Thu, 30 Nov 2000

Six chief justice candidates undergo final selection

JAKARTA (JP): Six candidates for Supreme Court chief justice undergoing a final test by the Commission II of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, pledged to improve the poor image of the Supreme Court, by among other things, dismissing bad supreme court justices.

Questioned one by one on an alphabetic basis, the chief justices were asked various questions from the members of Commission II, dealing with domestic and legal affairs, on their vision if they were elected Supreme Court chief justice.

However, Commission II chairman Amin Aryoso asked all the candidates for their comments about Daniel S. Lev's statement that reforming the Supreme Court meant dismissing all the current supreme court justices.

Daniel S. Lev is an American expert on Indonesia.

President Abdurrahman Wahid's preference Benjamin Mangkoedilaga agreed that dismissing unscrupulous chief justices was part of internal reform agenda in the Supreme Court.

"However, if all the chief justices fail fair and appropriate tests, and the people want them all to be dismissed, why not?" Benjamin said.

He stressed the judge's morality was the key to reform the Supreme Court, not their salary and facilities.

If he was elected to head the Supreme Court, he would start with 'repairing' the system and, at the same time, selecting 'good' chief justices.

"I promise I'll do my best in reforming the Supreme Court within two years," said the 63-year old Benjamin, who, according to the law, should retire in two years.

Benjamin gained popularity in 1995 when, as the presiding judge at the Jakarta State Administrative Court, he favored Tempo magazine in the case against the government over the government's ban.


Another candidate, a Bandung-based constitutional law professor Bagir Manan disagreed with Daniel S. Lev's idea, saying that not all chief justice are bad. "Some of them still have common sense and a good conscience."

Artidjo Alkostar, another candidate from Yogyakarta, supported Bagir's view that some of the current 51 chief justices should retain their posts as they were good enough.

Artidjo, former chief of the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH), won full support from his former institute.

In its letter on Wednesday to the central board of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), LBH Yogyakarta urged that the party's faction at the House name Artidjo as chief justice.

Meanwhile, Muladi, another candidate from the Golkar Party, told the House that he preferred reforming the Supreme Court through a systemic approach, to dismissing chief justices.

"The Supreme Court has been suffering damage in its working system, so it needs a new approach to mend it," said Muladi who was former Justice Minister during former president Soeharto and Habibie's term of office.

The Wednesday hearing was attended by several noted lawyers, including Muladi's aides Hotma Sitompul, Ruhut Sitompul and Tommy Sihotang who grouped in a defense team of the Indonesian Military (TNI)/Police in human right abuses case in East Timor.

About 200 people, mostly East Timorese, wearing yellow head bands reading "Vote for Muladi" went to the House. Some of them sat on the balcony in the room where the House members questioned the six candidates.

Muladi, Benjamin, Bagir and Artidjo were 'outsiders', who were installed as supreme justices in July while the remaining candidates Soeharto and Tonton were all Supreme Court career justices.

The House will have to select the best two out of the six on Dec. 5 and refer them to the President, who has the prerogative to select the best one. (jun/23/44)