My Jakarta: ‘Saying You’re a Registrar Does Not Win You Much Prestige’

By webadmin on 10:07 pm Dec 27, 2010
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Luthfi Widagdo Eddyono

Luthfi Widagdo Eddyono has worked at the Constitutional Court for five years and is currently the registrar for the deputy chief justice, and he’s never seen anyone take a bribe. He’s never seen a brown paper bag switch hands, never seen a greased palm — nothing. 

But recently, the once squeaky-clean image of the court has been dragged through the mud. While he’s not prepared to talk about the big players, he is willing to give us a glimpse into the life of one of the guys behind the guys making some of the country’s most important decisions. 

How long have you been with the Constitutional Court?

I’ve worked for Indonesia’s Constitutional Court since June 2005. I started as part of the publishing staff and then worked my way up to registrar for Deputy Chief Justice Sodiki.

Before coming here, I worked as a journalist for the Mahkamah monthly bulletin and annual magazine at Gadjah Mada University’s School of Law in Yogyakarta, from 2000 to 2005. I worked as a reporter for three years before becoming an editor in 2004.

You have a little bit of radio experience too, right?

In college, I was part of the Peace Generation movement, formed in July 2002 after the Youth Camp for Democracy and Peace. The members were from different religious groups and ethnic groups, and had different college majors. I was the public relations officer, so I was responsible for building a relationship with the media in Yogyakarta. I went to all kinds of radio stations around the city to promote peace, speak about issues and spread the word about Peace Generation. I also worked as an announcer for Radio Eltira and Radio Swaragama.

How does a guy with a journalism background end up working in a court?

Working as a registrar is not exactly my dream job. In Indonesia, telling your friends you are a registrar does not win you a lot of prestige. People with a background in law will usually end up as an attorney or human rights activist before moving on to become a judge.

So did you find you had to work hard during your first couple years at the court?

At first I was part of the publishing staff, which meant I was editing books and writing articles for Majalah Konstitusi, Jurnal Konstitusi and for the Web, as well as writing up drafts published by the Constitutional Court. But everything changed when I was appointed by Janedjri M. Gaffar, the secretary general of the court, to work as an intern for the Federal Court and the High Court of Australia in 2009.

I did all kinds of research about court administration in Australia and made recommendations on how to improve the Constitutional Court administration here in Indonesia. I was given full access. I was able to attend hearings, meetings and assist in trial preparation.

After going to Australia I realized that it was an honor to work for the court, especially the Constitutional Court. Judges don’t just implement constitutional law but also create law, and I help to create it.

Would you say that working for the deputy chief justice is a lot like being a journalist?

My work is bizarrely like being a journalist. I write reports based on facts and reality, and then analyze the supporting data for judges deciding on cases. I get to learn something new every day. It’s not about the money, but truth and justice for people.

Plus the court really supports me. It gave me a scholarship to earn my master’s at the University of Indonesia, and a few months ago it sent me to the United States for a month and a half for the legislative fellows program conducted by the American Council of Young Political Leaders. I studied the system of checks and balances, separation of powers, elections and how the law and politics interact in the United States.

Care to comment on the problems the court is facing?

No comment. I don’t have the authority to speak on behalf of the Constitutional Court.

The court had a squeaky clean image up until very recently. What is the court planning to do to win back the support of the public?

All we can do is keep working to be the best we can be and not take any bribes.

Have you ever seen anyone take a bribe?

I’ve never seen anyone take a bribe. And just so everyone knows, every corner of our office has a CCTV camera. We are under surveillance every hour of every day.

When your friends ask you about the ongoing troubles at the court what do you say?

I tell them I have no comment. I tell them that if they want to know anything about the case they should read the newspaper. I get all my info from the newspaper.

Do you ever miss writing articles?

I love writing. It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop doing. I still contribute to Majalah Konstitusi and Jurnal Konstitusi and numerous other Constitutional Court publications.

How far do you think the government has come in terms of fighting corruption?

We are on the right track. We have the Corruption Eradication Commission [KPK], a powerful organization, which is working hard to combat acts of corruption and to lead corruption prevention activities. We need to support the KPK.

How do you go to and from the court in Central Jakarta?

I take my motorbike every day. I can’t afford a car. I rent a house in Bendungan Hilir, not far from the court by public transport, but I’d have to make two changes. Using a motorbike is the easiest and cheapest form of transportation in Jakarta.

Luthfi Widagdo Eddyono was talking to Zack Petersen.