Sunday, June 24, 2007

Regional government law under scrutiny

Wednesday, June 06, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A legislator who once served time for attempted murder requested Tuesday the Constitutional Court review the Law on Regional Administration in order to allow him to participate in a regency election.

Muhlis Matu, a member of the Takalar regency legislative council in South Sulawesi, claims that Article 58 of Law No. 32/2004 infringes on his rights to run as a candidate for deputy regent in the local election.

The article states a person who has been imprisoned for more than five years cannot become a candidate in a local election.

"This article discriminates against my client because it bans any person from running for office if that person has been imprisoned for more than five years. In our opinion, the limitation of participation should be based on the kind of crime and not on the length of the prison term," Muhlis' lawyer, Januardi Haribowo, told reporters after the hearing Tuesday.

Citing as an example the nation's founding fathers who had been imprisoned during colonial times, Januardi said a person having served five years or more is not necessarily a hardened criminal and is not necessarily dangerous to the state or the people.

"It also has been proven that the local people have accepted him. They even elected him as a regency council legislator," Januardi said.

He cited the fact that Muhlis' candidacy for the legislature had never been questioned. It was not until he decided to run for the post of deputy regent that his criminal record came into question.

Muhlis was imprisoned for nine years in 1982 and after serving five years, he was released in 1987. He had been imprisoned for attempted murder stemming from his adherence to the local tradition of siri (revenge).

"Siri is a powerful tradition of defending someone's dignity and honor among the Makassarese. Someone will feel very ashamed if he does not defend his dignity," Januardi said.

Januardi also claimed the 2004 law contradicted articles 27 and 28 of the 1945 Constitution, which assure equality before the law and assure that all people should be free from discrimination.

In response to the application for review, Judge I Dewa Gde Palguna said the application was clear and systematic, but Muhlis' team of lawyers needed to cite more appropriate definitions of discrimination as stated in the 2000 Law on human rights, and also needed to provide more explanation about the plaintiff's reasons for attempting to take revenge.

Januardi said the team of lawyers would immediately revise the application and submit it to the court as they had to meet the deadline for candidacy applications at the end of June. (02)

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