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Indonesian justice appointment 'a setback to democracy'
Publication Date : 31-07-2013
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has selected former law and justice minister Patrialis Akbar as a Constitutional Court justice, a move many have said could be a setback to democracy given the lack of transparency and accountability in its vetting process.
The Constitutional Court, which is expected to settle a lot of electoral disputes ahead of the 2014 general elections, could become political with the appointment of Patrialis, who is currently a member of the National Mandate Party (PAN).
Patrialis is expected to replace justice Achmad Sodiki, who will end his tenure on August 16.
Patrialis is a former lawmaker of PAN, chaired by Hatta Rajasa, an in-law of the President.
Activists from the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam), the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) and the Indonesial Legal Roundtable (ILR) blasted the president for making the politically-charged pick.
“Why choose someone with such a political background. We have Hamdan and now Patrialis. The Constitutional Court is supposed to be neutral ground to judge laws produced through a political process in the House,” Wahyudin Djafar of Elsam said on Tuesday.
Wahyudin was referring to justice Hamdan Zoelva, who was a former Crescent Star Party (PBB) lawmaker and was also Yudhoyono’s pick in 2010.
“Such a discrete selection process has raised suspicion and will set a bad precedent, a setback to our democracy,” Wahyudin said.
Wahyudin added that Yudhoyono had also violated articles 19 and 20, paragraph 2 of the 2011 Constitutional Court Law, which stipulate the nomination of justice candidates should conducted transparently and with participation from the public.
Patrialis is also known for his lacklustre performance as minister.
Under Patrialis’ leadership, the ministry was frequently criticised as being too “generous” in granting sentence reduction to graft convicts, especially when it granted remission to former Bank Indonesia deputy governor Aulia Pohan, another in law of Yudhoyono.
Patrialis was sworn in as law and human rights minister in October 2009.
During his tenure, the ministry was deemed an underperforming ministry.
He was removed from Yudhoyono’s Cabinet in 2011.
In 2009, Patrialis, who was a lawmaker, joined the justice selection but failed during the fit and proper test.
In late February, Patrialis dropped out of the race to replace then chief justice Mahfud MD, whose term expired in April.
“Why choose someone who has failed in the race once and has a bad record? We urge the president to drop Patrialis’ appointment or we will file a suit against the decree to the PTUN [Jakarta State Administrative Court],” ICW’s Emerson Yuntho said.
The NGOs also expected to meet the Presidential Advisory Council on Wednesday to state their objections, as well as to urge the council to form a committee to conduct another search for a new justice.
Chief Justice Akil Mochtar confirmed his office had been notified of Patrialis’ appointment.
Akil said regardless of their political background, all justices must be impartial.
“In this institution, what matters most is independence and this is essential to guard our Constitution,” Akil said.
Patrialis shrugged off the objection, saying he deserved the position.
“Please convey my message to the NGOs. I have enough knowledge of the Constitutional Court as I once was a member of People’s Consultative Assembly [MPR] committee and worked to amend the Constitution,” he said.