Fri, 23 Feb 2001

Government 'returns the ball' to the House on chief justice post

JAKARTA (JP): The government has "returned the ball" to the House of Representatives (DPR), asking the legislative body to take the initiative to settle the prolonged dispute over the appointment of the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Minister of Justice and Human Rights Baharuddin Lopa on Thursday asked the House to find the best solution to the matter.

"I think it's up to the House to decide what to do. As the two candidates, whose names have been submitted to the President for endorsement, were selected by the House, so this problem should be settled by the House, too," Lopa told journalists before a hearing with House Commission II on legal and home affairs.

Lopa said the final process following the withdrawal of Muladi as candidate for the position of supreme court chief should be decided by the House and not by the government.

"This is the responsibility of the House. I heard that he (Muladi) had mentioned his withdrawal to the House," he said.

Muladi, whose candidacy is widely regarded as having been sponsored by Golkar, decided to withdraw after two months of uncertainty and will officially notify the President after the latter returns from his overseas trip early next month.

Abdurrahman has refused to appoint either one of the House of Representatives' nominees -- Muladi and Bagir Manan -- as the new chief justice.

The controversy over the appointment of the Supreme Court chief began when the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) faction walked out of the House plenary session which confirmed Muladi and Bagir's candidacies on Dec. 7, 2000.

Bagir has hinted that he would not withdraw his candidacy, but Abdurrahman has already rejected both Muladi and Bagir due to their past links with the New Order regime and for being partisan.

Muladi served as justice minister in the last cabinet of former president Soeharto, then remained in the post under Soeharto's successor, B.J. Habibie.

Bagir Manan, a professor of law in Padjadjaran University in Bandung, West Java, also served under Soeharto as the director general of the justice ministry in the 1990s.

Lopa suggested that Muladi should give his formal notification of withdrawal as soon as possible so the House can decide what to do over the matter.

Zain Badjeber, a United Development Party (PPP) legislator from the House Commission II, however, rejected the proposal, saying that the House had completed its tasks and it would now be the president's decision to appoint one of the two existing candidates. (dja)