Tue, 19 Aug 2003

Judges of new court's credibility questioned

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Law experts have questioned the credibility of judges of the newly established Constitutional Court due to the hasty selection process and the endorsement of the Constitutional Court bill.

Legal expert Todung Mulya Lubis told The Jakarta Post on Monday that the credibility of the judges was questionable as the screening process was carried out in a very short time.

Thus, it is inevitable that the Constitutional Court has several judges that are affiliated with political parties, and it is difficult for the public to determine their independence from those parties, he said.

"If we had enough time to carry out the screening process the public would be made aware of the judge's political stance. Then, we could force them to step down if their actions were contrary to their earlier statement," he said.

Todung claimed that political interests had placed a heavy burden on the selection of the Constitutional Court judges.

"It is very difficult to maintain public confidence in the Constitutional Court," he said.

Another noted lawyer, Harun Al-Rasyid concurred with Todung. Harun said that many people had quizzed him on the reputation of the judges, but he knew very few of them.

"Who are these judges? Do they have knowledge on Constitution Law and State Administrative Law?" he asked.

The Constitutional Court Law, he added, limits the ages of judges to between 40 and 67. This is a violation of the amended 1945 Constitution as it does not stipulate such a criteria.

The Constitutional Court, which has nine judges, has extensive power, including reviewing the laws of the amended 1945 Constitution, recommending the impeachment of the president, dissolving political parties, and resolving election result disputes.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri installed the nine judges on Saturday after frantic selection by the government, the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court. Each institution had the liberty to select three judges.

The House named constitutional law expert Jimly Assiddiqie (affiliated with Golkar party), former House legislator Achmad Rustandi (affiliated with the United Development Party) and People's Consultative Assembly legislator I Dewa Gede Palguna, as Constitutional Court judges.

However, the House had only conducted screening processes over two days of last week.

The government named Achmad Syariffudin Natabaya of the state University of Sriwijaya, Mukti Fajar of the state University of Brawijaya and Haryono of the regional representatives faction of the People's Consultative Assembly (affiliated with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle). The government also failed to carry out open screening processes.

The remaining three judges, selected by the Supreme Court, included Laica Marzuki, Sudarsono and Muarar Siahaan. All are High Court judges.

Critics pointed out that the Constitution Court Law would experience problems as it was only deliberated by the House in the six weeks before its endorsement on Aug. 6. Megawati signed the court bill several days later.