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Legal History of Indonesia

Indonesia is officially known as the Republic of Indonesia in Southeast Asia and Oceania between Indian and Pacific oceans is the world’s largest island country and 14th largest country by land area at 1,904,569 sq km and consists of more than seventeen thousand islands like Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Sulawesi, and New Guinea. It is the world’s 4th most populous country and Muslim majority country. Before the domination of colonial powers like Dutch, Japanese, each group established its own laws called Adat law almost influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam.

Early History:

Dutch Period of Dominance:

In 1512, the Portuguese develop its trade connection in Indonesia. They establish a Roman-Dutch civil law system to maintain and promote commercial, political and economic interest with Indonesia for 350 years through the footstep of Dutch East India Company started in 1596 and initialization of colonization in the early 18th century. For their convenience of communication, they popularized the use of Malay language called as ‘Bahasa Indonesia’ with the Roman script for official purposes.

The population was divided into three classes: European- civil law, foreign oriental- part of civil law and indigenous- Adat law and Islamic law. A unified criminal system was established for Indonesia and Europe in 1918. The first legislation for Islamic law was 1882 Royal Decree introduced the Priest Court in Jawa and Madura with the jurisdiction of family and inheritance law.

Japanese Period of Domination:

The Japanese invasion to Indonesia was the outcome of ulterior motive for war supplies during second world war and their diplomacy with the political trend of the time as establishing themselves as a leader, protector, the light of Asia and older brother but Japanese intervention causes strong basis for military, administration, and politics of Indonesia to fight against the declaration of Independence. Post World War II, Indonesia fought against the military force of the Netherland which tried to reestablish its regime, continued in Indonesia until 1949 but United Nations Commission for Indonesia agreed to transfer sovereignty from Netherland to new Indonesia from December 27, 1949.

Independence Era:

The Indonesia Republic is organized as a democratic and unitary state governed by a justice under the Constitution of August 1950. It establishes unicameral consisting of a house of representative, parliamentary responsibility of ministers and cabinet. The government has the legislative power to enact emergency law for any such matters demanding urgent circumstances and to be submitted and ratified with or without amendments by the constituent assembly.

The general principle of continuity of existing law is expressed in Article 142 of 1950 constitution states that regulation of law and administrative provisions existing on 17 August 1950 shall remain in force unless withdraw, supplement or amended by legislation and administrative provision of the constitution which thus regulation of prewar Netherlands-Indies legislation prevailed in many fields of law. In fact, the 1945 constitution was replaced by the 1949 constitution of the federation of Indonesia from 1949 to 1950. Provisional Constitution was established from 1950 to 1959.

During President Soekarno’s administration who was the supreme leader, the Basic Agrarian Law of 1960 was enacted which unified the substantive and civil law relating to land law into a single and simple system. The Constitution was amended four times in 1999, 2000, 2001and 2002 dealing with limitation of power and term of office of president, decentralized of the central government to provincial and regional government and creation of additional states bodies such as House of Regional representative, Constitutional Court, and Judicial Commission along with various legislation such as Banking Law, Company Law and Capital Market Law and Commercial Code of 1847.

Principle of Constitution:

Indonesia is a democratic country that means sovereignty is vested in the people with due consideration of the rule of law. It expresses separation of the powers into the equal function of a governed institution on the control on check and balance system prescribed generally for Legislative, Executive and Judiciary of Indonesia

Legislative powers are vested into two houses namely House of Representative (uphold the responsibility of budgeting authority, questioning on executive conduct of government policy, President approval for entering into international treaties and declare war) and Senate(less authority and confine to preparing the bill and making a recommendation) who are chosen through general election after every five years.

Executive powers are vested upon the President and Vice President which are directly elected by the people in a general election every five years as head of state and government. He appoints the ministers for the governing department as his aide in the government.

The Constitutional Court and Supreme Court is the judicial branch of the government working independently of each other. The constitutional court has the power to determine the constitutionality of the law and the Supreme court has the power of judicial review over legislative or appeal from the court of appeal and court of first Instance having limited and special jurisdiction over concerned matters.



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