09 May 2008

Sriro's Desk Reference of Indonesian Law 2008

As the title suggests the author is Andrew I. Sriro, foreign legal Counsel, and a licensed attorney with the California State Bar. As foreign legal counsel with the law firm of Dyah Ersita & Partners with Andrew I. Sriro and also being one of a small number of foreign lawyers actually registered with the Department of Law and Human Rights, Mr. Sriro has recognized knowledge of Indonesian law across a wide range of legal fields. In addition to writing the Desk Reference, Mr. Sriro is also the Reviser of the Indonesian section of Martindale-Hubbell’s International Law Digest as well as the author of a number of other books and papers on Indonesian law.

The dilemma that all lawyers face in Indonesia is adequate access to legal resources and this is not just a dilemma for Indonesian language materials. The shortage of resources and sources in English language about Indonesian law is more acute than ever. The legal reformasi process may be slow but it is generating myriad of changes that continue to make the practice of law in Indonesia for foreign legal counsel an extreme challenge. This was one of the many reasons Mr. Sriro provides for starting on this desk reference venture.

Consequently, the desk reference is the culmination of Mr. Sriro’s desire to give something back to the Indonesian community, but generally a book in English is going to provide much more benefit to those of the English speaking community residing in Indonesia or Indonesian lawyers with foreign clients using English as the medium of communication than it ever is for your average Indonesian. Nevertheless, this does not detract in any way from the noble goal of making Indonesian legal resources, especially laws, more widely available in English.

The first edition of the desk reference was published in 2005 and it was a slender volume to say the least (see hukumonline.com review). The 2006 edition was beefed up considerably and contained a significant number of additions. The 2007 edition was bigger again and has undergone significant internal restructuring and the addition of new chapters and elements of Indonesian law not covered in the earlier versions. The 2008 edition is a hefty tome and runs to more than 650 pages!

The following is a list of the general topical areas covered in the 2008 edition. Compared to the 2007 edition the only notable content change has been an editorial decision to drop the Chapter on Conventions and Treaties.

Business Organizations
Foreign Trade & Commerce
Business Relations
Government & Legal System
Citizenship & Immigration
Holidays & Office Hours
Criminal Law & Procedure
Intellectual Property
Debtors & Creditors
Legal Profession
Dispute Resolution
Liens & Security Interests
Documents, Identification, & Records
Money & Banking
Monopolies, Restraint of Trade, and Competition
Estates & Trusts
Foreign Investment

The style of the book is in most cases dual language as most of the key terms are included in their Indonesian form as well. This although sometimes disrupts the flow of reading and understanding the law, it does serve to highlight to the reader the necessary terms in their original Indonesian and their translated English form. Unfortunately, to date there has been no standardized translations of many of these legal terms and this only serves to complicate matters.

In this regard and over a recent lunch with the author of the 2008 Desk Reference the discussion turned to the future of the Desk Reference series and how much bigger it could conceivably get and still remain at a relatively affordable IDR 299,000. The 2008 edition is destined to make an excellent door stop once the 2009 edition of the Desk Reference on Indonesian Law is published.

Nevertheless, the days of the Desk Reference series may be numbered as Mr. Sriro intends to break the Desk Reference down into its constituting parts and have individual tomes on each of the topical areas covered in the Desk Reference. This makes good sense and will undoubtedly make good cents (or perhaps Rupiah in this case).

Mr. Sriro has just published a Desk Reference on Indonesian Company Law. This Desk Reference only addresses issues related to the new Indonesian Company Law and is a valuable resource in and of itself (separate review).

The content is claimed to be accurate and authoritative and to a large degree this is true. Nevertheless, the author’s intent is to provide an introduction to Indonesian law and not a comprehensive or exhaustive scholarly analysis of each of the individual laws contained in the Desk Reference. Mr. Sriro is unequivocal that despite the accuracy of the volume it is not to be construed as legal advice and any reader needing legal advice should consult a competent professional for that purpose.

The Desk Reference is a valuable contribution to Indonesian legal resources particularly for those whose first language is not Indonesia. It is also a valuable addition because it provides an introduction to Indonesian law. Indonesian law is a complex regulatory framework that relies as heavily on delegated or sub-ordinate legislation as it does primary laws.

Finally, the Desk Reference is an excellent introduction to Indonesian law for lawyers, business people, and law students. It would also be of considerable use to legal journalists and researchers looking for the relevant law in a certain area. It is certain to come in for some criticism for perceived shortcomings and charges that foreign counsel can never really understand the complex nature of Indonesia’s legal system and the Dutch influences that permeate it.

These criticisms would be neither true nor fair in light of the Mr. Sriro’s considerable knowledge and commitment to Indonesian Law.

The book is not perfect and there are some translation and interpretation issues, but it is a considerable improvement over the earlier versions. It is also a valuable introduction to Indonesian law. It is not intended to be an all encompassing legal treatise and it would be unfair to judge this book on that criteria alone.

For that reason the Desk Reference is a worthy addition to any person’s library with an interest in Indonesian law.

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