Tue, 08 Mar 2005

Papuans woefully unprepared for local elections

Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura

The provincial offices of the General Elections Commission (KPUD) in Papua said they were unprepared to organize the direct elections for regional heads in June due to limited preparation time.

A member of the Papua KPUD, M. Musa'ad, told The Jakarta Post there were still some regency councils in the province that had not yet elected their speakers -- and gave the example of Tolikara regency.

Regency and municipal councils in Papua have not convened on their budget hearings and therefore have not yet allocated funds for the election, he explained.

In addition, the population affairs offices in each of the local administrations have still not completed the necessary data on the number of eligible voters, despite a Feb. 28 deadline.

Election materials, which should have been produced in Papua, are still not available because the equipment needed to produce them have not been provided.

"We have decided during the technical working meeting to hold both the local elections at the same time as the gubernatorial election, which was earlier slated for November," he said.

"Organizing them both simultaneously will be more cost- effective as expenses can be reduced from 30 percent to 40 percent," he explained. The 21 KPUD offices' inability to organize the election was disclosed in a motion on Feb. 26.

It has been reported that Rp 175 billion (about US$20 million) would be required just for the gubernatorial election. The money is to fund three substantial components: Rp 55 billion for salaries of the election workers, Rp 58 billion for equipment and other services and Rp 62 billion for operational expenses.

"That is just the cost for the gubernatorial election. If both the elections (gubernatorial as well as regency/municipality elections) were to be combined, it would at least reduce the cost for workers' salaries and operations," he explained.

Musa'ad added that they would discuss the problems encountered by the KPUD offices with Papua Governor JP Salossa.

"But if the governor is still persistent in holding the elections in June, then every local administration must be totally involved in making the election a success without waiting for the regional budget sessions to allocate funds for the elections," he said.