Tue, 14 Nov 2000

House names seven candidates for chief justice

JAKARTA (JP): The House of Representatives announced on Monday the names of seven candidates for Supreme Court chief justice, including President Abdurrahman Wahid's preference, former judge Benjamin Mangkoedilaga.

The names of the candidates were announced to allow the public to give their opinions of the nominees.

Besides Benjamin, House Commission II for legal and national political affairs also included on the list former justice minister Muladi, who has the support of Golkar Party.

All the candidates were selected from the current justices at the Supreme Court.

The other five candidates are Artidjo Alkostar, Bagir Manan, Usman Karim, Soeharto and Toton Suprapto.

The commission also announced seven candidates for deputy chief justice: Abdul Kadir Mappong, Abdurrahman Rahman Saleh, Edith Dumasid Tobing Nababan, Marianna Sutadi, Parman Suparman, Valerine J.L. Kriekhoff and Taufik.

The House will cut these lists down to two candidates, whose names will be proposed to the President.

By law, the President has the right to select from the candidates named by the House.

"People can give their opinions about the candidates directly to the House," Commission II chairman Amin Aryoso said during a media conference.

The public has until Nov. 20 to send in their opinions, objections, support or any other information about the candidates to Commission II. They can contact the commission by phone at (021) 571-5522 and 571-5493, or by fax at 571-5524.

The screening process includes administrative scrutiny and a hearing on Nov. 25 and Nov. 26 during which the candidates will be asked to present their vision for the Supreme Court, he said.

The House is expected to come up with two candidates each for the chief justice and deputy chief justice during a plenary session on Dec. 5.

The race for the top position at the Supreme Court began after chief justice Sarwata reached the mandatory retirement age of 65 in August. His place has temporarily been filled by Justice Th. Ketut Sura Putra.

Lobbying even earlier, with President Abdurrahman publicly naming Benjamin as his preferred choice.

The president's public backing of Benjamin drew widespread criticism, with accusations of interfering in the judiciary.

Golkar has also drawn fire for pushing the nomination of Muladi, who served in the Cabinets of both Soeharto and B.J. Habibie.

Golkar legislator Ferry Mursyidan Baldan said the party was maintaining support of Muladi.

Ferry, who is also deputy chairman of Commission II, said that if named to the post, the 63-year-old Benjamin would only be able to serve for two years before having to retire.

With the selection of chief justice becoming a politically contentious issue, some have called for the appointment of a long-serving justice.

Both Benjamin and Muladi were appointed to the Supreme Court in July. (04/jun)