The Jakarta Post
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo decided on Tuesday to pick I Dewa Gede Palguna, a constitutional law professor at Udayana University in Bali, as the new Constitutional Court (MK) justice replacing Hamdan Zoelva ' whose tenure ended on the same day.
Palguna, a former justice during the court's first generation between 2003 and 2008, who was among two final names recommended by the selection committee, will be sworn in before Jokowi at the State Palace on Wednesday. The candidate not chosen by Jokowi was Yuliandri, a law professor at Andalas University in West Sumatra.
Jokowi chose Palguna after studying the selection team's assessment of the two candidates' skills, independence and integrity, as well as verification from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK) that neither of the two had a suspicious background in relation to wealth or finances.
'The document of results shows that both are very good, but of course there is a gradation there, not a quantitative assessment, but a qualitative one,' State Secretary Pratikno said on Tuesday. 'Moreover, Palguna was once an MK justice and the selection committee's assessment showed his good performance, independency and integrity.'
The committee recently decided unanimously on the two final candidates it deemed as having the qualities necessary to ensure the continuity of the court and its quality as an institution, as well as meeting the three requirements of integrity, skills and independence, and later submitted the names to Jokowi.
During a final interview before two independent experts last week, the 53-year-old Palguna, who is a Hindu, said religious freedom was guaranteed by the Constitution and the state had an obligation to protect any religion or belief regardless of whether they were formally recognized or not.
Pratikno also gave his assurances that Palguna's appointment was not due to politicking, saying that his background as a former senior member of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) had been scrutinized by the team during an open interview aimed at ensuring the independence of the candidates.
'The interviews were also used to clarify public reports or even rumors [about the candidates],' Palguna added.
The committee previously also grilled Palguna on his political history, about which Palguna said that none of his previous rulings sided with the PDI-P, later giving his assurances that he would remain objective although Jokowi came from the PDI-P.
The committee has continuously ensured a transparent selection process after activists last year criticized then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for selecting former law and justice minister Patrialis Akbar as a court justice in a vetting process held behind closed doors.
Born in Bangli, Bali, Palguna was recommended by Udayana University's center for constitutional and democratic studies. Palguna is also familiar with international law as he obtained a master's degree from Padjajaran University.
During his last day in office, Hamdan spent his time participating in a justices' meeting to finalize a number of rulings.
'I [also] finished several pieces of paperwork,' he added, saying that he would become actively involved in teaching at university, begin work as a consultant and write books.
Meanwhile, Yuliandri said he 'appreciated Jokowi's decision' and later wished Palguna and the court the best of luck.
Denpasar High Court judge Suhartoyo, the Supreme Court's pick for a new Constitutional Court justice replacing Ahmad Fadlil Sumadi, will be sworn in on Wednesday along with Palguna.
The Constitution stipulates that the Constitutional Court must have nine justices, with the House of Representatives, the President and the Supreme Court each entitled to appoint three justices to serve five-year terms.
The Judicial Commission reiterated on Tuesday its criticism of Suhartoyo's appointment given its investigation into his involvement in the controversial release of businessman Sudjiono Timan, who was charged in a corruption case concerning Bank Indonesia liquidity support (BLBI). Suhartoyo was on the panel of judges at the South Jakarta District Court that delivered the verdict.
'I appreciated the selection committee for its efforts in providing a transparent and accountable selection process that also made room for public participation, unlike the selection process at the Supreme Court,' said Taufiqurrohman Syahuri, one of the commissioners at the Judicial Commission.