Legal Matters in Indonesia

Finding Indonesian Law


An overview of the difficulties in accessing accurate information about Indonesian law, by Andrew Sriro.

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Legal Matters in Indonesia


The rule of law in Indonesia is in the process of major reform. Corruption is certainly an important villain in the process of legal development. Another impediment to the development of the rule of law related to systemic barriers to access to regulatory promulgation's.

Regional government offices and courts outside of Jakarta normally experience significant inconvenience in attempting to access the tens of thousands of laws regulations, regulations and decisions in effect and governing our social interactions. It is no wonder that some judges and lawyers are prevented from engaging in pure application of legal analysis to factual situations due to the inability to find the law.

Most people don't realize the fact that the Indonesian government is an extremely adept instrument for the promulgation of laws and regulation. There is a tremendous amount of law on the books. Ana most of it is adequately written though sometimes requiring a bit of a torturous effort towards a reasonable interpretation. Nevertheless, the law is capable of serving its intended function if read and applied in good faith.

The Indonesian government has been making significant efforts to disseminate the law throughout the entire Indonesian archipelago. Given that the construction of law libraries throughout the entire Indonesian archipelago. Given that the construction of law libraries has probably been recognized to be beyond the budgetary needs of the Nation at this time, the government can be praised to some degree for the steps it has taken towards the development of web sited of various departments containing an ever growing quantity of download able laws and regulations.

Unfortunately Indonesia's low telephone density across the Nation and the number of those with access to telephone capable of carrying sufficient band width and clarity interconnect with the internet reduces the effectiveness of the government's internet law dissemination program even further. But that does not mean these government programs are misguided. In fact they are great steps for the Nation.

Although over the last few years the government has made great strides toward the provision of means to access the law, it is still necessary to visit relevant government departments and meet with government officials responsible in particular fields of interest to request assistance in obtaining relevant materials decrees and other promulgation's which govern legal relationships. Depending on the availability of officials, the accuracy and detail of answers provided is at times less than uniform and complete. Certainly more disturbing is the fact that access to governmental departments is still geographically limited to Jakarta, the Nations capital and the seat of government. This, for the more than two hundred million people living outside of the capital, reasonably efficient access tot he law is almost non-existent.

This is true not only for the ordinary citizen. It is also true for government officials including jurists and lawyers residing outside of Jakarta. In my visits to regional government offices and to regional courts, the lack of legal materials relevant to even the most directly related aspects of official duties is alarming.

To perform their duties, government officials are required to exercise discretion which may not comport to the true intentions of legislative promulgation's.

The exercise of discretion in the darkness created by the norm of near complete lack of access to existing black letter law has led to the feeling among the general population that fairness and morality are corrupted. The victims of these circumstances are average citizens who are left feeling powerless to defend themselves through demands for enforcement of laws to which they have no access and thus of which they may have no knowledge.

Economic and legal experts unanimously agree that the number one problem for Indonesian socio-economic development is the need to strengthen the rule of law. Many feel that cries for strengthening of the rule of law have become nothing more than cliché.

It is probably safe to say that almost every international development institution with a presence in Indonesia is involved in at least one program designed to promote the rule of law. But, what tangible tool is placed in the common person's hands to empower the exercise of the human rights expected from a just civil society?

By Andrew Sriro, Dyah Ersita & Partners and SSEK Law Firm

The original of this article, including footnotes and links, can be found at: Legal Matters in Indonesia