Fri, 23 Jun 2000

Supremacy of law vital to rebuild nation

JAKARTA (JP): Respect and improvement of judicial principles and individual and collective political freedom based on the supremacy of law are needed to rebuild the battered nation, a political scientist said.

During his inauguration as a research professor at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences on Thursday, Mochtar Pabottingi said respect of justice and freedom should particularly be applied in the amendment of the 1945 Constitution currently underway.

"But it's not easy. Legislators at the People's Consultative Assembly need to avoid any narrow-minded political interests," Mochtar said in his speech.

Also named a research professor at the institute was foreign affairs observer Dewi Fortuna Anwar.

The ceremony came almost a year after their installment was approved by former president B.J. Habibie.

Mochtar said wisdom in upholding the nation's interests over personal or groups interests was needed to encourage democracy, justice and freedom.

He said improvements in democracy should be followed by the formation of a new general election law, a representative legislature and a radical review of the judiciary.

"Our judicial institutions are still exhibiting abuse of their authority, which is detrimental to our efforts to uphold justice and freedom," he contended.

Mochtar blamed the present chaotic situation in political, economic and judicial systems on questionable practices during the New Order regime of former president Soeharto.

He said Soeharto's regime manipulated the three branches of the government, namely the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

"They just followed in the footsteps of the Dutch colonial administration, as seen in the way they maintained their monopoly in politics, economy and law," he said.

He said the regime also applied discrimination in stratifying society. Soeharto's family and cronies, conglomerates, soldiers and members of the ruling Golkar joined the first class of society; common people made up the second class while the lowest class comprised former political prisoners, particularly members of the now defunct Indonesian Communist Party and their relatives.

Mochtar said both the Soeharto regime and the Dutch colonial administration committed corruption on a massive scale and manipulated representative institutions.

"Both Soeharto and the Dutch colonial administration systematically prohibited people from participating in politics and the bureaucracy," he said.

He said the absence of a system of checks and balances in the past regime and loopholes in the Constitution had caused the nation greater suffering than under Dutch colonial rule.

Meanwhile, in her speech Dewi criticized President Abdurrahman Wahid's numerous foreign trips. She said the President's overseas travel, aimed at reassuring foreign countries in a bid to attract investment, could prove useless if undertaken partially.

"An ad hoc and partial approach will not be effective and prove to be a waste of money and energy," Dewi, who was an adviser to Habibie, said.

She said persistent efforts to solicit foreign investment would be fruitless if there was no concrete action to improve security in the country. (jun)