Karina M. Tehusijarana, Jakarta – The recent appointment of 12 deputy ministers for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration has led to a petition for a judicial review asking the Constitutional Court to abolish the deputy minister positions.
In a petition filed on Tuesday, plaintiff Bayu Segara, the head of the Forum on Law and Constitutional Studies (FKHK), argued through his lawyer Viktor Santoso Tandiasa that Article 10 of a 2008 law on state ministries – which allows the president to appoint deputy ministers – should be revoked as it is "unconstitutional".
"Constitutionally, only ministers are able to help the President perform his duties, as stipulated explicitly and in a limiting manner in Article 17 Clause 1 of the 1945 Constitution," Viktor wrote in the petition document.
Viktor argued that details regarding a deputy minister's tasks, functions and authority were included only in a presidential regulation (Perpres), but none of them were mentioned in the 2008 law where such details should have been regulated.
He also referred to an earlier Constitutional Court ruling on a similar petition in 2011, in which the court did not repeal Article 10 but removed the article's explanation, which stated that deputy ministers are "career officials and are not members of the Cabinet".
In the 2011 ruling, the court ruled that the article's explanation was unconstitutional as it had created legal uncertainties.
The nine-panel bench argued that unlike ministers, who were politically appointed Cabinet members whose terms would end alongside the end of the President's term in office, the term for deputy ministers as "career officials" logically ended when they hit retirement age.
At that time, no specific regulations had stated clearly the period of work for deputy ministers, said the court, which in the making of the ruling was led by then chief justice Mahfud MD who is now the coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister.
Viktor said that since the 2011 ruling, the court had also issued a ruling in an unrelated case that stated that lawmakers were forbidden from giving a state institution more authority than what it had been given explicitly and in a limiting manner in the Constitution.
He also argued that the President's appointment of 12 deputy ministers – a sizeable increase from only three in his first term – with "no clear urgency" was in violation of the earlier 2011 ruling.
In the 2011 ruling, the court noted that a president had never specifically determined the workloads for each deputy minister and thus it was "inevitable" that the appointment "sends a signal of political decision" over appointing civil servants professionally in government ranks.
Jokowi announced the appointment of 12 deputy ministers at the end of October, a few days after the announcement of his second-term Indonesia Onward Cabinet.
The majority of the appointments were widely considered to be political in nature, with the head of a volunteer group supporting Jokowi, the treasurer of his campaign team and representatives of five political parties that backed his reelection bid among those who got the nod.