threw out a civil suit against the Ministry of National Education and private firm PT Tata Disantara as students protested outside the courthouse on Thursday.

The court ruled that the civil suit against the ministry and the firm was obscure. They also said that the plaintiff's civil suit was not strong enough and did not represent the interests of teachers and students' parents of SMP 56 state junior high school.

The plaintiff's lawyer was disappointed over the court's decision and said they would appeal.

In the indictment, the plaintiff demanded the accused drop an exchange deal, involving their school and PT Tata Disantara, which had been signed by the ministry's city office in 2000.

The plaintiff also demanded the court order the school to resume classes at its former location on Jl. Melawai, South Jakarta from the new school building on Jl. Jeruk Purut, Pejaten, South Jakarta.

Teachers have said that the reason the ministry gave for moving the school was because the environment was detrimental for the students. Parents have opposed the plan because the new location is far from their homes and is reportedly in an area where student brawls are rampant.

"They said there were many drugs transactions and gang fights in the old location," said Edi Permana, one of the students' parents. "If it was true then why haven't other schools like (privately run) PSKD and Dharmawangsa been moved too?"

The plaintiffs lawyers said the judge failed to recognize the basic concern in the case, which was the children's education. He also suspected irregularities in the exchange deal.

"There must be corruption behind the project," said lawyer Lambok Gultom.

He then mentioned that the property tax valuation of the land, which should have been valued at Rp 9.65 million (US$1,135) per square meter in 2000, was only valued at up to Rp 5 million per square meter by PT Tata Disantara.

The lawyer also regretted that the panel of judges did not tell them earlier that their civil suit would be overturned.

"If the panel of judges thought that the civil suit was not well founded, they should have told us so at the presentation of the legal arguments," Gultom said.

One of the students' fathers, Slamet Riyadi, was disappointed by the verdict, saying that the court was unfair and it only supported the idea that Indonesia was a nation for the rich.

At least 120 first-year students of the junior high school skipped classes to attend the trial. They protested in front of the courthouse, holding posters, asking the judges to give them back their school building on Jl. Melawai.