Tue, 11 Oct 1994

No conflict of interest in Golkar-LBH

JAKARTA (JP): Justice Minister Oetojo Oesman says he does not see any conflict of interest arising out of the establishment of a new legal aid institute (LBH) by Golkar, the country's ruling political organization.

Oetojo, who was involved in the formation of the new LBH- Golkar, said that despite the Golkar link, the new institute could still defend people in disputes with the administration.

Moreover, he said the link with the dominant political organization could be turned into a major advantage, he told reporters on Saturday. "Golkar-LBH could ask the government, on certain conditions, to back down and meet the people's demand in some disputes," he said.

He made the remarks amidst doubts expressed by some legal practitioners about the independence of the new forum given that legal aid institutes in their line of work often come into conflict with the bureaucracy.

Oetojo stressed that the Golkar-LBH's chief job is to merge the interests of the people they represent with those of the government. "We'll try to forge common perceptions between the people and the government."

The new Golkar forum is a gathering of a number of legal aid institutes affiliated with the ruling political grouping. These institutes such as LBH Kosgoro, LBH MKGR and LBH Trisula have been in operation for a number of years but have maintained a low profile.

This is now changing with the formation of the forum, announced last week by Oetojo, himself a lawyer by training and once active in coordinating the activities of these institutes before being named to a cabinet position in March 1993.

Oetojo said last week that Golkar felt a need to establish the forum to counter the activities of some legal institutes now obstructing the government's development program.

He was referring in particular to the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), the most vocal of the legal aid bodies in Indonesia that have been taking on politically-charged cases such as land disputes.

Public interest

The proponents of Golkar-LBH said the main concern of the new forum is to defend and promote the public interest with less government confrontation.

Oetojo said he is confident that Golkar-LBH will be able to independently and effectively defend the people it represents.

Asked if this was another "disguised" pre-1997 election campaign by Golkar, the minister replied that he did not see anything wrong with the ruling political organization soliciting support or sympathy from the people.

On a separate occasion Monday, Marzuki Darusman, a member of the National Commission on Human Rights, gave his endorsement to the new LBH-Golkar, saying it was a major contribution to the establishment of democracy in the country.

Marzuki, who once served as a member of the House of Representatives for Golkar, said that increasing development has resulted in the need for even more legal aid bodies. (imn)