Pub­lic trust crum­bles as chief jus­tice hit by al­leged ethics breach

The Jakarta Post - - NATIONAL - Mar­guerite Afra Sapiie and Nu­rul Fitri Ra­mad­hani

The Con­sti­tu­tional Court chief jus­tice Arief Hi­dayat has been hit by al­le­ga­tions of ethics vi­o­la­tions sur­round­ing “po­lit­i­cal horse­trad­ing” with law­mak­ers to grant him a sec­ond term on the court.

Arief se­cured his seat for the next five years fol­low­ing ap­proval by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in a ple­nary meet­ing on Thurs­day, a day af­ter he took part in a con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, held by House Com­mis­sion III over­see­ing le­gal af­fairs, as the sole can­di­date for a seat on the court bench.

How­ever, a coali­tion of civil so­ci­ety groups has ac­cused Arief and the com­mis­sion of a lack of trans­parency re­gard­ing his reap­point­ment when his cur­rent term ends in March next year.

The groups, led by for­mer chair­man of the Cor­rup­tion Eradication Com­mis­sion (KPK), Busyro Muqod­das, re­tracted their pe­ti­tion for a ju­di­cial re­view of an ar­ti­cle in the 2014 Leg­isla­tive In­sti­tu­tions Law (MD3), which is cur­rently be­ing heard by the court. The ar­ti­cle stip­u­lates the House’s in­quiry rights and is be­ing used as the ba­sis for a con­tro­ver­sial in­quiry into the KPK. The group al­leged that the ju­di­cial re­view had be­come the ob­ject of po­lit­i­cal lob­by­ing be­tween Arief and sev­eral mem­bers of Com­mis­sion III over his term ex­ten­sion.

“We had been hope­ful that the Court would make a just, fair and im­par­tial rul­ing when we lodged the pe­ti­tion, but af­ter [the Arief de­ci­sion] we are very dis­ap­pointed and have agreed to with­draw our pe­ti­tion,” Busyro said on Thurs­day.

The court is the fi­nal ad­ju­di­ca­tor of dis­putes on the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of na­tional laws and elec­tion re­sults. Since its es­tab­lish­ment in 2003, the court’s nine jus­tices have had the au­thor­ity to safe­guard democ­racy as the court hears re­quests from cit­i­zens to change or an­nul laws and elec­tion re­sults.

When the law­mak­ers in­sisted on pro­ceed­ing with its con­tro­ver­sial in­quiry into the KPK, mem­bers of the pub­lic turned to the court to chal­lenge the House’s in­quiry rights in the 2014 law in July. The coali­tion was one among four plain­tiffs who filed mo­tions at the court chal­leng­ing the House’s in­quiry, which they be­lieved was aimed at un­der­min­ing the KPK’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the high-pro­file elec­tronic e-ID graft case im­pli­cat­ing dozens of politi­cians.

Ad­nan Topan Hu­sodo, an ac­tivist with the In­done­sia Cor­rup­tion Watch (ICW), a mem­ber of the coali­tion, said the re­trac­tion was a form of protest at the un­der­min­ing of the cred­i­bil­ity of the Con­sti­tu­tional Court by Arief who, he al­leged, en­gaged in po­lit­i­cal ma­neu­ver­ing that breached jus­tice ethics.

“The Con­sti­tu­tional Court is the coun­try’s gate­keeper of jus­tice, but if the chief jus­tice him­self is [im­pli­cated in ethics vi­o­la­tions] then who should we trust?” Ad­nan said.

The ICW was among the coali­tion of civil so­ci­ety groups that filed a re­port on Arief’s al­leged ethics breach and urged the Con­sti­tu­tional Court ethics coun­cil to in­ves­ti­gate the is­sue on Wed­nes­day.

Arief has re­peat­edly de­nied al­le­ga­tions of lob­by­ing, although he ad­mit­ted that he had met sev­eral law­mak­ers of the com­mis­sion at a ho­tel in Jakarta. Arief claimed that they had only ar­ranged a sched­ule for the screen­ing of his nom­i­na­tion dur­ing the meet­ing.

The ple­nary on Thurs­day ended with no fac­tion re­ject­ing Arief’s reap­point­ment. The op­po­si­tion Gerindra Party, the only fac­tion to ob­ject to Arief, de­clined to elab­o­rate on their po­si­tion and ab­stained.

Pre­vi­ously, Arief at­tended a meet­ing with the ethics coun­cil dur­ing which the chief jus­tice clar­i­fied the mat­ter, stat­ing that he at­tended the meet­ing with law­mak­ers based on an of­fi­cial invitation, Con­sti­tu­tional Court spokesper­son Fa­jar Lak­sono said.

“From the in­for­ma­tion I’ve gath­ered, there was no po­lit­i­cal lob­by­ing let alone ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the au­thor­ity of the Con­sti­tu­tional Court and the House,” Fa­jar said.

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