Constitutional Court Chief Justice Mahfud MD certainly has developed a reputation for making controversial statements. However, his recent proposal for judicial reform might be his most controversial yet. According to The Jakarta Post, in a recent speech, he advocated firing all enforcement officers and replacing them. His logic is that the only way to break the networks of corruption is to fill judicial institutions with individuals not plugged into the networks.
I actually don’t know of any country that has pursued such a drastic strategy. Pak Mahfud’s logic is sound, but I’d be shocked if Indonesia’s political elite agreed to it. However, if Pak Mahfud himself becomes a vice presidential candidate in 2014, he might have more opportunities to push his proposals.
As I’ve said for a while now, I’ve been a bit worried that, despite the rhetoric, we have yet to see any concrete proposals for judicial reform in Myanmar. Now, according to The Irrawaddy, the Hluttaw Rule of Law Committee is inspecting conditions in Yangon courts. According to New Democracy Party MP Thein Nyunt, the committee will propose draft legislation on judicial reform by the end of October. While that seems optimistic given how long it’s taken to pass the foreign investment law, it is encouraging to see signs of tangible movement.
In the aftermath of Chief Justice Corona’s impeachment, Steven Rood and Carolyn Mercado have penned their thoughts on the prospects for judicial reform for the Asia Foundation’s blog. It’s a compact summary of prior reforms and will certainly make many hearken back to the Davide era.
Every once in a while I see articles in The New Light of Myanmar about Myanmar judges meeting with Chinese judges. The visits are obviously public and official, as they are reported in the news. It’d be interested to see whether these visits are part of a a broader engagement. China has undertaken several judicial reform projects, but interestingly still managed to keep the judiciary both formally and informally under the Communist Party. On the one hand, given the pace of political reforms in Myanmar today, it’s hard to believe the government views China’s judiciary as a model. On the other hand, China’s successes in professionalizing judges might hold powerful lessons for Myanmar.
The most recent of these articles is below:
Chief Justice of Yangon Region High Court receives Vice-President of Yunnan Provincial Supreme People’s Court
YANGON, 21 May- At the invitation of U Win Swe, Chief Justice of Yangon Region High Court, a delegation led by Mr Wang Shuliang, Vice-President of the Yunnan Provincial Supreme People’s Court currently in Myanmar paid a call on the Chief Justice of Yangon Region High Court and justices at region chief justice hall this morning.
They discussed judicial affairs and also studied criminal cases.-MNA
The Asian Human Rights Commission released a statement condemning the continued subordination of Myanmar’s judiciary. AHRC alleges the government’s talks the talk, but so far hasn’t walked the walk:
“The legacy of judicial corruption is today in the foreground of media and public debate, but the anti-corruption rhetoric that we hear is essentially a continuation of the same type of rhetoric that successive military and military-backed regimes iterated for decades,” said the AHRC.
In reporting on the statement, The Irrawaddy highlights recent libel suits against The Voice and Modern Weekly.
While of concern, I do think the government’s rhetoric is changing. Whereas a few years ago military officials would admonish judges and blame judicial corruption on loose morals, now public officials seem at least implicitly more willing to acknowledge systemic problems that lead to corruption. As I’ve written before, the Hluttaw has even taken to reviewing allegations of judicial bias. What’s becoming more troubling now is the gap between acknowledgement of the problem and effective judicial reforms.