BY OHIA AMADI
This past Tuesday afternoon, the East Asian Legal Studies (EALS) program welcomed Daniel Lev, an eminent scholar of Indonesian law and Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Washington, as the latest speaker in its lunchtime talk series.
Following a very warm welcome by program director Professor William Alford, Professor Lev began his talk, entitled, “Success and (Mainly) Failure in Foreign Assisted Legal Reform: The Indonesian Experience.”
As the title might imply, Professor Lev was able to inject a healthy dose of humor into an otherwise very serious topic. He began his talk with a brief discussion of his early work in Indonesia with the Ford Foundation in the late 1960s and went on to discuss a number of legal reform efforts that have been attempted in Indonesia (with questionable success) over the intervening four decades.
Issues ranged from discussion of the entrenched and widespread nature of corruption in the Indonesian judiciary to issues of comparative law and the plausibility of Indonesian judicial and political reforms.
At the end of Professor Lev’s prepared remarks, one was left with a strong sense of the seemingly overwhelming complexity of the Indonesian judiciary and the corresponding difficulty in addressing its deficiencies.
Despite the temptation, amid numerous failed reform attempts, to dismiss Indonesia’s situation as hopeless, Professor Lev urged the audience to take heart. He posited that many of the failed reform programs were flawed in that they only addressed a certain aspect of the problems in the judiciary, as opposed to taking a more expansive view. He described the need for improvements in legal education and for programs to improve the ranks of prosecutors and the police force.
Given the widespread changes necessary and the current state of the Indonesian government, Professor Lev did not envision a quick or easy process but one that would be accomplished over time by determined citizens and domestic NGOs, many of which are already in place, in conjunction with informed foreign assistance.
Overall, Professor Lev proved to be a highly informed and entertaining speaker. This EALS lunch talk is part of a series of talks that strive to bring speakers whose topics appeal to the diversity of issues pertinent to the study of East Asia and possess a certain comparative aspect. The next speaker in the series, Chan-Jin Kim, an attorney for CJ International Law Offices, is scheduled to speak about “The Influence of the U.S. on South Korean Legislation” on October 19 from 12:30 – 2pm in Pound Hall, Room 419.