Jakarta. The Supreme Court said on Friday it regretted the prolonged animosity between two rival bar associations and stressed that the brawl during an inauguration ceremony this week has not reflected the proper conduct of advocates in the country.
Two days after members of the Indonesian Advocates Congress (KAI) came to blows with those from the Indonesian Bar Association (Peradi) during a swearing-in ceremony, Supreme Court Judge Abul Kadir Mappong condemned both groups’ behavior.
“What they did was wrong. Not only was it unprofessional but also illegal,” he told reporters at his office in Central Jakarta. “As lawyers they should resolve their differences through talk or legal actions, and not through physical confrontation.”
On Wednesday, Supreme Court Chief Justice Harifin Tumpa had been scheduled to swear in lawyers from Peradi at the Gran Melia hotel in South Jakarta.
Peradi is formally recognized by the court as the only authorized bar association.
Just before the start of the ceremony, however, hundreds of lawyers from the KAI, a rival group not recognized by the court, barged into the hotel and demanded the chief justice also swear in its members.
Outnumbered guards attempted to block the KAI members in the lobby, but some managed to enter the ballroom where the ceremony was to be held.
Chairs were knocked over and a few punches were thrown in the ensuing melee.
KAI president Indra Sahnun Lubis said his group was disappointed with the Supreme Court circular issued in July, which barred KAI lawyers from representing clients in court.
The memo sparked protests from KAI members, who said it violated an agreement between the two associations to establish a single body accommodating lawyers from both groups by 2012.
“There is no violation of the agreement, only differing views and interpretations of what the agreement was,” Mappong said.
Separately, Justice Minister Patrialis Akbar said he would also help mediate disputes between the two organizations.
“I think all differences between the two can be easily resolved if both sides would just open their hearts and listen to each other,” he said.
Peradi was established in 2005 as a merger of eight bar associations, in accordance with a 2003 law requiring the establishment of a single nongovernmental organization to test and certify the country’s lawyers.
But in July 2008, a number of prominent lawyers formed KAI, claiming that Peradi was legally flawed because it had been established only by a few individuals instead of a congress of lawyers.