Sat, 03 Apr 2004

Edict issued to delay poll in remote areas

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Jayapura

President Megawati Soekarnoputri signed on Friday a regulation in lieu of law to enable the country to hold the legislative election on Monday as scheduled, while also authorizing the General Elections Commission (KPU) to delay the election in several remote areas due to logistic problems.

Citing geographical difficulties in Papua and West Irian Jaya provinces as an example, the government said it needed to provide the legal basis for the KPU to delay the election in several remote areas in the country.

"We are set to hold the election nationwide on April 5, but we have to provide the legal instrument to allow several areas to not hold the election simultaneously," ad interim coordinating minister for security and political affairs Hari Sabarno said after a meeting between the government, House of Representatives and the KPU.

The regulation is aimed at amending two articles in Law No. 12/2003 on the general election.

The amendment modifies Article 45, which originally required the Commission "to complete the distribution of ballot materials 10 days before the election". According to the new version, the distribution must be done "before the election", and not 10 days before the election as mandated by the law.

In Article 119, the amendment adds "technical and administrative problems in the distribution of election materials" as another reason for the KPU to justify a delay in the election in several areas.

Originally the articles only named natural disasters, riots and insurgencies, as legitimate reasons for a delay. With the new regulation regional KPUs have the authority to delay the election and set new dates for the poll.

"This is not an intervention because we made the regulation based on an official request from the KPU," Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said.

The minister said that the regulation was retroactive in that it was considered effective 10 days before the April 5 election day.

The logistics of the distribution of election materials such as ballot papers, boxes, and ink has been the main concern of the KPU since they failed to meet the March 27 deadline to complete the distribution of the materials especially the ballot papers.

Separately, commission member Mulyana W. Kusumah predicted that some 2,500 of 585,218 polling stations might not receive ballot papers by April 5 as the polling stations were located in remote areas.

Some areas that had only reached a coverage of 90 percent in the distribution as of Friday were Banda Aceh, in Aceh, and Deli Serdang, Serdang Bedagai and Samosir regencies of North Sumatra,

Indragiri Hilir regency in Riau and Subang in West Java had received 95 percent of the ballot papers. Gorontalo and Makassar were in a similar predicament.

Meanwhile, Papua's KPU province head, Ferry Kareth, has asked for a delay in the election in 11 out of 20 regencies in the province.

"We have submitted a letter to the KPU in Jakarta as it is impossible for us to ensure the distribution is completed by April 4," he said.

The nine regencies that will hold the election on time are Kota Jayapura, Jayapura, Biak Numfor, Supiori, Keerom, Yapen Waropen, Waropen, Nabire and Mimika.

The 11 regencies where the poll will be delayed are Paniai, Puncak Jaya, Yahukimo, Tolikara, Jayawijaya, Boven Digul, Mappi, Asmat, Sarmi, Pegunungan Bintang and Merauke.

He said that the some of the villages in those 11 regencies that could hold the election on time will have the election on April 5, as all of the ballot papers had actually arrived in the regencies.

"As for the rest, we are still trying to distribute the papers as some of the areas can only be reached on foot and not by plane or helicopter," Ferry added.