Trust Is One Thing Missing in Indonesia’s Legal System


Reading headlines about law enforcement in Indonesia worries me. Starting from the case of the tax official Gayus Tambunan who was allegedly involved in embezzling billions of rupiah, then followed by the news of the alleged case broker Syahril Djohan and then the case that drew a lot of sympathy, where Chairul, a beggar, was framed in a criminal scene regarding to marijuana possession. Luckily for Chairul, the Central Jakarta district court acquitted him based on fake dossier by the police.

Confirming the country’s worst fear, as a response to the rampant violation of law, in April, the Non Governmental Organization, Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) declared that the Indonesian Judicial System is now facing an emergency situation. Furthermore, in December 2008, Transparansi Internasional Indonesia (TII) conducted a survey which concluded that the Indonesian law enforcement is seen as the most corrupt institution in the country.

All of this risks a significant decrease in trust in our nation’s legal system. Philosopher John Locke, an English wrote in his Social Contract theory that legal system is established through a government’s authority with the mandate of the people as a basis. The people surrender themselves to their governments in the hopes that a sovereign government can create a legal system which can protect the rights of the people and create order in their everyday lives.

What are the consequences if a legal system no longer runs on its primary requirement which is trust?

When the legal system is no longer functioning as it should, it should no longer be a surprise when certain people no longer feel the need to comply with what is written in statutes.

Tax payers might be reluctant to pay taxes in fear that the taxes that they have paid are pocketed by government officials and not used to build their country.

In Indonesia, even a lower ranked tax official, such as Gayus had the guts to embezzle billions of rupiahs. The police didn’t have any reservations in framing Chairul, and rampant judicial mafia practice occurs in everyday life. This is all because these people no longer believe that the legal system will work and serve for them. They no longer trust the legal system to exist. An even scarier thought, is the fact on how easy it is to falsify documents giving the opportunity for terrorists to not only harbor in Indonesia but to also have access to weapons.

Attorney Philip Howard, the founder of US group Common Good, referred to this situation as a “universal distrust of the system” where law is no longer viewed as a “human institution” that contributes to humanity.

He expressly pointed out that solution for problems such as these, is to “restore the trust” of the people in the legal system because the trust in law would result ini greater control on human behavior. I agree with his point.

I believe the government lacks awareness of a “universal distrust” situation. It has merely established an extra instruments such as the Judicial Mafia Task Force and the Legal Law Enforcers Forum between the Supreme Court, Law and Human Rights Ministry, Procesutor and the National Police (Mahkumjakpol) to ensure the legal system works properly and equally serve the Indonesian people.

But are these the solutions we need?

In practice, the Judicial Mafia Task Force only works on a case per case basis. Legal expert Luhut Pangaribuan also stated that the establishment of the law enforcers forum, shows that the law can be negotiated. These quick fixes are equivalent to a band-aid on a wound of distrust. We need more than quick fixes. We need a massive overhaul. Building trust does not happen overnight.

The first step to rebuild the trust must begin from the law enforcers. The above should be followed by strengthening all law enforcer supervision agencies. The Judicial Commission (KY) as a judicial watchdog is still arguably toothless. The National Police Commission (Kompolnas) and the Prosecutor Commission (Komisi Kejaksaan) are still far from their expected goals. Moreover, nowadays lawyers are too busy fighting for their own personal interests.

Therefore, we need the government’s (in a broad sense) effort as a holder of the authority to fix the broken legal system and begin to build the trust rather than providing a “quick fix” solution.

One important point that is so often brought up is the need to reconsider and revise laws that contradict human rights, laws that are outdated and laws that are not in line with the development of society. Such can occur only if there are good and competent law makers. That is why I believe that amending and revising the law will not be the only answer without any trust as its foundation.

After the public sees that the law enforcement can be upheld and equally serve the people, the trust will slowly begin within the community, community will then begin to internalize the law.  As a direct result, legal order in our every day lives can be established.

When the time comes, we no longer need the judicial mafia task force, the legal enforcers forum and the extraordinary legal enforcers such as Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

What we need now is clear. We must build a legal system that contains trust as the essential condition. As a payback I believe people will feel free to trust and obey our legal system. Therefore, were ready to face the challenges as a developed nation who dreamed of becoming a wealthy nation.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Trust Is One Thing Missing in Indonesia’s Legal System

  1. How to build the people’s trust? Legal certainty. To create certainty on the law, what is written must be reflected by what is implemented. In fact, law enforcers (KPK, Polri, Kejaksaan) must act consistent with the ideal purpose of law. Unfortunately, misrepresentation and violation of their own code of conduct are often appears to the public. Such condition only makes our trust decreasing.

    • Thanks san. I cant agree more.

      But we shouldnt forget about our lawmakers. We need good lawmakers to provide a good law that keep up with the development of the society. We need to reconsider archaic law both in regional and national.

      And fair election is a must. People surrender and put “trust” to the higher authority through election.

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