Court Order Mediation on Lebong-North Bengkulu Border Dispute

The Petitioner’s legal counsels at the pronouncement of an injunction on the border dispute between Lebong and North Bengkulu Regencies, Friday (3/22/2024). Photo by MKRI/Ifa.

JAKARTA (MKRI) — The Constitutional Court (MK) handed down an injunction in the judicial review of Law No. 28 of 1959 on the Stipulation of Emergency Laws No. 4 of 1956, No. 5 of 1956, and No. 6 of 1956 on the Formation of Level II Regions Including Township within Level I Region of South Sumatera into Law. The ruling hearing for Decision No. 71-PS/PUU-XXI/2023 took place on Friday, March 22, 2024 in the plenary courtroom.

“[The Court] adjudicated, before handing down a final decision: Orders the Governor of Bengkulu Province to facilitate mediation between the governments of Lebong Regency and North Bengkulu Regency in the resolution of the dispute on border and territory of North Bengkulu Regency under the supervision of the Ministry of Home Affairs in no later than three months since this decision is pronounced,” said Chief Justice Suhartoyo delivering the injunction verdict.

In the verdict, the Court also ordered the Bengkulu governor to report the mediation results in no later than seven days after mediation is completed. “[The Court] orders the Ministry of Home Affairs to supervise the mediation and report the results to the Court in no later than seven days after mediation is completed,” the chief justice added.

Delivering the Court’s legal opinion, Constitutional Justice Arief Hidayat said that for the sake of efficient, effective, and just resolution, the efforts the governor had done to resolve the dispute should be continued with the participation of all parties, in casu the Lebong Regency and Bengkulu Regency Governments without exception, under supervision by the Ministry of Home Affairs that has authority to determine borders and is responsible for facilitating the dispute resolution.

In order to provide legal certainty on that mediation, Justice Arief added, the Court set a deadline for the mediation, i.e. up to three months after the injunction is pronounced. The Court believes it is sufficient for the disputing parties to find the best resolution to the border dispute. Not to mention, as revealed in court proceedings, the disputing parties and Bengkulu governor had good faith to try to resolve the dispute.

The Court felt the need to hand down an injunction to order the governor to facilitate mediation with both disputing regencies under the supervision of the Ministry of Home Affairs within three months since the injunction and to report the results to the Court within seven days since the completion of mediation. The ministry was also ordered to report the supervisory results within those period.

An injunction, Justice Arief asserted, can be handed down in judicial review cases where there is a need for the sake of justice and to provide protection and fair legal certainty. Such a decision can also be handed down for specific conditions, especially to protect the citizens’ constitutional rights (vide Decision No. 70-PS/PUU-XX/2022). Furthermore, Article 69 of the Constitutional Court Regulation No. 2 of 2021 on the procedural law for judicial review cases stipulates that the Court’s decisions can be in the form of decision, injunction, or decree.

The Court held that although the Petitioner did not request an injunction, in order to provide fair legal certainty, in casu in relation to the territory and borders of North Bengkulu Regency, the Court felt the injunction was justified.

Constitutionality Issue

The Court has held several hearings for the a quo case. The Petitioner and/or their counsels, the House of Representatives (DPR) or its proxy, the president or his proxy, Bengkulu governor (Relevant Party) and/or his proxy, and the Bengkulu Provincial Office of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning/Land Agency (ATR/BPN) and/or its proxy had testified either verbally at the hearings or in writing and submitted evidence and presented experts and/or witnesses and concluding statement.

The Court also asserted that the unclear territory and borders, which legitimized the inclusion of part of the Petitioner’s territory into the administrative territory of North Bengkulu, was an issue closely related to the division of regions.

Article 1 paragraph (1) and Article 18 of the 1945 Constitution stipulates that the division of regions take into account the principles of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia and provides clear and systematic regulation at all levels of government, i.e. province and regency/city. In addition, they provide flexibility to the regions to organize regional autonomy aimed at improving community welfare, public services, and regional progress as part of national goals. In relation to regional autonomy, the governor acts as a representative of the central government in the region as well as the head of an autonomous region that serves to foster, supervise, and coordinate government affairs in the region as well as assist in tasks in addition to exercising authority in mandatory affairs and local government affairs.

As such, the governor is responsible for resolving border disputes first through mediation involving both parties to the dispute. If the mediation does not reach a settlement, the governor can involve the central government, in this case, the Ministry of Home Affairs. A petition to the Court is the last resort in resolving territorial disputes after other means do not result in a consensus.

