Category Archives: indonesia

The race is on! (Indonesia)

With Mahkamah Konstitusi Chief Justice Mahfud MD stepping down, the race to replace him is already underway. The current candidates are Arief Hidayat, Sugianto and Djafar Al Bram, law professors at Indonesian universities. They have already undergone the “essay-writing” portion of the fit and proper test. 

According to The Jakarta Globe, several other candidates, including former Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar and law professors Lodewijk Gultom and Nimatul Huda have dropped out of the race. Patrialis had been the most prominent candidate in the race. According to Ruhut Poltak Sitompul, a member of the House of Representatives Komisi III, Patrialis withdrew because he likely would not have become chief justice. Instead, current justice Ali Mochtar will likely get the role.
With Patrialis out of the race, it also leaves a dearth of candidates with high-profile political experience. Many of the serving justices served either as MPs, ministers, or judges. There is a debate in the literature as to whether political experience helps judges resist demands from the other branches of government. Both Chief Justices Mahfud and Jimly had served in the legislature in some capacity and both were infamous for being canny tacticians. In the U.S., some of the most celebrated justices, such as Earl Warren and Hugo Black, made their careers in politics. 
A law professor might also bring a more doctrinal perspective to the bench. Some Indonesian scholars believe the “politician-justices” are too pragmatic in their decisions. The charge “legislating from the bench” is often leveled. The law professors might bring a more theoretical approach to their judging.
So far, Mahfud is the only confirmed resignation, but Harjono also must resign at the end of this term (he’ll have served two terms). None of the other justices are required to retire, so it looks like the bench will remain largely the same.

Comments Off on The race is on! (Indonesia)

Filed under indonesia, Mahkamah Konstitusi

Pay for performance? (Indonesia)

Indonesia’s government has increased raised judicial salaries in an attempt to combat corruption. According to The Jakarta Post, salaries had been set at Rp 1.8 million to Rp 4.5 million ($186 to $465) per month, but will rise to Rp. 10.5-45 million (approx. $1,086-4,657) per month, a tenfold increase. Perhaps even more surprisingly, this makes Indonesian judges amongst the highest paid in Asia (Singapore’s are the highest overall).

The Supreme Court has stated its hope that this move will reduce corruption within the judiciary. The logic goes that judges will be less tempted to accept bribes. However, there is little empirical evidence that simply increasing the salaries of public servants decreases corruption. To some extent, public officials will not need to resort to corruption in order to survive. However, plenty of corrupt officials have continued engaging in corruption even after becoming rich. Suharto reaped billions, thousands of times what he would have needed to live a comfortable lifestyle. Cross-national research on corruption is notoriously unreliable (for a review of the literature, see Treisman (2007)).
Overall, this is an encouraging move. It’s hard to imagine any significant downsides to increasing judicial salaries. Even if it doesn’t reduce corruption overnight, it might make the judiciary a more attractive career for the best and brightest lawyers.

Comments Off on Pay for performance? (Indonesia)

Filed under corruption, indonesia, judicial reform

JC vs. SC redux (Indonesia)

A few weeks ago, I’d mentioned that Palembang District Court Judge Daming Sanusi was criticized for having made an impolitic joke about rape during his “fit and proper test” before the DPR. Daming has since withdrawn his candidacy but the Judicial Commission has announced its desire for the Supreme Court to try him for ethics violations. According to The Jakarta Post, the Supreme Court has refused, stating that Daming has already issued a “sincere apology.”

The Commission is continuing its campaign, but, because of the Constitutional Court decision in 2006, it lacks the power to enforce ethics standards and prosecute judges itself. There are no constitutional issues at stake in the current dispute between the JC and SC thus far, but the dispute is important as a sign of whether and how Indonesia can deal with wayward judges. Given the public outrage over the incident, it’s possible the JC can mobilize public opinion on its behalf.

Comments Off on JC vs. SC redux (Indonesia)

Filed under ethics, indonesia, judicial commission, judicial reform

Sex and the Courtroom (Indonesia)

I’ve always said Indonesians are some of the most creative politicians in the world when it comes to corruption. The DPR is drafting a new bribery law, and several commentators, including Constitutional Court Chief Justice Mahfud MD, argue that the law should include sexual favors within the definition of bribery. According to Mahfud’s comments in The Jakarta Globe, businesses and politicians have employed mistresses and prostitutes as lobbyists.

Mahfud acknowledges that prosecuting “sexual bribery” will be difficult. However, he doesn’t ever suggest that there would be a constitutional problem with including “sexual bribery” in the law. Of course, this raises the question of why Mahfud is commenting on the law. Given public outrage over corruption, one can’t help but wonder if this is another instance of Mahfud positioning himself for a presidential run.

However, some judges are clearly not running for popularity contests. Daming Sunusi, a judge from Banjarmasin, East Kalimantan, recently appeared in the DPR for his “fit and proper” test. According to The Jakarta Post, when asked about the death penalty for rapists, he cautioned, “Both the victims of rape and the rapist might have enjoyed their intercourse together, so we should think twice before handing down the death penalty.” Perhaps it’s wise that U.S. Supreme Court nominees remain absolutely silent when appearing before the Senate.

UPDATE (1/16/12): According to The Jakarta Post, it looks like the Judiciary Commission is not only not recommending Daming Sunusi for the Supreme Court, but also investigating whether he violated judicial ethics with his rape comments.

Comments Off on Sex and the Courtroom (Indonesia)

Filed under corruption, indonesia, rape, sex

The finale for the Lapindo saga? (Indonesia)

It’s perhaps a bit surprising that Indonesia’s Constitutional Court hadn’t gotten involved in adjudicating the Lapindo claims earlier, but its latest decision seems to be an attempt to set the final word. According to The Jakarta Globe, the MK imposed a limit on claims against Lapindo for the 2006 mudflow in East Java. The petition asked the MK to reject a portion of the state budget allowing the Indonesian government to allocate funds to compensate victims. While critics allege that the decision lets Lapindo off the hook, the MK counters that it made clear that Lapindo is still liable for damages within a certain affected area.

Aside from the immediate impact of the opinion, what’s also interesting is the potential effect on Mahfud’s political ambitions. Golkar Chairman Aburizal Bakrie owns Lapindo. Bakrie is also running for president in 2014. Not coincidentally, Bakrie hasn’t be polling well. Is the MK’s decision a peace offering to GOLKAR in case Mahfud wants to get into the race and partner with GOLKAR? Or is it a shot against Bakrie’s candidacy?

Comments Off on The finale for the Lapindo saga? (Indonesia)

Filed under indonesia, Lapindo