Central Sulawesi formally backs customary court systemOct 13, 2015
Palu, Indonesia, October 13 - Thronged with people in dresses made out of wood sheets and traditional red shirts with bullhead patterns, the scene inside the Central Sulawesi governor’s assembly hall resembles more of a carnival than a gathering of law enforcement.
The colorful gathering marks a bold recognition of Central Sulawesi’s customary court system. More than 30 community leaders and customary court judges in Central Sulawesi province gathered on Tuesday to be appointed members of the Forum of the Customary Court System in Central Sulawesi.
They also gathered to socialize the Guidelines of the Customary Court System in Central Sulawesi, which stands to benefit more than two million people in the province whose main access to legal rights and services is through the customary court system.
50-year-old female leader Yeni Lancia was one of the community leaders who took part in the drafting and finalizing of the Guidelines, which were made possible under UNDP’s Strengthening Access to Justice (SAJI) project with support from the Government of Norway.
“This recognition is very important because many communities in Central Sulawesi like us don’t have convenient access to the formal justice system. So many of us prefer to settle disputes through the customary court system because it’s very time efficient and less costly,” said Lancia who acts as Tina Ngata or Mother of the Village – an esteemed role reserved for female figureheads to mediate communal disputes.
Lancia said her role has made it easier for other women to report domestic violence and other disputes involving violence against women and children.
Community leader and customary court judge Jore Pamei said many in his community prefer to go through the customary court system because it promotes reconciliation and peaceful means in dispute settlement.
“The customary court system wants everyone to hold no grudges following the settlement of disputes. This is where our role comes in, it’s not about giving punishment and jail sentences but it’s to ensure that communities remain intact following the disputes,” said Pamei, who hails from Sigi district.
He added that serious offences such as murder must be settled through the formal justice system. Nonetheless, traditional judges can still play a crucial role to reconcile warring parties during the court process.
Central Sulawesi Governor Longki Djanggola said the customary court system could help the province’s most marginalized communities, particularly those in remote areas, to settle disputes and achieve justice.
“Many of the communities in remote areas do not have access to the formal justice system and therefore they are left with no choice but to resort to the customary court system,” Djanggola said in his speech, as read by Vice Governor Sudarto.
A representative from the Central Sulawesi Police Department, Andi Anuar, welcomed the role of the customary court system because it could bridge the trust between local communities and law enforcers in the formal system.
On Tuesday, UNDP’s SAJI also organized a one-day workshop by customary court judges and community leaders with the aim of avoiding future overlaps between the formal justice system and the customary justice system in the province.
Speaking passionately about his experience, customary court judge Imanuel Pele called on the government to recognize other customary court laws in other provinces in Indonesia, saying local justice will help them to preserve their “sense of identity”.
Other local figureheads such as Ferdi Lumba said there needs to be an expanded authority of customary court judges to handle new crimes such as illegal logging and corruption, which according to him has been on the rise in remote areas of Central Sulawesi.
Central Sulawesi is one SAJI’s pilot provinces aside from Aceh and Central Kalimantan. In Aceh, SAJI was instrumental in the setting up of the Customary Council in the province.
Sharing his experience with his counterpart in Central Sulawesi, Aceh Adat Council head Badruzzaman Ismail said that in the Aceh customary court system there are no “winners” or “losers”, rather opposing parties are called on to settle disputes through just and fair solutions.