Thu, 24 Jul 2003

Reshuffle of judges in Jakarta courts questioned

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights has issued a ruling introducing a major reshuffle involving dozens of judges at the five district courts in Jakarta, some of whom are known for strong stand against corruption.

Suyatno, the ministry's director general for state judiciary administration confirmed the reshuffle on Wednesday.

However, he refused to reveal the number of judges to be transferred to several cities across the country.

"Yes, we have issued the ruling. It's a merely a tour of duty," he told The Jakarta Post over the phone.

The reshuffled was ordered by the ministry after consultation with the Supreme Court.

As many as 10 of the judges are currently serving with the Central Jakarta District Court. They are M. Saleh, the court's head, who was just moved to Jakarta last year, I Ketut Gede, Andi Samsan Nganro, Amiruddin Zakaria, Cornel Sianturi, Erwin M. Malau, Pramodhana K. Kusumah Atmadja, Nur Aslam, Asep Irwan Iriawan, and Sirande Palayukan.

The last four are known for their integrity. They are known for issuing harsh sentence against corruptors and refusing to accept bribes.

Several other judges are from the South Jakarta District Court, the East Jakarta District Court, the West Jakarta District Court and the North Jakarta District Court.

The judges are to be moved to the capitals of several provinces and regencies.

They will be replaced by judges from various district courts outside Jakarta. Legal observers had earlier asserted that most judges in Jakarta are involved in corruption and extortion in the courts as they deal with many high-profile cases worth billion of rupiah.

Many defendants, critics say, pay a sum of money to the judges in a bid to get a reduced sentence or to be exonerated.

The Central Jakarta District Court made headlines early this year after a team of three judges exonerated tycoon Samadikun Hartono of all charges. Samadikun, who was later sentenced to a four-year prison term by the Supreme Court, fled justice when the Attorney General's Office attempted to execute the sentence.

A judge, who refused to be named, said the reshuffle of several reputed judges in Jakarta was regrettable.

"I know some of the judges are not good. Why doesn't the ministry move them as well? Why not move the judges with a questionable reputation?" the judge told the Post.

Several judges in Jakarta, who had violated the judicial code of ethics by accepting money from defendants, are not in the list of judges to be transferred.

The judge feared that the move would hamper the fight against corruption and court mafia.

"A judge of high repute could not do much toward the country's efforts to eliminate corruption if he is posted in a remote area, which rarely get cases, let alone corruption cases," the judge said.

Indonesia has often been cited as one of the most corrupt country in the world. Unfortunately, most of the corruptors escape justice due to the court mafia.