Justice Minister to Intercede in Golkar Leadership Feud
Jakarta. Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said his office will likely endorse former Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono as the legitimate chair of the Golkar Party, a move that could potentially deepen the rift dividing Indonesia’s oldest political institution.
Golkar splintered into two camps last December, with one faction throwing its support behind Agung and the other remaining loyal to incumbent chief Aburizal Bakrie. Both men claimed they are the party’s legitimate leaders.
Each side presented its case to the Central Jakarta District Court and an internal party tribunal. However, the latter last week issued an ambiguous ruling that inspired two very different interpretations.
Two of the four tribunal judges, Andi Mattalatta and Djari Marin, backed Agung’s bid for chairmanship, while judges Muladi and Natabaya chose to remain neutral, saying the ongoing tussle over the party’s leadership should be settled in a court of law.
Yasonna signaled on Tuesday that the government will accept Andi and Djari’s decision “to acknowledge Agung” as Golkar chief, he told reporters.
“Therefore, we will follow up [the tribunal’s decision] by endorsing the party’s executive board. We have asked Agung to immediately submit his party structure” for the Justice and Human Rights Ministry’s endorsement.
The ministry will issue a decree acknowledging Agung’s leadership once the organizational structure is submitted, Yasonna added.
The ongoing conflict was triggered by last April’s legislative elections, in which Golkar finished second behind the Indonesian Democratic party of Struggle ( PDI-P), a longtime political rival.
Golkar then failed, for the first time ever, to get a single name on the ballot for last July’s presidential election.
Agung’s camp blamed Aburizal’s leadership for both failures, particularly his insistence that no one but he be allowed to stand as the party’s presidential candidate. Aburizal then drew further ire from the party ranks by endorsing former Gen. Prabowo Subianto, who eventually lost to the PDI-P’s Joko Widodo.
Aburizal however refused to back down from his reelection bid, staging a national congress in Bali in November — months ahead of time. The congress, which his rivals see as a sham, saw Aburizal re-elected for a second term.
A separate congress held in Ancol, North Jakarta, saw anti-Aburizal party members elect Agung as chief in early December.
The Central Jakarta District Court on Feb. 2 ordered the feuding factions to first resolve their dispute through an internal tribunal, until which time the court had no authority to hear the lawsuit.
The West Jakarta District Court last week rejected a separate lawsuit filed by Aburizal’s faction against Agung’s leadership claims, issuing a similar ruling.
The split ruling by last week’s internal tribunal was interpreted by Agung’s faction as a win and immediately petitioned the ministry to endorse his reign.
But Aburizal’s supporters saw it as “a draw” and argued that only the Supreme Court can now settle the dispute.
Yusril Ihza Mahendra, a lawyer representing Aburizal’s camp said his client plans to challenge the ministry’s plan to have Agung’s leadership acknowledged.
“The dispute within Golkar has not come to an end,” Yusril said. “The internal tribunal has clearly made no legitimate ruling because their opinions were divided.”
Yusril suspected that Agung’s pro-government stance may be behind the minister’s quick decision to endorse the former minister’s chairmanship.
Golkar is the biggest opposition party at the parliament and its departure from the opposition bloc, the Red-White Coalition (KMP) would seriously tip the political balance in the government’s favor.
“It is safe to assume that the government has not been neutral [in the dispute] and supports the [Golkar] camp that would benefit them,” Yusril said.
One of Aburizal’s deputies, Nurdin Halid, vowed to “take legal action” if Yasonna endorses Agung’s leadership.
“We will file a suit to the State Administrative Court [PTUN] and a criminal suit against Yasonna and Agung, because the Ancol congress was fraudulent and illegitimate,” Nurdin said.
The PTUN is authorized to hear suits against the government policies and rulings.
The court last month annulled a decision made by the Justice Ministry to recognize Muhammad Romahurmuziy as leader of the United Development Party (PPP), ceding the chairmanship back to Djan Faridz.
Aburizal’s camp staged a meeting immediately after Yasonna made his announcement on Tuesday. Among those present were Yusril, Nurdin, House of Representatives speaker Setya Novanto and Muladi, one of the judges in the internal tribunal who opted for the dispute to be settled in court.
The ministry’s “decision is a political decision; not a legal one,” Aburizal told reporters before the gathering. “Hopefully the court can retract [Yasonna’s] erroneous decision.”
Meanwhile, Yasonna said he was aware the internal tribunal’s ruling sparked two different interpretations.
“We based our decision on the [internal tribunal] ruling that was submitted to us,” the minister said, signalling that only Agung’s camp had filed a ruling made in their favor. “Every decision comes with risks. The ministry based its [decision] on laws concerning political parties and the input of an expert staff. I cannot let [the Golkar dispute] continue forever without [a definitive] leadership. If [Aburizal’s camp] is not satisfied, they can file a suit with the PTUN.”
The minister urged Agung and his supporters to reach out to Aburizal’s camp and reunite the party. However, Aburizal said a reconciliation would only be possible once a definitive Golkar chief is declared.
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