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Arief Hidayat: Above the Constitution is God
Chief of Justice Arief Hidayat. TEMPO/Imam Sukamto
Tuesday, 14 February, 2017 | 18:38 WIB
Arief Hidayat: Above the Constitution is God

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The plan of Constitutional Court Chief Justice Arief Hidayat, 61, to take some days off in his hometown of Semarang three weeks ago, was not to be. When he landed at Ahmad Yani Airport that Thursday morning, he was all set to go teach at the 17 Agustus 1945 University in the city. But a telephone call from Jakarta made him turn around and fly right back to Jakarta. But not before a journalist gave him the shock of his life, when he was asked to comment on a news report that the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) had arrested one of his judges.

That evening, back in Jakarta, Arief received confirmation that Patrialis Akbar, one of the Constitutional Court judges, had indeed been arrested. The charge against Patrialis was bribery involving a judicial review of Law No. 41/2014 on Livestock and Animal Health. Patrialis, who was justice and human rights minister from 2009 to 2011, was also accused of leaking the results of the judicial review, to Basuki Hariman, a beef trader who is suspected of bribing the judge. "Here we go again, another blunder," said Arief. This is the second time Arief has gone through such an incident. The first case involved Akil Mochtar, his predecessor, who was accused of accepting a bribe over a dispute on the results of the regional chief executives' elections in 2013.

On Monday last week, the Constitutional Court Ethics Council confirmed that Patrialis had committed a serious ethical violation. One day later, the Court approved one out of four appeals in the judicial review i.e. Article 36-E, Clause 1, which would enable the importation of inexpensive beef from India.

Arief met with Tempo reporters Anton Aprianto, Reza Maulana and Raymundus Rikang at his office two weeks ago. He said Patrialis had tarnished the image of the Court, just when it was slowly restoring its reputation after the disastrous Akil Mochtar debacle. "This case emerged just when public trust in our Court was slowly coming back," said Arief. In a later interview by telephone last week, Arief, who teaches law at Diponegoro University, gave assurances that the decision of the Court had not been influenced by the Patrialis case.

What was the basis of the Court's review of the law on livestock and animal health? 

The Court mainly considered the national interest, ensuring that the Indonesian people are protected. Importing livestock and their products must be carried out with extreme caution, and should be done only when there is natural disaster or when domestic supplies fall short. Imports must also comply with the health standards of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the regulatory body monitoring domestically raised livestock, to ensure the health and quality of those livestock.

 

So, the bribe to Patrialis had not influenced that decision? 

None at all. Pak Patrialis himself never tried to influence the other judges. It's only normal that we would have our differences. Judges are, after all, impartial and autonomous. Also, there was no dissenting opinion when the case was discussed.

 

Yet, we were informed Patrialis did try to influence other judges. 

I have never seen nor heard Pak Patrialis influence the other judges. I'm the one who knows best how proceedings go, and I would notice if a judge had been influenced or not. I myself was not influenced by anyone in this case. But the question is, how did that draft result get out?

 

How was it leaked out?

Patrialis may have done it by himself, but I cannot confirm the contents, I only know what's in the media.

 

Do you know what's in that document? 

I don't know in what form or what the contents are. But the final draft of the results of the review on that legislation was completed on January 19. Then it was to be kept secret until the decision was read out in Court (Tuesday-February 7). There are only nine judges, a clerk and a reserve clerk who know the contents of the draft.

 

We heard that the draft favors part of the appeal. Does this mean Patrialis had it easy? 

This is quite like the words used by Pak Mahfud Md when the Akil scandal occurred. I think he said something like, 'shooting while riding a horse'.

 

Is it true the KPK confiscated 28 stamps related to the beef import issue at the Court building? 

No. What would such stamps be doing here? Maybe they were found in another place. There is sure to be a report on the raid at the Court building and other locations.

 

This case has prompted anti-corruption activists to petition for your resignation. 

What have I done wrong? The arrest of Patrialis, no matter who is the boss, can happen because of the individual factor. We have created a control system that is far better than the ones before. Why should I resign?

 

You are seen to have failed in improving the Court system, enabling yet another bribery scandal to happen. 

The Akil case happened under the leadership of Pak Mahfud and went on through Akil's time. When the case of Pak Arsyad Sanusi, a former judge who tripped over an ethics problem in 2011, was Pak Mahfud forced to resign? No. The two cases were good experience for the institution.

 

Have there been changes in the Constitutional Court since the Akil bribery scandal? 

There is an Ethics Council which monitors the judges on a daily basis. The council members are independent, free from any intervention. There are three of them, led by Abdul Mukthie Fadjar, a law professor at Brawijaya University and a former constitutional judge. We also have an agreement with the KPK on teaching anti-corruption and other graft issues. When there is a problem, it all comes down to the character of the person in question. (*)

 

Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine



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