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Indonesia: Law Amended to Give Lawmakers Added Protection

(July 21, 2014) The Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR), on July 8, 2014, adopted an amendment to the 2009 Legislative Institution Law, also called the MD3 Law. (Law No. 27, 2009 [in Indonesian], DPR website; Margareth S. Aritonang, New Law Shields House Members from Corruption Investigations, JAKARTA POST (July 14, 2014).) This Law sets rules for the operations of the People’s Consultative Assembly and the Regional Representatives Council, in addition to the DPR, the main legislative body.

Among the changes adopted in the amended Law is a revision to the method of selecting the Chair of the House. Whereas previously the Chair came from the party that won the most seats in the legislative election, the amended legislation calls for the entire House to elect a Chair. (Basten Gokkon, Joko Reaffirms Plans to Reform Civil Service, JAKARTA GLOBE (July 14, 2014); Ryan Dagur, Indonesian Activists Claim New Law Will Hamper Graft Probes: Groups Call for Judicial Review of Amendment That “Protects Lawmakers,” UCA NEWS (July 15, 2014).)

Additionally, the new Law shields members of the House from investigations into their behavior. It determines that before law enforcement agents can summon legislators to answer questions, they must obtain approval from the House Honor Tribunal. The Tribunal will have 17 lawmakers from each political faction in the legislature; summonses by law enforcement would become invalid if not approved by the Tribunal within 30 days. Further, under article 245, the Law prevents questioning of House Members of what they do, whether inside or outside the House. (Aritonang, supra.)

Criticisms of the Amended Law

The provisions on investigation of legislators were criticized by Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW, a non-profit organization), whose Abdullah Dahlan noted on July 13, 2014, that it “will allow lawmakers implicated in criminal cases to buy time [and perhaps] avoid the legal process.” (Id.) He added that his organization is concerned that during the 30-day period, suspects might destroy evidence or even escape. (Dagur, supra.) ICW and other groups are planning a judicial challenge to the amended legislation. (Id.)

The Law will also allow lawmakers to have closed-door meetings, without public disclosure of the proceedings. This aspect caught the attention of Hendrik Rosdinar from the Indonesian organization Civil Society Alliance for Democracy. He said, “[t]he new law reflects lawmakers’ poor commitment to accountability and transparency.” (Aritonang, supra.)

The Corruption Eradication Commission and the Amended Law

Indonesia’s anti-corruption authority, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), has stated that prosecutions of House Members could continue despite the recent enactment by the legislature. KPK’s chair, Abraham Samad, said that the KPK would follow its own rules in dealing with corruption and would still be able to summon House Members in graft cases, without considering the House Honor Tribunal. (Id.)

He clarified that the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office could be impacted by the new legislation, but that the KPK, in his view, does not have to “abide by the MD3 Law. Even if the law is implemented, the KPK only follows the Corruption Law and the KPK Law.” (Id.; Law on Eradication of the Criminal Act of Corruption, Law No. 31/1999, as amended by Law No. 20/2001; Law on the Commission to Eradicate Criminal Acts of Corruption [the KPK], Law No. 30, 2002, all available at Asset Recovery Knowledge Centre website.)

Furthermore, according to KPK Deputy Chairman Busyro Muqoddas, the new Law violates the principle of equality before the law. He said, “[t]he position of lawmakers is equal to other state officials. The House has tried to violate the principle of equality before the law by protecting its lawmakers’ law enforcement institutions.” (Aritonang, supra.)

Defense of the Amendment

The changes included in the new Law were defended by Marzuli Alie of the House of Representatives, who argued that corrupt legislators will not be protected and that “[w]ritten approval from the Honorary Council [before investigations] is needed so that law enforcement officers … can’t conduct an investigation just when they feel like it against members of the DPR.” (Dagur, supra.)