Sat, 23 Aug 2003


Village heads threaten to thwart Golkar election bid

Andi Hajramurni The Jakarta Post Makassar, South Sulawesi

Dozens of village heads in Enrekang regency, South Sulawesi, have threatened to resign en masse so as to prevent the Golkar Party from winning the 2003 regental election in the district in a protest against the party's candidate.

The protesters demanded that Golkar withdraw its support for Y.K. Sawati in the regental election scheduled for October. The Enrekang legislative council has yet to set a specific date for the election.

Should the party press ahead with nominating Sawati, who chairs the Enrekang branch of Golkar and is also the local council speaker, the village heads said they would resign and thus thwart the party's participation in the regental election.

The threat was conveyed during a demonstration by the village heads, numbering at least 39, at the South Sulawesi legislative council on Thursday.

Joining the protest were dozens of activists from various organizations, including the Golkar Renewal Youth Force (AMPG), the Pancasila Youth group and the Indonesian National Youth Committee (KNPI).

The demonstrators claimed that Sawati, 60, is not fit to lead the Enrekang administration for the 2003-2008 period.

"We don't agree with the Golkar nomination because not only is he not capable, he is also too old. He will certainly not be able to work to the maximum," protest leader Syarifuddin Sinring said.

"In this mountainous district, how will such an elderly person be able to visit his constituents when he himself needs a helper to accompany him," he added.

Dasi Jaga, the head of Tallang Rilau village in Bunging subdistrict, claimed that apart from him and his 38 counterparts, around 75 of the 108 village heads in Enrekang also opposed Sawati's regental bid.

Similarly, Batu Mila village head Hasanuddin in Maiwa subdistrict said those opposed to Sawati had agreed to boycott Golkar's campaigns in the 2004 elections in the regency.

"If the Golkar faction insists on nominating its current candidate, we will resign en masse and ban the erection of the party's attributes in our areas," he added.

Sawati is expected to challenge the reelection bid of incumbent Enrekang regent, Iqbal Mustofa. Three other candidates will also contest the election.

Sawati won the support of the South Sulawesi provincial chapter of Golkar, but the protesters claim that most people in the regency wanted Iqbal to retain the post, saying he is "more professional and capable" than the Golkar-backed candidate.

"We think that Iqbal is still capable of leading Enrekang. But if he has to be replaced, it must not be by Y.K. Sawati," asserted Syarifuddin.