Sat, 13 Aug 1994

Govt petition for stay of execution on Kedungombo

JAKARTA (JP): Chief Justice Purwoto Gandasubrata said yesterday that the government has petitioned for a stay of implementation of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Kedungombo land dispute.

Lawyers from the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), which has represented the Kedungombo villagers in the dispute with the government, yesterday met with Purwoto to seek clarification of press reports suggesting that a stay of execution had been granted.

Purwoto categorically denied the reports but said that the government's petition had been submitted through the Semarang District Court, the court which initially dealt with the case, according to a statement by the YLBHI.

It usually takes about one month after an appeal being lodged before the Court can start the legal machinery, he added.

While acknowledging that appeals for reviews cannot be used as legal arguments to delay the execution of a ruling of the Supreme Court, Purwoto said that "in practice" the Court can find "exceptionalities" as reasons to issue the order.

"But this (appeal for reviews or a stay of execution due to exceptional circumstances) is rarely granted," Purwoto was reported to have said to Haryono Tjitrosoebono, Mas Achmad Santosa, Frans Hendra Winata and Bambang Widjojanto.

The lawyers were representing 34 farmers in Kedungombo, Central Java, who sued the government for higher compensation for the land they gave up to make way for a World Bank-funded reservoir.

The group of lawyers pleaded yesterday that Purwoto move to erase contradictory reports about the appeal by formally explaining the Court's stance on it.

"We also ask the Chief Justice to explain to us the legal foundation or legitimacy of appeals for a delay in the implementation of the rulings of the highest legal body," the lawyers said.

The lawyers said that delaying the implementation of the Supreme Court's ruling, "aside from lacking legal base, will create legal uncertainty and hurt the people's sense of justice".

"We believe the institution (of appeal for delay) should be abolished, particularly in the Kedungombo case," they said.

The Court reversed the rulings of two lower courts which endorsed the government's offer of compensation of Rp 4,000 (US$1.85) per square meter. The Supreme Court went a step further, setting the compensation at Rp 50,000 per meter, compared to Rp 10,000 sought by the villagers. The court also ordered the government to pay Rp 2 billion to the villagers for "non-material losses".

The government, in this case the Central Java provincial administration, was reported to have lodged an appeal on Monday for a review of the case with the Supreme Court through the lower court in Semarang.

So far, the Central Java administration has also resisted pressure to pay up until after the review, saying that it had to protect the interests of the people and taxpayers in the country. (swe)