Sat, 03 Apr 2004

Judicial reform, not just lip service: Chief Justice

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Chief Justice Bagir Manan has pledged to prove wrong skepticism on reforming the country's judiciary, saying courts would be free from corruption within the next 15 years at most.

"Making improvements, considering recent conditions, is not as easy as turning your hands over. It takes time and people must understand this," he said on Friday.

Bagir was responding to critics who doubted that the Supreme Court would be able to become a more credible institution with the newly transferred authority over judicial administrative and financial affairs from the justice ministry.

"With the transfer of power, it would be more efficient, easier and faster for us to handle internal affairs. We could punish or promote court members without having to wait for approval from the justice ministry," he said.

While Bagir admitted it was not easy to make significant changes in courts across the country, as judicial reform commenced only three years ago, he expressed a guarded optimism that the courts could improve their performance, particularly in terms of the integrity and quality of its personnel.

"The Supreme Court has been equipped with sufficient legislation and powers to apply the reform program. We have already made a series of blueprints ... (that are) applicable, thanks to assistance from non-governmental institutions and foreign donors," he said.

Each blueprint identifies those problems currently facing the court and the means to resolve them.

Bagir said the Supreme Court was focusing on restructuring the court under the first stage of the reform program.

"It is necessary to merge officials of the Supreme Court, the Directorate General of General Courts and state administrative courts into a well-knit organization, because the structure of the organization affects the entire judicial process," he said.

A team has been set up to restructure the Supreme Court, which has added 300 personnel transferred from the justice ministry into its 1,000-strong work force.

"The new organization of the Supreme Court is expected to come into effect early next year, but we need five years to turn new and old personnel into an efficient and credible group," Bagir said.

Employees transferred from the justice ministry will remain at their previous jobs until the end of the year, but must report to the Supreme Court.

The newly established Law No. 5/2004 on the Supreme Court stipulates its institutional structure to consist of a court leadership, justices, court clerks and a secretary.

The leadership comprises a chief justice, two deputy chief justices and five or more justices heading particular judicial divisions. Previously, it consisted of a chief justice, a deputy chief justice and six justices.

The law also requires the court to employ a secretary to manage supporting divisions within the court. The previous post was that of secretary-general, who also headed court clerks.

"Under the new structure, court clerks must be separate from secretarial tasks. Court clerks should only manage judicial affairs," Bagir said.

A report compiled by the Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) last year revealed that the court mafia includes court clerks who are permitted to observe trials as well as the authority to set up hearings.

Supreme Court reform program

1. Improve constitutional independence, functions,

organizational affairs, human resources, case management,

budget, facilities, transparency, accountability and

information system of the Court

2. Develop judicial personnel management at lower courts

based on a merit-based career management system for

justices, court clerks and other court officials

3. Provide permanent educational program at lower courts,

including continued education and career development for


4. Enhance financial management and accountability of court


5. Establish a judicial commission to act as a supervisory body

that observes and controls the independence of the judiciary

6. Develop commercial court and anticorruption court