News Analysis: Bill prescribes setbacks in state's war on corruption

Pandaya ,  The Jakarta Post ,  Jakarta   |  Tue, 11/11/2008 10:50 AM  |  Headlines

The much-anticipated bill on the Corruption Court rushed to the House of Representatives a fortnight ago shows loopholes that will endanger the war on corruption -- the war that has won the Yudhoyono administration international credit.

The most contentious issue revolves around Chapter 27, which delegates the authority to select judges in charge of handling a particular case to the Chief Justice and chief of the local district court.

Either of the chiefs will be granted the prerogative to decide how many career and ad hoc judges will be in charge. The bill prescribes that the number of judges has to be odd, at least three or five at the most.

The career/ad hoc judge ratio becomes critical because career judges have long been attributed to the corrupt judiciary system and therefore are perceived as part of the furniture and lacking credibility.

Ad hoc judges are recruited from outside the system and therefore, are believed to have higher standards of integrity as proven by those in the Corruption Court.

The bill was drafted in Dec. 2006 after the Constitutional Court killed a provision in the 2002 Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) law which became the basis for the establishment of the Corruption Court.

The Constitutional Court ordered the government to create a new law that would put the Corruption Court under the regular district court. Lawmakers have until Dec. 2009 to finish the bill, a short time span that is probably insufficient given that the politicians are also busy campaigning for the 2009 general elections.

The future law mandates the establishment of a corruption court in every regency and municipality in order to make the anti-corruption campaigns more effective -- although it also raises concerns about an independence standard as an "extraordinary" court.

Until the bill is passed into law, the old, highly respected Corruption Court under KPK in Jakarta remains functional. Among its commendable achievements is sending former and incumbent government bureaucrats and a senior prosecutor to jail and is currently trying several lawmakers.

It is in fact an odd time for lawmakers to bow to public pressure to finalize the bill before their terms expire in a year. At present, the Corruption Court is putting on the dock some senior House members such as Al Amin Nasution, Hamka Yandhu, Yusuf Emir Faisal and Anthony Zeidra Abidin on various charges, ranging from receiving kickbacks and threatening blackmail to accepting bribes.

KPK investigators have also been targeting the Supreme Court over unaccounted funds which have accumulated for a great many years from people embroiled in legal wrangles.

Just last week, the Attorney General s Office declared as a suspect Romli Atmasasmita, one of the legal experts drafting this corruption court bill! He will be charged with involvement in a Rp 400 billion (US$40 million) graft while he served as legal administration director general at the ministry of justice in the early 2000s.

The corruption court bill debate is heightening public distrust in the regular court. In a recent seminar in Jakarta, Febri Diansyah of Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) revealed that 104 of the 196 graft suspects tried in the regular court between January and July of this year were acquitted. Those found guilty received lenient jail terms of an average of less than six-and-a-half months.

While at KPK s Corruption Court, where the ratio of ad hoc and career judges is three to two, no suspects were acquitted and crooks received fairly hefty prison terms, Febri said.

Clearly the regular court verdicts have failed to deter politicians and officials from stealing taxpayers money.

The delegation of authority to select judges to the chief justice and local civil court chairman only gives credence to former KPK chairman Taufiequrrachman Ruki s warning that targeted politicians and elements of the corrupt system are seeking to strike back.

Ruki s concern became even more relevant when some politicians in charge of finalizing the controversial Supreme Court bill proposed that ad hoc status be scrapped from the Indonesian legal system because ad hoc judges proficiency is "questionable".

It is also feared that the provision giving the chief justice and district court chiefs too much power in graft trials will allow the so-called "judiciary mafia" to control the Corruption Court. Then KPK would become a mere paper tiger, just like the regular court that is losing public trust.


Foto: Dok. Humas MK

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 | 14:02 WIB 384