Struggles in Handling Disputes
The office room decorated in brown tones was filled with wooden furniture and cardboard boxes of case dossiers, stacked in front of the bookcase and behind the door. The room’s occupant, a justice of the Constitutional Court (MK), rubbed at his eyes.
“I’m sorry. My eyes keep watering from reading these dossiers,” the justice said on Thursday afternoon (20/6/2019).
Wiping at his eyes, he said, “This is how it is. It is my job to check on these cases. This is normal.”
In front of the room of another justice were stacks of documents submitted by the plaintiff of the 2019 presidential election dispute, the Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno camp.
The losing candidates claim that structured, systematic and massive fraud had occurred during the election. The court has held four hearings to try the case since 14 June 2019, when the initial petition was filed. The fourth hearing, which was ended on Thursday, was 20 hours long. Constitutional Court chief justice Anwar Usman opened the hearing at 9 a.m. on Wednesday and adjourned it at 4:55 a.m. on Thursday.
The long session, which reviewed evidence and heard the plaintiff’s witnesses, was a drain on not only the nine justices but also the lawyers of the plaintiff, the defendant (General Elections Commission/KPU), the related party (Joko Widodo-Ma’ruf Amin camp) and the Elections Supervisory Body (Bawaslu). Visible signs of fatigue were evident when the lead counsel of the Jokowi-Amin legal team, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, reminded all present in the courtroom that it was past midnight.
However, the judicial panel of nine justices was adamant to keep going.
Law No. 7/2017 on the general elections stipulates that the court should resolve presidential election disputes within 14 days, which falls on 28 June for the current case. Any delay in the legal process could disrupt the tight schedule.
On the other hand, the court must thoroughly review all the documents and files the litigants submit. The testimony of witnesses must be heard and cross-examined.
At 3 a.m., when justice Suhartoyo was seen temporarily closing his eyes, the plantiff’s counsel asked whether the hearing should be continued.
The court’s secretariat-general had anticipated possible fatigue during the election dispute resolution. A 13-man medical team that included general practitioners, internists, dentists and paramedics, stood by to monitor the health of the justices and court officials.
“As of [Thursday] morning, all justices were in good health, despite the session ending at dawn,” said MK secretary-general Guntur Hamzah.
Later in the day at 1 p.m., another hearing heard the KPU’s witnesses.
Aside from health checks, Guntur said that proper and nutritious meals were a must.
The meals for the justices are prepared according to suggestions from nutritionists. Their meals are also checked by six officers from the Food and Drugs Monitoring Agency (BPOM), who test samples to ensure that they are safe to consume. Security officers oversee the ordering and delivery of the justices’ meals.
Guntur showed Kompas a report on the meals the justices ate for lunch on Wednesday. The list included white rice, nasi uduk (rice cooked in coconut milk), empal daging (marinated beef), fried chicken, tempeh and tofu cooked in bacem-style (steeped in palm sugar), chili sauce, pudding and shrimp crackers. The dishes were tested for chemical substances, and it was found that the tofu contained formalin.
“Based on this report, we will stop ordering tofu from this restaurant, as the BPOM noted that it contained formalin. Food safety for the justices is important. No one wants their health affected,” said Guntur.
The justices have their own ways to maintain their health and stamina, especially because they face tough days on the job. Saldi Isra, for instance, plays badminton regularly. Anwar Usman jogs or walks every day and I Dewa Gede Palguna takes Aikido classes.
“For the past 25 years, I have maintained a habit of waking up at 4:30 a.m. and exercise by squatting while inhaling and standing up while exhaling. When I inhale, I touch my tongue to my palate. I do this 10-20 times every morning,” said Palguna. This way, he said, he would have enough stamina and physical strength to attend to his daily duties as a Constitutional Court justice.
As the justices preside over a court of first and final instance that serves as the last resort for those seeking justice, clarity of thought and physical health are key to carrying out their duties.
These are some snippets from behind the scenes at the 2019 presidential election dispute resolution. (RINI KUSTIASIH)