Mon, 11 Sep 2000

The poor have no access to justice

It was interesting to read The Jakarta Post's editorial on Aug. 30, 2000 under the title of Wrong verdict. To the Post, the fact that Djoko Tjandra, who is obviously an embezzler, has not been considered a criminal has come as a big surprise. Media Indonesia, as quoted in the Post's "Other Opinion" column, has considered it a bad precedent which must be avoided.

From the side of idealism, this view is correct. The mistake lies in the assumption that a court is a place where one seeks justice. This assumption, unfortunately, is a long way from reality.

A court is simply a place where a case is tried. So, when someone files a case to a court of law, he must realize that the problem is not how to get justice but, rather, how to win the case. A justice seeker can only present material legal evidence and witnesses and hope that justice will follow.

However, someone who wishes to win a case needs to do more. He must pay a famous lawyer and have enough money to do this as well as having carefully considered calculations. He must realize that honor needs money, or jer basuki mawa bea, as the Javanese say.

Karl Marx really drove it home when he said that justice never takes sides with the poor because the law is drawn up and upheld for and by the elite. The poor have neither money nor political and bureaucratic access. Therefore, the community prefers to settle a case amicably through deliberations or by means of a people's court. As for the weak, they will simply have to wait for God's court in heaven.

What is of greater alarm is the international community's refusal to believe the result of a trial of those involved in the East Timor case. Mounting international pressure will be a heavy burden to Indonesian diplomats. We indeed have the obligation to protect all citizens, but at the same time we are obliged to uphold justice for everyone.