Sat, 26 Apr 2003

Expert calls for lawsuit over Lampung governor debacle

Berni K. Moestafa, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A constitutional law expert said the Lampung provincial council could sue the central government for overstepping its authority and causing a four-month delay in the inauguration of governor-elect Alzier Dianis Thabranie.

Constitutional expert and West Nusa Tenggara Governor Harun Al Rasyid said the government violated autonomy law No. 22/1999, which grants regions the right to elect their own governors.

"The government must play by the rules, and it did not," Harun said on Thursday during a seminar on the election of heads of regions.

He suggested the provincial council sue the government in the administrative court.

Alzier was elected governor by the Lampung council last December. However, Jakarta has yet to endorse his election, leaving the province without a governor.

There have been numerous protests in Lampung to demand Alzier's inauguration, the first elected governor in the province for over 30 years. But Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno has refused to endorse the election, saying Alzier may be guilty of corruption.

"It would not be efficient or effective to swear in Alzier at present because another gubernatorial election would have to be held if he is found guilty (of corruption)," the minister said last week.

Harun dismissed the government's argument. "The government should proceed with the endorsement of the council's election of Alzier. If he is indeed implicated in a graft case, this should be pursued separately."

He said that once Alzier was inaugurated, President Megawati Soekarnoputri could make the governor nonactive pending an investigation into the allegations against him.

Alzier was flown to Jakarta last week and detained at the National Police Headquarters, angering hundreds of his supporters.

"For three decades we have had our governors dropped in from Jakarta, and now that we elect one by ourselves this is how they treat us," said the deputy speaker of the Lampung provincial council, Muchtar, during the seminar.

Minister Hari has appointed Tursandi Alwi, who heads the research and development division at the home ministry, acting governor of Lampung.

The minister also criticized the Lampung council for going ahead with the election despite a letter raising graft allegations against Alzier.

However, Harun blasted the government's moves as outright intervention.

"The law is very clear. The council has completed the election process from A to Z and this is what the government must endorse," Harun said. "Don't confuse the election process with the criminal case. Deal with them separately."

In February, former regional autonomy minister Ryass Rasyid voiced similar criticism, saying the government's refusal to endorse Alzier's election violated the autonomy law.

Alzier won 39 of 75 votes in the Dec. 30, 2002, gubernatorial election. His nearest competitor was Oemarsono, who received only 33 votes despite being backed by Megawati and her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan).

Even before his nomination and election, Alzier was being dogged by allegations of corruption. In addition, many activists in Lampung questioned his support at the grassroots level, saying they suspected he paid protesters to demand his inauguration.

Earlier this month, about 50 supporters of Alzier intimidated journalists at the Lampung Post daily because they were dissatisfied with the paper's coverage of the governor-elect.