Indonesia New Order

Intentional misinterpretation...
Law under the New Order


To repeat from Overview of the Indonesian Legal System by New York University earlier:


However, New Order era had its downsides. With the view to stabilize ideological and political unrests and unruly competitions, a set of legislations and institutions, including the infamous Anti Subversion Law of 1969, was put in place. Additionally, the judiciary was consistently marginalized and stripped of its power as an equal branch of the government. Administration of justice was conducted by the executive branch: the Department of Justice covered general courts of first instance and appeals, the Department of Religious Affairs covered religious courts, and the Department of Defense covered the military courts.

Violation of human rights was one of several issues that drew worldwide criticism. The Judiciary lost its respect in the eyes of the public. Corruption, collusion, and nepotism were fairly associated with the executive, judiciary, and legislative branch of the government. Creation of National Commission on Human Rights (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia) with Law No. 7/1993 did not solve the systemic and manpower problems in New Order government. When the opposing powers gained the momentum, President Soeharto resigned in May 1998, and a new era started.



[In the Reform Era] pursuant to Law No. 4/2004 on Judicial Powers that repealed Law No. 14/1974 as amended by Law No 35/1999, the Supreme Court assumes all organizational, administrative, and financial responsibility for the lower courts from the Department of Justice and Human Rights, Department of Religious Affairs, and Department of Defense. One roof system of administration of justice under the Supreme Court was finally created. Accordingly, amendments to preexisting legislations are consistently made to fit in the new political framework and administration of justice.

The formal authority over the courts changed, but the actors, operations, and methods did not much change.

In 2004 President Yudhoyono mandated the Judicial Commision—Komisi Yusisial—to help root out corruption and collusion in the court system. It made a good start, but like many other reform commissions in Indonesia, its powers were striped just as it began to have an effect.

To quote from my own Eleven Demons:

Corruption in the Indonesian legal system was widely recognized as one of the main obstacles to development, and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had set up the Komisi Yudisial within the first months of taking office in 2004. But as popular as the Komisi Yudisial was with the public, it was hugely unpopular with the elite and with many judges.

President Yudhoyono had decreed that the Komisi Yudisial had power to discipline and remove judges suspected of collusion. But in a legal system ruled by money, the powerful and the wealthy had a vested interest in corruption. Corruption was often how they had gained power and wealth in the first place, and they understood how the system worked and how to take advantage of it. The judges themselves received such low salaries that their only hope to move into the elite class to which they aspired was to accept payments for decisions.

Faced with opposition from the most influential classes in Indonesia, the Komisi Yudisial was having a tough time, and the elite had another weapon in the Komisi Konstitusi—the Constitutional Commission—also set up by President Yudhoyono to resolve constitutional issues and prevent the extra-constitutional manipulations of the Suharto years.

But now the two commissions were in a face off, and the advantage was against the Komisi Yudisial, not only because of the opposition of the elites, but because a clear argument could be made that the Komisi Yudisial itself was extra-constitutional.

The 1945 constitution defined the Mahkamah Agung as the supreme court of Indonesia with authority over all other courts. For the president to set up a commission with authority over judges of the Mahkamah Agung was a violation of separation of powers. Suddenly people who had twisted the law for years became avid supporters of the constitution.

It was progress in a way, and perhaps taking the long view it was even beneficial. If arguing the constitution was only a tactic in the short run to re-enable corruption in the courts, it at least strengthened the concept of constitutional principles.

But in the short run, and in the case we were living, Maharidzal was worried...