In its legal opinion, the Court also stated that the facts revealed in the proceedings also showed that the two regencies had tried to solve the issue several times. After the issuance of the Regulation of the Minister of Home Affairs (Permendagri) No. 20 of 2015, Bengkulu governor facilitated a meeting on the borders on March 27, 2018. Director-General of Territorial Administration, Director of Toponymy and Regional Borders, head of the Sub-directorate of Interregional Borders in Territory I, head of Interregional Borders Section in Territory IB, Bengkulu regional police chief (kapolda), Bengkulu high court, Bengkulu military resort command (Korem), Bengkulu high prosecution office, Lebong regent, North Bengkulu regent, chairpersons of Lebong Regency and North Bengkulu DPRD (Regional Legislative Council), North Bengkulu and Lebong precinct police chiefs (kapolres), Bengkulu and Lebong Regency military district commanders (Dandim), Lebong district attorney general (kajari), Bengkulu Provincial Land Agency (BPN), assistant for government and welfare affairs of Bengkulu provincial secretariat, head of the government and welfare affairs bureau of Bengkulu provincial secretariat, head of legal bureau of Bengkulu provincial secretariat, Bengkulu Province Natural Resources and Conservation Agency, Bengkulu Province Population and Civil Registry, and the Bengkulu Province Civil Service Police Unit attended the meeting.

The conclusion of the meeting was that a team was to establish to verify and disseminate Permendagri No. 20 of 2015 to retrace coordinates and ensure which coordinates are to be revised. The team would consist of the territorial affirmation teams (PBD) of the Central Government, Bengkulu Province, North Bengkulu Regency, and Lebong Regency.

Then, as a follow up to said meeting, Bengkulu governor set up another meeting on April 7, 2022 where he invited North Bengkulu regent and staff, Lebong regent and staff, the provincial PBD team, the North Bengkulu Regency PBD team, and the Lebong Regency PBD team. However, only Lebong Regency government, Bengkulu provincial secretariat, Bengkulu Provincial Land Agency, and Lebong Regency presidium figures attended.

North Bengkulu Regency government did not attend, citing agreement with the Regional Leadership Communication Forum to be consistent with Permendagri No. 20 of 2015. Any disagreeing parties were welcome to take legal measures in accordance with Permendagri No. 141 of 2017 on the affirmation of regional borders.

Also read:

Lebong Regency Govt Questions Certainty of Borders 

Petitioner’s Legal Team Reveals Lebong-North Bengkulu Territorial Dispute 

Govt Asserts Formation of Lebong Regency in Line with Constitution 

Bengkulu Governor Talks Lebong Regency’s Borders

DPR, North Bengkulu Regent Respond to Lebong Regency’s Claims 

Former Lebong Regent Reveals Territorial Agreement

Petitioner’s Expert Reveals Lebong’s History

Dispute between Lebong-North Bengkulu Regency Governments over Padang Bano

Witness Questions Absence of Regulation on N. Bengkulu-Rejang Lebong Borders

The petition No. 71/PUU-XXI/2023 was filed by Lebong regent Kopli Ansori and Lebong regency DPRD (Regional Legislative Council) chairman Carles Ronsen on behalf of the regional government of Lebong Regency, Bengkulu Province. At the preliminary hearing on Tuesday, July 25, 2023, they asserted that Article 1 point 10 of the Law on the Establishment of North Bengkulu Regency and its elucidation had harmed them, as it had resulted in the loss of the entire Padang Bano Subdistrict as well as some of 18 villages in 6 other subdistricts.

They claimed to be able to prove that Padang Bano Subdistrict and some of 18 villages in 6 other subdistricts belong to them based on a Law on the regency’s establishment, given that the residents of those areas had belonged to the electoral district of Lebong Regency in the presidential, DPR (House of Representatives), DPD (Regional Representatives Council), and DPRD (Regional Legislative Council) elections in 2009 and 2014, not to North Bengkulu Regency. 

Author       : Utami Argawati
Editor        : Nur R.
PR            : Raisa Ayuditha
Translator  : Yuniar Widiastuti (NL)

Disclaimer: The original version of the news is in Indonesian. In case of any differences between the English and the Indonesian versions, the Indonesian version will prevail.

Friday, March 22, 2024 | 11:24 WIB 33