Sat, 03 Apr 2004

No party offers comprehensive legal plan

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

None of the 24 political parties contesting the April 5 elections offered comprehensive programs to encourage the rule of law or uphold justice, an activist says.

Mas Achmad Santosa, of the non-governmental organization, the Partnership for Governance Reform, said some parties appeared to have no idea at all about the importance of reforms to the legal system.

"Most parties offered nothing new and many mentioned legal reforms that state institutions and nongovernmental organizations are already working on. This proves clearly the parties drafted their platforms on legal reform without proper study," Santosa told a group of politicians during a discussion here on Friday.

Santosa said some parties had promised to set up an anticorruption commission, which already existed.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri inaugurated the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) late in December last year. Dubbed a "super commission" it has extraordinary powers to investigate and prosecute alleged corrupters.

The partnership has set a six-point legal reform agenda: overhaul of the prevailing legal paradigm, legal and legislative reform, judicial reform, legally enforced reform, court settlements of all corruption cases and human rights violations and the institutionalization of law.

Santosa said only one of the 24 parties expressed the intention to shift the country's existing legal paradigm, which emphasizes excessive legalism (concentration on the letter of the law) over the public sense of justice.

Regarding legal and legislative reform, only 15 of the 24 parties had reform programs, he said.

Fourteen parties mostly focused on court settlements of corruption and human right violations, with three of them emphasizing a strong judicial institution specialized in handling corruption cases, one demanding a people's tribunal for corrupters, one proposing a special court to try corrupters and one suggesting corruption be declared an extraordinary crime, Santosa said.

Instead of responding to the partnership's challenge, Eros Djarot from the Freedom Bull National Party (PNBK) and Ali Masykur Musa from the National Awakening Party (PKB) shifted the blame to Megawati's government.

"The present reality shows that the laws are made to be violated. Even the president fails to set a model for the public on how to respect the law," Eros said.

Meanwhile, a Golkar deputy leader, Bomer Pasaribu, questioned the validity of the partnership's data. Golkar had outlined a comprehensive plan for legal reforms, he said.

The discussion was held ahead of the Third Law Summit here scheduled for April 8, where the country's law enforcement institutions are expected to sign an agreement on how to uphold the supremacy of the law and eradicate corruption.

It will be attended by officials from the Supreme Court, the Attorney General's Office, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the National Police, the National Law Commission, the KPK, and the National Development Planning Coordinating Board.