Time to Change the Leadership at the Ministry of Justice?

Riots that erupted in several prisons in Sumatra last July/August have made the public pay more attention to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (Kementerian Hukum dan Hak Asasi Manusia/KemenkumHAM), especially to its minister, Amir Syamsudin, and his deputy, Denny Indrayana. The extensive damage to the prisons and the escape of some prisoners, which resulted from the riots, have proven to be the ultimate test of their leadership. Furthermore, exposure of the drug trade operating inside the prisons led to the dismantlement of their corrupt management. The litany of such cases had made ​​the public wonder what kind of progress Deputy Minister Indrayana has achieved by conducting unannounced inspections over the last two years. So far, it does not appear he has achieved much more than vocal criticism from politicians and legal experts.

Let us start with the Chairman of the House of Representatives, Marzukie Ali, and members of Commission III (in charge of law, human rights, and security) such as Nasir Djamil and Fahri Hamzah. Hamzah once commented that Syamsudin and Indrayana were incompetent to take care of prisons in Indonesia. During his tenure as Chairman of Commission III, Gede Pasek Suardika said that Indonesia is experiencing an emergency situation due to lack of leadership in the management of the prisons. So it is not surprising if people think that the unannounced prison inspections in various areas that Indrayana conducted were nothing more than a public relations exercise that achieved no meaningful results.

It is not merely chaotic prison management that made the House speak so loudly in its criticism of the ministry and suggest that President SBY remove Indrayana from his deputy position. Last October, Indrayana returned to the spotlight because he divulged the contents of the government law related to the rescue of the Supreme Constitution Court, even before the policy was issued. The content later leaked to the press was quite different from the one that was ultimately enacted by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Therefore, the public thinks Indrayana committed a serious offense by spreading false information about the state institution.

Indrayana’s powerful figure represents Kemenkumham and is never free from controversy. Before entering the circle of government as he is now, Indrayana was well known for criticizing the government of SBY. In 2007, he spoke about how the non-budgetary funds that involved the Ministry of Marine and Fisheries influenced SBY’s victory in the 2004 presidential election, as well as the case of inquiry in Parliament related to the rise of fuel prices in 2008. In those two cases, Indrayana believed the House could conduct impeachment against SBY. But no different from most activists who “softened” after sitting in a chair of leadership, Indrayana’s critical voice now turns to defend the interests of SBY.

That was the impression when Indrayana entered the presidential circles and was appointed as the Secretary of the Justice Mafia Eradication Task Force. People believed the agency was made only to serve SBY’s image and take over the authority of other state agencies.

For example, in 2011 one of the members of the Task Force, Mas Ahmad Santosa, backed up the Greenpeace activist Andy Tait, who was deported from Indonesia. Member of House of Representatives from Commission I, Muhammad Najib, denounced the Task Force’s intervention in an immigration issue and said the action endangered the nation.

A similar impression is perceived by member of Commission III of the Golkar Party, Bambang Soesatyo. According to Soesatya, the tightening of remission and parole for corrupt politicians that Indrayana proposed in 2011 was not made ​​on the basis of legal equality. It was made only to bring SBY’s political opponents down. If tightening of the sentences was intended to combat the corruption and drugs as Indrayana said, then why did the Ministry of Justice not condemn SBY’s decision to grant clemency for Schapelle Corby, a convicted Australian drug smuggler? Does Kemenkumham intend to apply inefficient double standards in law and policy?

Undoubtedly, that makes Denny Indrayana now a hardcore faithful follower of SBY. But it’s not something profitable for both of them. Still, according to Soesatya, Indrayana is more like Sengkuni in the Mahabharata epic who is always pitted against the Kauravas and Pandavas. Indrayana’s whispers to SBY eventually could undermine SBY himself, for example when SBY chose Hendarman Supandji as Attorney General for the second time in 2010. The decision was then contested by Yusril Ihza Mahendra. And Indrayana, who was still serving on the legal presidential staff, provided wrong input to SBY when he assumed that the appointment of Hendarman was legitimate. This was input that led to Yusril’s victory in the Constitutional Court and forced SBY to remove Supandji as Attorney General in September 2011.

SBY has closed his eyes to chaotic issues in Indonesia that undermine himself and keep Indrayana safe in his cabinet. Perhaps SBY still needs his most loyal staff to take care of some legal issues in the Ministry of Justice. Or perhaps SBY still wants to prove to the public that Indrayana deserves the deputy position because of his own competencies. But SBY definitely cannot close his eyes to the fact that the state is responsible for providing safety and security to its citizens. Every single citizen in this country deserves a peaceful sleep at night without being concerned about how so many prisoners successfully escaped from prison. The thing is, with all the track records mentioned above, did SBY assign the right person to do the job? Or is it time for the President to make some changes in the Ministry of Law & Human Rights?

photo credit: donsutherland1 via photopin cc

About Ika 12 Articles
Ika Virginaputri is an independent writer and current-affairs observer for the Dekker Center. She lives in Jakarta and writing for the Dekker Center and national and international media.

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