The Battle Of Idealism

this article was published by Jakarta Globe On 2nd December 2009 :

Ongoing legal battles among our law-enforcement agencies have featured prominently in the news recently. For many of us working within the Indonesian legal system on a daily basis, it was not surprising that wiretapped conversations made public by the Constitutional Court suggested that some lawyers were involved in trying to weaken the Corruption Eradication Commission.

Brokering deals between lawyers and public servants is nothing new, and unfortunately, lawyers are often a part of the judicial mafia. These “black lawyers,” along with corrupt police, state prosecutors and judges involved with the judicial mafia, are “the elephants in the room” of our legal system.

This is a common problem and a complicated issue that urgently needs addressing. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono himself said last week that the country’s law enforcers must root out any practice of deal-brokering, and that the eradication of the judicial mafia is a priority for his first 100 days in government.

In relation to the case against the deputies from the antigraft commission, also known as the KPK, the whereabouts of Anggoro Widjojo, the fugitive businessman who first accused the officials of receiving bribes from him, remains unclear. One of his lawyers, Bonaran Situmeang, claims Anggoro refuses to return to Indonesia because law enforcers have been unfair to him and he is seeking justice according to his own views.

In this situation, lawyers are bound by the Advocate Law to protect their client’s privacy, so it would seem within reason that Anggoro’s lawyers have declined to disclose his whereabouts. But on the other hand, there is the little matter of national security. In this case, the lawyers for Anggoro are withholding information regarding an alleged criminal who is a threat to the country as the situation continues to deteriorate among the KPK, the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office. Furthermore, the Criminal Code deems concealing information about criminal actions a crime. This is where the battle of idealism begins.

Anggoro’s lawyers have the option to hide behind the Advocate Law to protect their client’s privacy. This choice would seem their best option; by giving up their client, they would be bound to lose their credibility as lawyers. However, what about their obligation to society, to protect the country and serve the people? A lawyer’s duty is not only to protect their clients, but also to ensure that our legal system works fairly and efficiently.

This is the question of the hour: Do Anggoro’s lawyers and all the so-called black lawyers really believe in the ethics and the morality that their profession stands for?

US President Woodrow Wilson once said that “the practice of law has become a more highly technical and complicated business.” This is one such example of that business. We have seen so much, in fact, that brokering deals with public servants and lawyers is nothing new in our beloved country. Shockingly, the public has been asked to pity Anggoro and his family, claiming he is a victim. If his lawyers say only a court can determine his guilt, then why don’t they bring their client back to Indonesia for a lawful trial?

With the Advocate Law having only been enacted in 2003, lawyers are still learning how to uphold the law in regard to their duty as a “law enforcers.” The infighting between the Indonesian Lawyers Association, Indonesian Congress of Advocates and the former Indonesian Union of Advocates was a clear example of how the learning process is still ongoing.

Other cases where lawyers were involved in brokering deals include the Bank Indonesia liquidity credit case, when Reno Iskandarsyah, the lawyer for Bank Restructuring Board (BPPN) Chief Glenn Yusuf, allegedly bribed state prosecutor Urip Tri Gunawan in January 2008. In the Harini Wiyoso case, the lawyer of Suharto’s step brother, Probosutedjo, bribed Supreme Court staff in regards to the graft case brought against his client in 2005. Then add to that the recent allegations against Lucas, the lawyer for Boedi Sampoerna, in connection to the controversial withdrawals in the PT Bank Century case, and the allegations that the lawyers for Nyoman Susrama, the brother of a local Bali district head who stands accused of murdering a Radar Bali journalist, encouraged witnesses in the trial to give false testimonies.

According to renowned Indonesia scholar Daniel S Lev, the reason lawyers here are widely known as brokers is because they believe that money makes the legal system work much better and more efficiently. That is why when they are handling cases, their perspective is often one of bribes and connections.

Today, talk of legal reform has begun reverberating following the very public clash between the state’s law enforcement agencies. Reform for lawyers, however, is often overlooked because lawyers are the exclusive representatives of civil society in the court and because they are independent of the state. But this is the prime reason why lawyers have a duty to serve the country by ensuring our judicial system works fairly, and that no money or connections are involved. Their devotion to the rule of law is paramount.

Since lawyers do not seem to want to stand up for the greater good, we now have to rely on the government to enforce the law reforms. We hope that the president’s “ Ganyang Mafia ” (“Crush the Judicial Mafia”) credo is not just rhetoric without substance, but also includes the mafioso that are often overlooked: the black lawyers.

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