From Teacher, Actor, Now Constitutional Justice
The start of his career as a non-permanent teacher in 1975 did not limit Anwar Usman’s steps to becoming a constitutional justice. For the man who was born on December 31, 1956, his appointment as the substitute for M. Arsyad Sanusi was God’s will. "I never imagined that I would have been sworn in by the president. I also never imagined that I could have been appointed one of the constitutional justices," explained the man, who was married to late Hj. Suhada.
Anwar, who grew up in Rasabou Village, Bolo Subdistrict, Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, admitted that he has been accustomed to living independently. After graduating from SDN 03 Sila (Bima) in 1969, Anwar had to leave his village and parents to continue his education at a Public Religious Teachers’ School (Sekolah Pendidikan Guru Agama Negeri/PGAN) for 6 years until 1975. “Living far away from my parents for about six years, I learned a lot about discipline and independence, because I spent most of my life living in other regions,” explained this native of Bima, West Nusa Tenggara.
After graduating from PGAN in 1975, with the blessing of his late father, Usman A. Rahim, and his mother, Hj. St. Ramlah, Anwar went to Jakarta and immediately became a non-permanent teacher at Kalibaru Elementary School. Anwar continued his education in a bachelor’s degree program at the Faculty of Law at the Jakarta Islamic University and graduated in 1984. “Many of my peers from PGAN at that time chose to continue their education at the faculty of tarbiyah, sharia, or others at a State Islamic Institute (IAIN). Some continued their education at the Institute of Teacher Training and Education (IKIP). Almost none went to a faculty of law. However, I did not detach myself from education that had become my root. In fact, Kalibaru Elementary School, where I worked when I first tried my luck in Jakarta in 1975, has developed into an educational foundation with various types and levels of education. I was also elected and appointed chairman of the foundation until today," said the man who likes to sing songs by Broeri Marantika.
As a university student, Anwar was active in a theater troupe under the guidance of Ismail Soebarjo. Amidst his busy schedule of studying and teaching, Anwar was also as a member of Sanggar Aksara. He had the opportunity to play in a movie starring Nungki Kusumastuti, Frans Tumbuan, and Rini S. Bono and by the renowned director Ismail Soebarjo in 1980. “I only got a minor role, but I was so proud to be directed by a director as great as Mr. Ismail Soebarjo, and especially because the movie entitled Perempuan dalam Pasungan (Women in Shackles) received a Citra Award for Best Film,” recalled the man who earned his doctoral degree from Gadjah Mada University.
However, his parents criticized Anwar’s involvement in the movie that became a hit in 1980. “When the movie became a hit, it was also premiered in Bima. By chance, there was a scene in that movie where I was walking side by side with a woman in Cikini Market. People in my village got all excited, whereas actually I was of no importance in the movie. When my father found out, I was scolded. He said, ‘You said you’d go to Jakarta to study, instead you were in a movie,’” he recalled with a smile.
Anwar recalled his involvement in stage plays as one of his most memorable experiences. According to him, he learned many things from the theater, including the philosophy of life. The theater and movies, according to the former assistant to Supreme Court justice, principally have educational aspect that preaches virtues, including how to behave and speak. "Many friends were concerned when they learned that I would take my oath alone before President (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono). However, alhamdulillah (thank God), thanks to my experience in the theater, I was able to overcome nervousness and avoid stage fright when I had to say the oath," said the former Head of the Research and Development Department of the Law and Justice Education and Training Center of the Supreme Court for the period of 2006–2011.
Upon successfully attaining a bachelor degree in law in 1984, Anwar took a test to become a candidate judge. As luck had it, he passed and was appointed a candidate judge assigned to the Bogor District Court in 1985. “Becoming a judge was not actually my dream. However, I consider any position I am assigned to by Allah as a place of worship. God willing, I will uphold and execute such mandate as well as possible,” said this bearded man who was once assigned to the Atambua District Court and the Lumajang District Court.
Upholding Justice and Maintaining Ethics
Anwar considers his appointment as a constitutional justice his greatest achievement beyond expectations. At the Supreme Court, he was an assistant to a Supreme Court justice from 1997 to 2003, then the Head of the Personnel Bureau from 2003 to 2006. In 2005, he was appointed a judge of the Jakarta High Court and was concurrently the Head of the Personnel Bureau at the Supreme Court. However, Anwar admitted that he was familiar with the Constitutional Court, which was established in 2003. He was also already familiar with former Constitutional Justice Hamdan Zoelva, who is also from Bima, West Nusa Tenggara. “I was often in touch with Mr. Hamdan since he became a member of Commission II of the House of Representatives. I also know Mr. [Akil Mochtar]. Mr. [Ahmad Fadlil Sumadi] worked with me once at the Supreme Court,” he said.
According to Anwar, he has always been following the development of the Constitutional Court, which was led by Moh. Mahfud MD, since its inception. Therefore, he didn’t find it hard to adapt to the Court’s environment. “I was able to immediately adapt to it. Moreover, the chief justice directly asked me to join in hearing a moment after I pronounced an oath before the president. My friends in the Registrar’s Office told me that sometimes, hearing at the Constitutional Court would continue until midnight. Of course, I was also ready for that,” he said.
All this time, in performing his duties as a judge, Anwar has been following the examples by the Prophet Muhammad SAW. He cited a story of the prophet. “In a hadith, it was said that the prophet was once visited by the leaders of the Quraisy tribe who asked for a special treatment for a son of a Quraisy nobleman, who had committed theft. He said wisely, ‘[I promise] by Allah, if Fatimah my own daughter were to steal, I would cut off her hand.’ It means that law and justice enforcement must be applied to any person without exception,” he explained.
The genial man considers his three children and late wife the main support to his career, which helped him climb up to the top of his career as a constitutional justice. He also separates family affairs from work. “Family is everything. Alhamdulillah, from the beginning, my beloved wife and children understand and know that they are not supposed to interfere in office affairs without my request. They also always support me,” said the father of Kurniati Anwar, Kahiril Anwar, and Sheila Anwar.