Justice remains out of reach for most civilians in this country. Though the 15-year-old boy, identified as AAL, accused of stealing a police officer’s sandals in the Central Sulawesi capital of Palu, has been released from any further punishment, the case caused a public uproar across the nation. There were hundreds of people donating used sandals in a rebuke of what was deemed an absurd and heavy-handed prosecution.
As if the case was not enough, a new banana saga is now under the spotlight, as Kuatno and Topan were charged with stealing 15 banana bunches in Cilacap, Central Java.
In response to the case, the local branch of the Muhammadiyah Students Association (IMM) launched a drive that aimed to gather 1,000 bananas for Kuatno and Topan last Friday (Jan. 6, 2012).
Kuatno and his friend, Topan, have been in police detention since Nov. 11, 2011, when they were caught red-handed stealing bananas in Kalisabuk (The Jakarta Post, Jan. 7, 2012).
Those cases, together with innumerable legal processes against rank and file, indicate an endless vicious circle of injustice.
Punishment for children should provide strong educational and deterrent effects instead of being thrown in jail. Civility is supposed to be a yardstick when it comes to dealing out punishment for kids.
Hence, the need for Juvenile Court legislation, that really makes sense, would prevent children from being detained in prison. There must be correction houses, such as boarding schools or special dorms, for children with legal problems.
The government and the House of Representatives need to say yes to pass the bill without delay. The bill must give an ear to a restorative justice approach with a view to prioritizing mediation and rehabilitation over penalties.
The absence of the country’s justice system in dealing with young delinquents frequently makes law enforcers take a punitive approach.
Despite Kuatno and Topan’s wrongdoing, the stealing of bananas in a controversial case ignited further criticism of the National Police, which is famous for handling legal cases against powerless people in a swift manner.
One easily identified that police, prosecutors or judges unite against poorer law breakers but carefully handle cases against mighty people. Police may claim that everybody is equal before the law, heedless of being poor or rich. Yet people are not blind to see that the police treat people differently.
The inequality of law enforcement does not simply ignore legal certainties for marginalized people but also triggers them to take the law into their own hands and retaliate against those who oppress them, including the unfair law enforcement agencies.
It is an exaggeration to categorize the poor law enforcement agencies as legal bourgeoisies. Dubbed the legal bourgeois, the police, for instance, are preoccupied with heavy-handed treatment of petty crimes.
The police were extremely quick to arrest Kuatno for stealing 15 bananas. Meanwhile, there remains massive corruption cases where police have still not named any suspects.
Like conservative bourgeoisies, preoccupied with material values, legal bourgeoisies cling to a cost benefit standard that concerns the interpretation and execution of the law. From this perspective, justice for all, particularly for lay people, depends on the benefit the law enforcers may enjoy.
Representing legal bourgeoisies, law enforcers are prone to defending their rights, such as financial security, rather than carrying out their obligation to advocate for people with fewer resources.
The law enforcement agencies could act as pioneers in standing up for justice, siding with commonality and doing away with vested interests. Law enforcement officials will be as politically vulnerable as politicians and bureaucrats if they succumb to political pressure and the temptations of money.
The struggle for justice requires law enforcers’ sensitivity towards the judiciary and a moral priority over political and financial force.
Injustice to civilians could be deemed as the highest level of violence and extraordinary crime.
A serious lack of justice really shocks our human consciousness since a great deal of people lose their basic right to peace and security.
Injustice poses a human relation crisis when people are measured by their backgrounds in place of the crime, which in turn gives rise to discrimination.
People are frustrated with the country’s law enforcement, which is unable to produce maxiumum education with minimum punishment. It is attributed to the court’s lack of reconditeness in tackling legal disputes.
The judges’ lack of wisdom and their hubris of legal positivism make them rely upon the reports of others rather than using their own eyes to see or their own hearts to feel. Broken wisdom never leaves room for logic.
Wisdom encourages judges and the police to better understand that stealing bananas is closely linked to poverty. Wisdom would exact a punishment but would be gentle and forgiving.
The court might mandate them to issue a formal apology to the owner of the bananas. Perhaps the law would issue them a warning and put them under probation.
It is time that the country’s law enforcers apply wisdom rather than just legal positivism.
The writer, a graduate of the University of Canberra, Australia, is a lecturer at Andalas University, Padang.