Thursday, January 10, 2008

Court told to drop Sports Law article

Matheos Viktor Messakh, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A lawmaker and a governor have asked the Constitutional Court to review and annul an article of the Sports Law deemed contradictory to the spirit of the 1945 Constitution.

Head of Commission E on Welfare affairs at the East Java Legislative Council Saleh Ismail Mukadar and South Sumatra Governor Syahrial Oesman on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the 2005 Law on the National Sports System.

They argued article 40 of the law contradicted Constitutional article 27 and 28. The law's article stipulates that public officials are prohibited from holding management seats on provincial or municipality sports councils.

Saleh, who is also chairman of the Surabaya Sports Council, and Syahrial, chairman of the South Sumatra Sports Council, argued the article had denied them the right to contribute to sports development in the country.

"The article has nullified the right of public officials to support sports development in the country. If a governor, mayor or regent serves their local sports council, the council will receive valuable support in terms of funding," Syahrial's lawyer, Umbu Samapaty, told the court.

The plaintiffs also questioned why the restriction only applied to double positions in local sports councils but not to sports organizations.

"We totally agree that the government should not interfere with sports development and should let the professionals do their jobs. But why does such a prohibition only apply to the sports council and not to individual sports disciplines?" Umbu said.

Saleh's lawyer, Muhammad Soleh, said the article had violated the rights of public officials in East Java, who had been denied the right to take part in helping develop the country's sports.

In response to the accusations, State Minister for Youth and Sports Affairs Adhyaksa Dault, who represented the government in court, argued public officials with dual functions on sports councils would not "focus" on sports development and would create "a conflict of interests".

"If they want to contribute to sports, they can do it through various means. They could help manage sports organizations or provide funding for sports.

"Those who challenge the regulation are those who have enjoyed the comfort zone with their current positions and who are trying to pursue more comfort in other positions," Adhyaksa said.

The minister was accompanied by around 20 staff members, who defended the government position in the case, prompting the comment from the president of the constitutional court, Jimly Asshiddiqie: "Moving the office to the court".

Lawyer for the House of Representatives, Akil Muchtar, supported the government's argument, saying double positions would create opportunities for public officers to abuse their power, as occurred during the New Order regime.

"It will be confusing if a governor, mayor or regent who determines the local (provincial/municipality) budget also receives some of the same budget," Akil told the court.

After more than two hours, the hearing -- presided over by justices Jimly Asshiddiqie, I Dewa Gede Palguna, HAS Natabaya, Laica Marzuki, Achmad Roestandi, Mukthie Fadjar, Maruarar Siahaan, Harjono and Soedarsono -- was adjourned indefinitely and will resume with testimonies from experts and witnesses.

The plaintiffs said they would call on experts to testify, including member of the national human rights commission Hesti Armi Wulan.

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