Sat, 23 Aug 2003

House backs Balinese, urges probe into fixed election

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The House of Representatives strongly urged home minister Hari Sabarno on Friday to heed the ruling by the Denpasar Administrative Court that the swearing-in of governor-elect Dewa Made Beratha be postponed until allegations of bribery during his election were investigated.

House Deputy Speaker Soetardjo Soerjogoeritno of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) said that the police and the prosecutor's office in Bali should also speed up the investigation into the case and to announce the suspects, if any be found, as soon as possible.

"As a matter of fact, we (the House) intend to seek more information on the allegations, and it is very fortunate that concerned Balinese have presented us with evidence in the case," he told reporters after a meeting with Bali Corruption Watch (BCW), Transparency International Indonesia (TI Indonesia) and the Foundation for Press and Development Study (LSPP).

Also attending the meeting was his fellow House deputy chairman from the Reform faction, A.M. Fatwa.

In response to the public outcry against widespread reports of bribery during the gubernatorial election, the Denpasar Administrative Court issued a directive on Aug. 15, urging the central government to delay the inauguration of Beratha and Alit Kusuma Kelakan as governor and deputy governor of the island province for the 2003-2008 term.

With the backing of the PDI Perjuangan and party chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri, Beratha clinched victory in the gubernatorial election on Aug. 6, collecting 31 out of the 55 votes.

Two PDI Perjuangan councillors admitted that they were forced by the party's central board to vote for Beratha, and were later given Rp 150 million each.

The gubernatorial election sparked a torrent of protest and criticism as Megawati, who chairs the PDI Perjuangan, supported the incumbent governor and not candidates proposed by her party. She cited security and stability reasons as she did when supporting incumbent governors in Jakarta, Lampung, West Java, Central Java and East Java.

Soetardjo also suggested that political parties at the national level should not interfere in gubernatorial elections. "Let the locals and the provincial legislature decide. They know what is best for themselves," he said.

Meanwhile Minister Hari Sabarno questioned the validity of the administrative court's ruling, which he said was issued hastily.

"You should check yourselves whether or not the ruling is the result of political maneuvers by certain parties. The case was heard in the morning, and the verdict was handed down in the afternoon. How can a decision be made that quickly?" he was quoted by Antara as saying.

He said that prior to making a decision, the administrative court should have summoned both the plaintiffs and suspects. "But in this case, the court directly handed down a ruling," the minister said.

Despite the court ruling and mounting opposition from the public, the minister said he would press ahead with the swearing- in of the governor-elect.

"A minister is the servant of the president. Therefore I must do what she has already decided," he said.