Mon, 06 Mar 2000

Reorganization of Supreme Court urged

JAKARTA (JP): Legal observers hailed President Abdurrahman Wahid's plan to expel corrupt judges from Jakarta's judicial system but suggested the leader first help reorganize the Supreme Court.

Bambang Widjoyanto and Amir Syamsuddin said separately on Friday that the President's idea was admirable but would be useless and "too premature" if the government made no significant changes to the Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in the country.

"This institution is the last bastion of the law. The country's efforts to enforce the law depends on the quality of the (people placed in this) body," said Bambang, the chairman of the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI).

A day earlier, the President told a visiting business delegation from the Netherlands that he would replace allegedly corrupt judges in the capital's five district courts with honest ones in a bid to create legal certainty for investors.

The remarks came amid growing concerns aired by the public, particularly foreign investors, over a lack of transparency in the country's judicial system.

Bambang urged the House of Representatives to take the initiative to reorganize and put in order the function of the Supreme Court.

"The House must accelerate the election of a new chairman of the institution, including its judges. It is aimed at removing officials who may hamper the government's drive to combat corruption in the country's legal system," he said.

After the reorganization, the institution, which controls the performance of judges at all district courts, can help further the drive to combat corruption among judges, he said.

Article 8 of the 1985 Judicial Power Law stipulates that Supreme Court judges are appointed by the President, based on a list of candidates proposed by the House.

Several decisions ruled by the Supreme Court have often been controversial, and tarnished the image of the court.

"The Supreme Court also has the authority to supervise the quality and good conduct of judges. But it has not done it properly," a noted lawyer, Amir, said.

He insisted that not all lawyers in Jakarta were corrupt.

But, he added, corruption in the courts here developed rapidly due to the lack of stern measures by the Supreme Court.

Amir reminded Abdurrahman and his administration not to interfere in the judicial system.

"It's the authority of the Supreme Court to supervise the judges whether they are capable or not to perform their tasks," he said.

Another legal observer, Romli Atmasasmita, who is also the director general of law and legislation, urged the House to form an independent anticorruption body to deal with corruption among judges.

"The independent commission would have the task of auditing the wealth of judges. If a judge is known to have committed corruption, the commission could propose that the Supreme Court dismiss them," he said on Friday. (asa)