22 September 2010

A Single Bar Association for Indonesia -- No Way!

Sometimes it is not the law in Indonesia that is the "ass" but the lawyers themselves!

I must add, I know a lot of Indonesian lawyers (maybe more than I will ever need to) and the thought of them standing toe-to-toe and slugging it out with their fellow lawyers is something I find mildly amusing. It brings a smile to my face for reasons I cannot properly explain, but just the thought of these upstanding citizens slugging it out....arghhhhhhhhhhh!

The law in Indonesia demands that there is a unified and single bar in Indonesia. This is designed to ensure that there is some degree of consistency and uniformity in the way that Indonesian advocates are certified and come to practice. After the enactment of the Advocates Law back in 2003, this is PERADI (Indonesian Bar Association). PERADI was set up in 2005.

PERADI is inherently infused with politics, some of them personal, and as such it was a no-brainer to expect that sooner or later, and probably sooner, that things would start to heat up around the fringes and then start to unravel, probably in increasingly ugly ways. And, they did. The reality was that the birthing of a new organisation from eight rival bar associations where those eight bar associations were not wound up and dissolved completely meant that simmering tension would remain.

A lot of what has transpired most recently is unbecoming for a professional bar association; it is an embarrassment to all involved. However, the events of today that has seemingly seen lawyers come to blows and the police get involved is a low-point that even some of the more seasoned lawyers might not have thought they would get to see. Some of the scenes were allegedly reminiscent of scenes more likely to be scene in a Taiwanese parliament than at an advocate swearing-in ceremony in a five-star hotel, the Gran Melia, in Jakarta.

Nevertheless, this is what happened when the more recently formed Indonesian Advocates Congress (KAI) turned up at the hotel to protest the swearing-in of the new PERADI advocates by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Indonesia. KAI believes that it is the legitimate organisation to represent the interests of Indonesian advocates. This is based on an argument that PERADI from its inception has been legally flawed. However, this would not seem to be the case in the strictest of legal senses because in a Constitution Court decision from 2006 the Court states that PERADI is the one.

It might be time for the KAI to either suck it up and get on with life under PERADI or continue to pursue ever-dwindling legal options to overturn the PERADI monopoly on certificating Indonesian advocates practicing in Indonesian courts. It is time that KAI recognised, whether it wants to or not, that the Supreme Court has issued a Circular which is explicit in stating that KAI affiliated lawyers cannot practice in court until they have satisfied the PERADI requirements for certification. This Circular was hotly contested by KAI, but it only resulted in a mediated deal that still requires the establishment of a single bar association by 2012.

It really does not matter what the single bar association is called; PERADI, KAI or AA (Advocates Anonymous -- AA considering it is a bar association). What matters is that a unified bar can be formed. This will require a commitment to disbanding all rival associations and congresses once a unified bar can be agreed to. This process is not going to be an easy one; too many personalities and too much politicking, but it has to be done.

In many respects, the future of the Indonesian legal system demands that there is stability and that there is uniformity in the certification process for lawyers. This is necessary, of for no other reason, to ensure the rights  of those who enter the Indonesian legal system to seek justice for themselves or those that they represent.

Two rival advocate associations coming to blows in a five-star hotel is an embarrassment on a grand scale. Shame on you all!

Shame, shame, shame.

(The photo is apparently from twitter and comes via here)


H. Nizam said...

Hi Rob,
Since the Soeharto era, efforts have been made to establish a single bar association, but always failed.
Perhaps because lots of associations would provide opportunities for lawyers to became chairmen therefore enable them to get public attention.
And for the government it would mean that there is no strong association to deal with.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Harry...

I guess that was my point in a all too abstract way about the politicking that is involved.

I appreciate the arguments that a multiple bar association might be easier for the government to deal with as their is no single unifying force.

However, it could be argued that a single bar is easier to control because you can regulate it into becoming a non-event (as Soeharto could have, and would have, done).

H. Nizam said...

Hi Rob,
I have posted this article on my blog. Thanks a lot.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Harry...

Nah, thank you!