Wed, 16 Jul 2003

Lawmakers divided over education of judges

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The House of Representatives (DPR) special committee deliberating the constitutional court bill remains divided over the educational background of justices appointed to the court.

Committee deputy chairman Zainal Arifin of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) said Tuesday the committee had split into two groups, with one insisting that only law graduates had the chance to sit as justices in the court, while the other maintained that statesmanship was more important than educational background.

"We have not yet reached an agreement on that issue," Zainal told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

He emphasized that the issue of educational background was the only issue dividing committee members.

The members, according to Zainal, had already accepted the composition and authority of the planned constitutional court as spelled out in the newly amended Constitution.

The planned constitutional court would have nine members, with the authority to dissolve a political party, settle election disputes, resolve disputes between state institutions, review legislation and determine whether or not the president had committed a wrongdoing.

The president, House, and the Supreme Court will each appoint three justices to the constitutional court.

All factions also agreed that the constitutional court would not function as a court of "justice" but a court of "law" -- meaning all decisions of the constitutional court had to be based on the Constitution and on evidence, while the justice element would only offer a limited amount of discretion.

Separately, committee chairman Zen Zen or Zein? Badjeber of the United Development Party (PPP) pledged on Monday to submit the bill for endorsement on July 31 to an extraordinary plenary session, the first to be held during a recess.

Committee deputy chairman Ali Masykur Musa of the National Awakening Party (PKB), meanwhile, concurred with Zein, saying that legislators would finish deliberating the bill on time.

He added that stipulations regarding the role and authority of the constitutional court had been agreed by all nine factions.

Earlier, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said that the government needed more time to discuss the bill.

The date for the establishment of the constitutional court had been established by the amended Constitution -- Aug. 17, 2003.

Yusril, however, proposed a change to the deadline, arguing that the time available for deliberation was not enough.

The idea to delay establishment of the constitutional court came from President Megawati Soekarnoputri, who had earlier said that the substance of the bill was very important and required extensive discussion.

Zein revealed that all factions had agreed to adopt the term "request" instead of "litigation" for anyone demanding that the constitutional court settle a disputed election result, dissolve a political party, follow up on an accusation by the House that the president had committed a wrongdoing, or review existing legislation.

He also said that the procedure would not involve litigation but a request made by a specific group to the constitutional court to process the dispute.

Without litigation, Zein added, there would be neither a prosecutor nor a prosecuted party.