Tha Jakarta Globe, January 26, 2013,
The National Police are preparing to be on high alert in Garut, West Java, for possible protests staged by supporters of the controversial district chief, Aceng Fikri, after a Supreme Court ruling backed a recommendation to dismiss him.
“In anticipation of [demonstrations], the National Police chief has instructed the West Java Police chief to take measures to prevent the protests from turning violent,” National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Suhardi Alyus said on Friday.
Suhardi said it was wrong for Aceng to try to cling on to his seat if he was no longer supported by the public.
The Supreme Court earlier this week supported a motion by the Garut district legislature to dismiss Aceng.
It ruled that he was guilty of violating his vows as a public official.
The legislature filed the proposal for Aceng to be removed in December, after he caused a national uproar when it was revealed that he had divorced his second wife, Fani Otora, by text message.
Fani was just 17 years old when she married Aceng in an unofficial ceremony back in July.
Since then, the district head, who arguably broke several laws with his brief and unregistered Islamic marriage, was dropped by the Golkar Party and endured repeated calls from government ministers and local constituents to resign.
Ridwan Mansyur, a Supreme Court spokesman, said the court decided on Tuesday to approve the proposal to dismiss Aceng because a district head’s married life could not be separated from his public position as an elected official.
Aceng has not been dismissed, though, because the Supreme Court ruling must be approved by the president, who holds sole authority to fire a regional head.
Aceng’s attorneys called the ruling wrong and said the court had disregarded Aceng’s religion, which allowed the second marriage, even if it was not recognized by the state.
“Aceng’s marriage is regulated and acknowledged by Islamic law, but the court only looked at the marriage in Aceng’s capacity as the district chief and not as an individual. That’s not right,” said lawyer Ujang Sujai.
He lamented that the decision was issued by non-Muslim judges.
“It’s like handing over a case to a non-expert,” he argued.
Ujang reiterated that Aceng’s marriage was protected by the Constitution, which guarantees every citizen the right to practice their religion and belief.
“But now it’s being turned into a case of a district head who violated his vows. The marriage was conducted privately, in a private house, using personal money,” he said.
Aceng’s camp is considering mounting a legal challenge questioning the Supreme Court on whether it is authorized to handle this private matter.
“We will study it first. One of the steps is to consult with the Supreme Court about its authority in handling a private matter and turning it into a case of a district head,” Ujang said.
House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Priyo Budi Santoso called on Aceng not to issue threats about mobilizing the masses, saying that all parties should respect the political and legal process.
“It’s now up to the local legislature whether or not it will take measures in accordance with the Supreme Court’s legal umbrella or ignore it,” said Priyo.
He added that Aceng’s threat would serve as a double-edged sword that could lead to his downfall.
Priyo also called on the local legislature not to be afraid of Aceng’s threats and to continue processing the case.
Activists praised the Supreme Court’s decision over Aceng’s case and hoped that it would do the same to other public officials committing similar violations.
(not just a case of those chickens coming home, but also of sour grapes? siK.)