Tue, 22 Jul 2003

Fired Golkar councillor elected NTB governor

Luh Putu Trisna Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara

In an unexpected move, chief councillor Lalu Serinate was elected the new governor of West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) here on Monday, beating incumbent governor Harun Al Rasyid, whose running mate was his secretary Nanang Samodra.

Serinate garnered 28 of the 55 votes against only 14 taken by Harun in the election in the NTB legislative council, which he currently chairs, in the provincial capital of Mataram.

Another candidate, Mesir Suryadi, who leads the provincial chapter of the Golkar Party, got one less vote than the defeated incumbent governor.

Harun once announced a bid to contest the Jakarta governorship in 2002, but eventually canceled his plan for unclear reasons.

Serinate had been fired as a senior executive of Golkar for seeking the post of governor on a United Development Party (PPP) ticket. But he had yet to receive an official notification of his dismissal as of Monday.

Seven other Golkar councillors who supported Serinate also face dismissal from their party, the political vehicle of former president Soeharto during his 32-year rule until 1998.

Golkar backed the pairing of Mesir and Ismaildin Wahab in the election, which was guarded by around 700 police personnel.

The victory of Serinate, paired with the secretary of the Sumbawa regency administration, Thamrin Rayes, was warmly hailed by his supporters.

Hundreds of these staged a motorcycle convey across Mataram to cerebrate.

Former rector of the Mataram-based Muhammadiyah University Agusfian Wahab said the election of Serinate for the 2003-2008 term should be supported by local people.

"The win of Serinate and Rayes is a victory for the people's conscience", he was quoted by Antara as saying in Mataram.

He said the "conscience-based approach" adopted by Serinate had proven effective in countering the many academic analyses by various scholars who had predicted that the pairing of Harun and Nanang would win the election.

Agusfian claimed that Serinate won the gubernatorial election democratically and fairly as he had not used bribery to elicit support.

"The governor-elect relied on silahturrahmi (brotherhood) and the establishment of close relations with the NTB's people. So, he managed to void money politics," he said.

He hoped that Serinate would be able to overcome the problems confronting the province during his five-year term in office.

Support also came from local community leader and legal expert Said Ruhpina, who urged the people of NTB to give their backing to the election of Serinate.

"The victory of the Serinate-Thamrin team is the result of the local people's prayers. Therefore, we should accept it happily," he said.

He said the winning pair were the best candidates, and deserved their victory.

Ruhpina warned of political maneuvers by supporters of the defeated candidates to foil the gubernatorial election outcome.

He advised the governor-elect to hold a thanksgiving ceremony to celebrate the unexpected victory by involving all elements of the local community.

The election's results still have to be presented to President Megawati Soekarnoputri through Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno for endorsement. Presidential approval will allow Serinate to be sworn in.

Ruhpina said the election of Serinate had a "special meaning" for the people of Sumbawa island, the governor-elect's place of origin, as they had been waiting for their island to produce the top NTB leader for almost 40 years.

Community leaders from Sumbawa shared Agusfian's opinion that Serinate's win was not because of a "materialistic approach" but rather the "strong emotional relationships" he established with local people.