Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2001 07:28:37 -0800
      To: "Conference act.indonesia" <>
Subject: Re: JP: Rule of law or tyranny of law? [act-id 10-Mar-01]
(reeditted to eliminate typos and mounted 20-Apr-01)
I responded to the editors of the Jakarta Post a week ago, but they haven't reacted, so I'll input my letter to them here. I find, that Indonesia's main problem in legal interpretation is not lack of flexibility, but excessive arbitrariness in subjecting interpretation of the law and its application to considerations of political convenience, opportunism, and appraisal of current power balance. Just simply getting the law enforced "as it is", I think, would already be a gigantic step forward towards demcracy. Just imagine an Indonesia in which murder and manslaughter would be a crime, and no officer could anymore declare the massacre or rape of civilians as conforming to reason of state! Wouldn't that somehow be like the country had a constitution again?
Salam, Waruno
Date:  Sun, 11.03.2001 17:27 +0200
To:  The Jakarta Post Editorial Staff
From:  Waruno Mahdi <>
Subject:  RE: Donna Woodward's "Rule of law or tyranny of law?" (JP 8-Mar-01)
Dear Editors,
I sympathize wholeheartedly with Donna Woodward's cry of despair over the dexterity of burocrats who use literal interpretations to obviate due process of the law. Nevertheless, I beg to disagree with her plea for greater interpretational flexibility.
Respect for the letter of the law is a fundamental principle in democratic society and government by rule of law, and is still very lacking in this country. The reason why its implementation has had the atrocious workings Donna Woodward rightly deplores, is the arbitrariness of only respecting the letter of the law when it serves certain ulterior motives of influential persons.
At the present stage, it seems much more important to at first reach general and universal implementation of the letter of the law. When one has succeeded in reaching this still distant aim, there will always be time to also learn to weigh statutory intent against legal text. Even then, one will always have to accept occasional failures in enforcement of the law. The wisdom of letting a crook lose because of some formal procedural error, for sake of the higher value of conformity with the law, I think, is actually a principle of legality implying a relatively advanced degree of civic maturity.
Sincerely, Waruno Mahdi