Wed, 24 Jul 1996

What is good conduct in the Supreme Court?

Justice Adi Andojo Soetjipto blew the whistle on collusion in the Supreme Court and is now waiting to hear his fate from the President. Sociologist Ignas Kleden takes a close look at the issue.

JAKARTA (JP): The semantics of politics is the politics of semantics. This is evidently not simply a language game played by linguists; in the case of Deputy Chief Justice for General Crimes Adi Andojo Soetjipto the above proposition has come true.

Perhaps to his dismay, Adi Andojo has become, in one month, one of the most discussed figures in the country. His attempt to clean up the Supreme Court, has put him in a very controversial situation.

Let us try to deal with some misgivings which could make people suspicious of his actions. First, is it possible to say that he is seeking popular glory and wants to be heralded as a legal hero? This does not ring true, because what Adi Andojo did was just to write a normal letter asking for the investigation of possible collusion within the Supreme Court. The letter, however, leaked out and Andojo has since just persisted to defend what he wrote in it.

Second, is it possible to accuse him of wanting to hurt or even run for the position of Chief Justice by means of dethroning his own colleague? This also is irrational, since in nine months he is going to retire.

Third, could we say that he just wants to undermine the integrity and authority of the Supreme Court as suggested by his opponents? This is equally nonsensical since he cannot profit from such a course of action. Besides that, he has a track record of faithful and diligent service to the Indonesian legal system over 38 years. So what is the reason for him to become a trouble- maker in an institution he has cherished for so long?

Considering the many facts which Andojo has brought up so far, there are enough reasons to believe in his good intentions to want to rid the Supreme Court of the alleged collusion. The Chief Justice responded to the allegation by commissioning an investigation, the results of which, however, were never discussed with Adi Andojo. Time and again lawyers stress the old principle et alter pars audiatur (you should listen to both sides). In this important case it, unfortunately, has not been adhered to consistently.

In the meantime Adi Andojo keeps talking to the public about the alleged collusion, which he is confident of being able to prove. Why not give him a chance? He sticks to his opinion that given there is collusion, and supposing the Supreme Court is willing to admit it, its integrity and authority will thereby be elevated and not undermined. Or are we expected to believe in the infallibility of the Supreme Court?

The latest reaction of the Chief Justice is the request to the President to discharge Adi Andojo. This request reflects an interesting attitude, because a moral-legal action has been met by a legal-bureaucratic one. Adi Andojo's motivation is evidently to purify the respected office of alleged collusion, and to increase public accountability of the affairs within the Supreme Court. This however, is countered by recourse to bureaucratic procedure.

Adi Andojo is said to be guilty of misconduct and therefore should be threatened with disciplinary action. But, alas, what is good conduct in the first place? Is collusion, if there is any, good conduct? Moreover, is the effort to cover up the case from open examination good conduct? Is it good conduct to never give Adi Andojo a chance to prove his allegations? Is the policy to keep quiet in the face of public questions on what is going on good conduct?

Adi Andojo has been ordered not to talk about the case. If we keep in mind the chronology, it was not his intention to publicize the alleged collusion. His letter, without him knowing it, was leaked. It is quite logical for him to stand up to account for what he has written. The fact that his letter is now in the public domain is not his responsibility, but he is, nevertheless, responsible for what he has written. Why should he stop talking? Is it good conduct not to be responsible for what one has undertaken?

Who has and who lacks good conduct? Who should face disciplinary action? Suddenly, we are faced with the politics of meaning and the politics of semantics. Is good conduct a bureaucratic and administrative concept, or is it basically a moral one?

Adi Andojo, whatever end is waiting for him in his struggle, is, and will always remain, a lesson on the morality of this nation. Sticking to his moral stance, he has never been trapped into the temptation of seeking popularity or public praise. He is correct in refusing to talk about affairs other than his case. He keeps himself from unnecessary complications by not touching upon other matters which he feels incompetent of talking about, while carrying on pursuing the case for which he feels responsible.

We are lucky to have a man like Adi Andojo who demonstrates clearly that not everything and everybody can be bureaucratized. There is something which is beyond the reach of bureaucratization. The freedom of one's soul, is after all, a benchmark which signifies the moral struggle, civil courage and spiritual achievement of our time and our country.

The writer is a sociologist now working with the SPES Foundation Research Center, Jakarta.