Bid to Replace Justice Minister Falters

MARCH 16, 2015

Jakarta. The Democratic Party has signalled it may support some lawmakers’ plan to launch an inquiry against Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly, but the plan might fail as the call has met with mixed responses among the House of Representatives’ opposition bloc.

“As long as it is for upholding the law and democracy, the Democratic Party is not against the [House] using its inquiry rights,” Democratic Party lawmaker Didik Mukrianto said on Monday. 

Several lawmakers earlier petitioned to launch an inquiry against the minister for what they see as biased decisions to recognize the factions of the internally divided Golkar Party and United Development Party (PPP) that support the administration of President Joko Widodo as the legitimate leadership of their respective parties.

Yasonna earlier said he intended to recognize Agung Laksono as the legitimate chairman of the Golkar Party, which has been divided into two camps — those supporting Agung and those loyal to the incumbent chairman Aburizal Bakrie.

The move echoed his earlier decision to recognize Muhammad Romahurmuziy, another administration supporter, as chairman of the United Development Party (PPP) despite a rival claim by Djan Faridz.

The State Administrative Court, however, overturned the minister’s decision on the PPP, based on a challenge lodged by Djan’s camp.

Although the petition was initiated by Golkar lawmakers Ade Komarudin and Bambang Soesatyo, as well as the PPP’s Dimyati Natakusumah, the move was not supported unanimously by their colleagues in Golkar’s House caucus, whose members appeared to switch sides in support of the administration.

Only the opposition Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) have unanimously stated their intention to support the inquiry.

Democratic Party lawmaker Didik said his party would formally announce its stance on the matter once the House was back in session next Monday.

Meanwhile, the National Mandate Party, also an opposition Red-White Coalition (KMP) member, hinted that it might distance itself from a prospective inquiry.

“Must [the House] immediately launch an inquiry? Why not first seek a clarification [from the minister?]” said Teguh Juwarno, who chairs the PAN’s House caucus.

“We will not follow the steps taken by our KMP partners on this inquiry plan,” he added, “because we are still concentrating on formulating the PAN’s structure following our national congress.”

Support dwindling

Agung’s camp has said it is looking to oust all Golkar members who remain loyal to his rival Aburizal that refuse to support the former’s leadership as legitimate, including members of Golkar’s House caucus.

Agung’s board has said it may oust legislators Ade Komarudin and Bambang Soesatyo, the current Golkar caucus chairman and secretary general, and replace them with Agus Gumiwang and Fayakhun Andriadi, respectively.

The faction may even replace the current House speaker, Setya Novanto, if the latter refuses to have Ade and Bambang replaced.

Lawmaker Leo Nababan, an Agung loyalist, said Ade and Bambang’s move to launch an inquiry did not represent the party’s stance as a whole.

“There is no support for the inquiry from the Golkar Party,” he said.

Lawrence Siburian of Agung’s faction earlier said some 20 Aburizal loyalists had switched sides to Agung’s camp, potentially signalling Golkar’s departure from the opposition bloc.

Golkar, which holds 91 seats at the House, is the biggest party in the KMP. Its defection could mean that for the first time since President Joko Widodo took office last year, his ruling coalition will have a majority vote of 298 over the KMP’s 262.

Golkar, aside from holding the House speakership, also has several chairmanships of House oversight commissions.

The PPP’s Romahurmuziy pro-government camp is also eyeing a similar move, calling for lawmakers loyal to its rival camp to be ousted from the House, including inquiry initiator Dimyati. Dimyati is also one of Djan’s top executives.

With the PPP’s vote, the strength of the coalition that supports the administration could grow by a further 49 seats.

With Gerindra (73 seats) and the PKS (40 seats) the only parties unanimously calling for an inquiry, the plan might not pass a floor vote in the House.

Inappropriate moves

Yasonna on Monday defended his plan to have Agung’s claim as Golkar’s chair formally recognized, saying that it has nothing to do with the fact that Agung has stated his intention to support the president.

The minister said his decision was consistent with Golkar’s internal rules and regulations, as well as a ruling of the party’s tribunal. But that tribunal issued a split decision — with two out of its four judges ruling in favor of Agung while the other two abstained.

The decision has resulted in two very different interpretations from each camp.

“I am more than ready,” the minister said when asked about the plan to launch an inquiry.

However, political expert Cecep Hidayat of the University of Indonesia suspected that there might be political motives behind the minister’s decision, particularly since the plan to officially recognize Agung’s leadership came just days after Golkar’s tribunal issued its ruling.

Cecep also highlighted Yasonna’s speedy decision to recognize Romahurmuziy’s claim over the PPP’s chairmanship as another example.

“These decisions all have political nuances,” he said.

Yasonna is a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), of which Joko is also a member.

But Arie Sujito of Gadjah Mada University said the inquiry plan was also excessive, noting that by law, the move should only be launched to scrutinize a government decision that has wider implications for the public, and not just the interests of a sole political party.

“It is hard to convince [other parties] inside the House [to support the inquiry] because it only deals with the interests of a few,” he said.

Ikrar Nusa Bakti, a senior political researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said an inquiry should be launched against the president and not a member of his cabinet.

“Launching an inquiry against the justice minister is inappropriate. We adopt the presidential system, so an inquiry should only be directed to the president,” he argued.

But House Deputy Speaker Fahri Hamzah of the PKS said regardless of whether the inquiry plan got the go-ahead, the opposition would continue to press the president to replace Yasonna.

“Ministers not loyal to the interests of the public and only to the party should be replaced,” he said.