17 May 2008

Todung Mulya Lubis

Todung Mulya Lubis is one of Indonesia's most recognized advocates and has represented many big names both local and foreign in the courts of Indonesia. He has been an avid campaigner for human rights, transparency international, freedom of the press and myriad number of other issues has lost his license to practice law in Indonesia.

Is this a simple case of a high profile law running foul of the government or other interests and then being silenced, or at least trying to be silenced, by taking away the right to practice law? Maybe if we were cynical enough as people to believe that such a thing remains possible in 2008!

The alleged breach is of Article 4(j), Article 3(b), and Article 6 of the Indonesian Advocates' Code of Ethics. These particular Articles deal with matters relating to conflict of interest and serving your client's interests. What is intriguing about this case is that the person who submitted the complaint to the Regional Honour Board for Jakarta was none other than Hotman Paris Hutapea.

Most people might have been salivating at the prospect of two of Indonesia's premier legal minds going at it tooth and nail if this had been the case of them being pitted against each other in a matter before the courts. The reality of one of them potentially losing their license does not have that same saliva-ability to it.

Without going into any serious analysis of the decision to strip Mulya Lubis of his license, it is worth pointing out that on face value it seems that Indonesia is in fact taking breaches of the Code of Ethics seriously if one of Indonesia's more senior advocates can fall foul of the system and be stripped of his license to practice.

Nevertheless, the decision to strip the man of his license to practice is harsh as this is the ultimate penalty available and in essence strips the man of the ability to earn a livelihood in his chosen profession. If a breach of the Code was proven then perhaps a temporary suspension of his license to practice and the suspension being permanently recorded on his professional record may have been sufficient. There were dissenting opinions in the judgment of the Regional Honour Board and it seems the dissent did not relate to the substance of the breach but rather the severity of the penalty imposed.

It is likely that Mulya Lubis will instruct his counsel to appeal the decision. He has this right! The decision is appellable to the Central Honour Board. However, my understanding is that any decision issued by the Central Honour Board is final and binding. If the Central Honour Board affirms the decision of the Regional Honour Board then Indonesia will have lost one of its senior advocates from its ranks.

However, it must be said that a conflict of interest is a conflict of interest and lawyers should understand when they have one. The advocate should then disclose the conflict of interest and recuse themselves from the matter. A failure to do so is a breach of the Code and is punishable. It is clear from the decision that the Regional Honour Board considers a breach of the conflict of interest provisions sufficiently serious to warrant the ultimate penalty!

The news on this case can be found here and here (in Indonesian). The case goes on!


heru said...

This is very much news to me, and to think I work in the same building with Mr. Lubis (Mayapada Tower) :D

Well, thanks for the article, I'll search around in the mainstream news.

Rob Baiton said...


Thanks for dropping by! It is nice to know that I am not mainstream media :) but I did link to hukumonline.com and to tempo interactive (both are a little more mainstream)...

The news is on the front page of today's Kompas and probably everything else as well!


Rishardana said...

Hahaha ochie, sorry Mr. Baiton didn't mean to undermine your wonderful blog.

See I live in some kampung outside of Jakarta, and since today is Saturday haven't got a chance to see the paper yet.

I did read the sources you've mentioned in the bottom, I went to detik but all has been about the accident of the late Sophan Sophiaan.

Rob Baiton said...

No offence taken and thanks for the kind words...my stats suggest that I am definitely not mainstream and the first place people come to find "news & views" on Indonesia or otherwise...

As I said, thanks for dropping by and leaving comments!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend in your kampung outside of Jakarta...

But I would add that this is the beauty of the Internet if you have a connection -- you no longer need rely on hardcopy newspapers for your news :D

tere616 said...

I read that news in Kompas. The charges was due to when he served his client (forgot the name - will check it later).

But I didn't see the connection with his activity in human rights, transparency international, etc.

Besides that Hotman Paris Hutapea, well .. am not in love with all related to "law-advocat-issue", but as far as I know he is worst than Mulya Lubis.

Well, can't agree more than you, stripped of licence to practice is one of the harsh decission. It shows how "barbarian" the thinking process.

Jakartass said...

From the little I've read, it appears that the case was engineered by the lawyer Hotman Paris Hutapea.

On February 27th 2004 he was described by the Australian Financial Review as "the embodiment of Jakarta's filthy rich.

The podgy 44-year-old bankruptcy lawyer with the mullet haircut boasts he can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per case in Jakarta's corrupt commercial courts (less the 'thank-you money' he sends judges after a victory) and he wants everyone to know it.

I can't now find the original article online but I quoted it extensively here.

(This has been a Public Service comment.)

Rob Baiton said...


No relationship between his human rights work and this case. This was a case related to a number of corporate based activities he was involved in with the government and the Salim group!

I was merely pointing out that he has been recognized for his work outside of the areas where he makes his money :D


I have read all of those things about Hotman as well...what is interesting is that it seems to be at the very least an admission that he has engaged in practices that might not be above board. Yet, if that is the case then why hasn't he been punished for his alleged indiscretions? Maybe it is more bluster than fact?

What goes around generally comes around!

Anggara said...

hukuman pencabutan permanen itu harus dipertanyakan, jangan2 motifnya balas dendam. menurutku suspension itu lebih lanyak dijatuhkan ketimbang pencabutan. kenapa elsa syarif yang jelas2 telah melanggar etik malah tidak dicabut. mengerikan

Rob Baiton said...


This is the thing! There have been others who in the past have been in breach and there will be others in the future who will breach -- this sets the bar high (pun intended).

What is troubling is that the decision seems to set the bar even higher for senior lawyers, perhaps they should know better and perhaps they do and perhaps they don't, but as an aggravating factor it seems a little rich.

The severity of the punishment have people questioning whether this is personal, and it is the personal that is the aggravating factor here.

If nothing else it will provide some impetus to the meeting that is to take place shortly that may end up establishing another adovcates' organization.

Truth be told, if TML breached teh code he deserves to be punished and must be punished because not to punish him for a breach would make a mockery out of the system. However, to punish him as severely as has been done also makes a mockery of the system.

The other issues are whether advocates can initiate Honour Board / Council proceedings for a conflict of interest breach or must it be one of the parties involved. Did Hotman bring this complaint in a personal or professional capacity?

Can an advocate be disbarred for a first offence? If so what offences warrant immediate disbarment?

I have a list of questions :D maybe some other time...