Desperately Seeking Justice

The Depok KPUD has filed a request for judicial review over a West Java High Court verdict which annulled the election of Nurmahmudi Ismail as Mayor of Depok.LAST Thursday, former Indonesian Minister of Forestry, Nurmahmudi Ismail, scrutinized the journalists standing before him before breaking into a smile and announcing: “We will still put up a fight, but we will stage our protest without using undermining or subversive tactics.” Ismail was attending a function held by businessman Setiawan Djody at the Hilton Hotel. “I will continue to seek justice. We will fight this constitutionally,” he continued.

On August 4 the West Java High Court delivered a blow to both Nurmahmudi Ismail and his Justice & Prosperity Party (PKS), annulling Ismail’s election as Mayor of Depok. Chaired by Justice Nana Juwana, the presiding judicial panel ruled that Ismail’s campaign backers had hiked his votes by 27,782 rendering his election invalid. The election took place on July 26.

The court further accused Ismail’s campaign staff of sabotaging 62,770 votes that would have otherwise gone to Badrul Kamal-Syihabuddin Ahmad, supported by the Golkar Party and the National Awakening Party (PKB). In a controversial ruling, the court ruled that these votes should be added to the Kamal-Ahmad team. Based on this new tally, the court ruled that Kamal-Ahmad were the legitimate election victors.

Nurmahmudi Ismail, the PKS and the Depok Regional Elections Commission (KPUD) were infuriated by the High Court verdict. They claim that the verdict was based on flawed reasoning, in particular the court’s claim of vote sabotage. “How could they simply transfer tens of thousands of votes directly to Badral Kamal and acknowledge these as his votes?” said Muhamad Razikun, Chairperson of the PKS Election Victory Board.

The PKS also claims that court’s verdict is legally flawed. According to Razikun, Law No. 32/2004 on Regional Government stipulates that the court should have delivered its verdict regarding election voting results within a 14-day time limit. However, the West Java High Court verdict was delivered 20 days after the lawsuit had been filed.

The PKS further claims that the court overstepped its jurisdiction in deciding the case. The PKS has protested the court’s assumption and ultimate declaration that the “sabotaged” votes would have gone to Badrul Kamal. “This verdict violates Article 106, which stipulates that the court can only adjudicate on the results of the vote tallying. In addition to this, it is not supported by authentic proof,” said Razikun.

Razikun also claims that the actual trial process was unusual. “One judge was suddenly replaced in the middle of the trial. And that judge was critical to the outcome of the lawsuit,” he said.

However, the PKS has said that it would not respond to the High Court verdict with emotion. In addition to staging peaceful protests in Depok and Bogor, the PKS said that it would pursue legal avenues to resolve the dispute.

Last Wednesday, the PKS brought the case to the Judicial Commission. Pursuant to Law No. 22/2004 on the Judicial Commission, the commission is not authorized to investigate the substance of the verdict. However, the commission is authorized to question judges whom it suspects have acted inappropriately or unprofessionally in performing their duties. “In the upcoming weeks, we will summon all judges involved in the case,” said Judicial Commission member, Soekotjo Soeparto.

According to Soeparto, the commission has already begun studying the High Court verdict. “Our task is to guard the proper conduct of judges. So, we will investigate whether the judges adjudicating over this case have acted properly in delivering their decision,” he said. If the commission finds that the judges have acted inappropriately in handing down their verdict, it can recommend that the Supreme Court dismiss the rogue judges.

Last Monday, Supreme Court Chief Justice Bagir Manan summoned West Java High Court head, Nana Juwana, who presided over the Depok election case. Indeed, the Supreme Court has been quick to respond to the social protest against the High Court verdict. In fact, Bagir Manan recently announced that the Supreme Court had already formed a special team appointed to study the High Court verdict. This team comprises five Supreme Court justices, namely Paulus E. Lotulung (chair), Parman Soeparman, Arifin Tumpa, Joko Sarwoko and Iman Sukti.

According to Tempo’s source at the Supreme Court, Bagir Manan himself expressed disappointment with Justice Nana Juwana’s verdict. However, Juwana refused to comment on his meeting with Bagir Manan and Paulus Lotulung. “I have been asked by the Supreme Court Chief Justice to refrain from commenting,” he said.

Last Tuesday, the Depok KPUD also filed a request with the Supreme Court for judicial review of the High Court verdict. According to Depok KPUD head, Zulfadli, this request was made on two grounds: first, that the court exceeded the 14-day time limit in delivering its verdict; second, in protest of the court’s ruling that votes had been obstructed and that these votes should be added to Badrul Kamal’s vote tally. “The verdict is flawed and we have requested the Supreme Court review it,” said Zulfadli.

However, Depok Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) member, Babay Suhami claims that the KPUD’s request for judicial review is pointless. According to Suhami, the KPUD should have expressed its objections during the trial, summoning witnesses to back up its arguments. “In responding to judicial mistakes, the judges should be examined, not the verdict,” said Suhami.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court team examining the case has reportedly already taken steps to resolve the matter. According to Tempo’s source at the Supreme Court, the team has already made three recommendations over the High Court verdict, namely that the High Court verdict be annulled, that the rogue judges be sanctioned and that the Supreme Court Monitoring head conducts intensive investigation over the judicial panel members adjudicating over the case. “Those judges are guilty of unprofessional conduct,” said this source.

When Tempo asked Supreme Court panel member Arifin Tumpa about the truth of these reports, he just shook his head and said: “Ask the chief.”

L.R. Baskoro, Mawar Kusuma, Abdul Manan

***

PKS Objections

THE PKS has filed a lawsuit against the West Java High Court’s verdict over Badrul Kamal’s lawsuit, annulling Nurmadmudi Ismail’s victory. The following are the grounds for the PKS lawsuit:

1. The verdict was not delivered within the 14-day time limit (in breach of Article 106 of Law No. 32/2004 on Regional Government).

2. The court based its verdict on false assumptions, declaring that thousands of votes had been obstructed and that these votes would have gone to Badrul Kamal. In delivering this verdict, the court ignored the official vote tally issued by the Depok KPUD. In addition to this, the presiding judicial panel overstepped its jurisdiction by not only adjudicating on the vote tally, but also on the actual election process, in violation of the prevailing legislation.

3. The Nurmahmudi Ismail-Yuyun Wirasaputra team was not given the opportunity to produce the evidence they possessed.

***

Timeline

PKS supporters only tasted fleeting happiness over the victory of their candidate, Nurmahmudi Ismail, in the Depok mayoral election.

July 6, 2005: The Depok KPUD declares Nurmahmudi Ismail-Yuyun Wirasaputra winners of the regional elections for Depok Mayor. The Ismail-Wirasaputra team defeated the Badrul Kamal-Syihabuddin team, supported by Golkar and the PKB.

August 4, 2005: The West Java High Court declares that approximately 62,770 votes had been obstructed and that these votes would have gone to Badrul Kamal. The court rules that the votes be automatically transferred to Kamal and declares Kamal winner of the election.

August 9, 2005: Nurmahmudi Ismail files an official complaint against the High Court verdict with the Judicial Commission.

August 15, 2005: The Supreme Court questions justices Nana Juwana, Hadi Lelana, Sofyan Royan, Ginalita Silitonga, and Ratna–the five judges presiding over the Badral Kamal lawsuit at the West Java High Court.

August 16, 2005: The Depok KPUD files a request for review of the High Court verdict with the Supreme Court.

TEMPO, AUGUST 29, 2005-051/P. 26 Heading Law

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