Wed, 22 Jan 2003

NGOs to challenge election of S. Sulawesi Governor Amin

Jupriadi, The Jakarta Post, Makassar, South Sulawesi

A coalition of non-governmental organizations said on Tuesday they would challenge the validity of a presidential decree appointing a Golkar executive as South Sulawesi's new governor.

Amin Syam and Syahrul Yasin Limpo were sworn in respectively as governor and deputy governor of South Sulawesi on Monday, after beating two other pairs of candidates: HM Aksa Mahmud-Malik Hambali and Nurdin Halid-Iskandar Mandji.

"We're consulting members in the coalition, but our purpose is clear: to challenge the validity (of the decree) at the administrative court," said Abraham Samad, the spokesman for the Coalition for the Supervision of Gubernatorial Succession (KPSG).

KPSG comprises several NGOs, among them the local chapter of the Association of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Ujungpandang Legal Aid Foundation (LBH).

The coalition claims to have collected evidence that Amin bribed members of the provincial legislative council to win the election.

The coalition has submitted the evidence to the police and has published some of the material in the local media.

"It's up to the police and the public to respond to the new governor and these allegations," Abraham said earlier.

Governor Amin has denied any wrongdoing and has said he is ready to be investigated by the police.

Abraham said the election was invalid because the candidates had not been cleared of the corruption charges against them before taking part in the polls.

During a meeting between the South Sulawesi legislative council and the Ministry of Home Affairs, it was decided that three of the candidates, including Amin, must first be cleared by the Supreme Court to take part in the gubernatorial election.

However, the election was held without the candidates receiving the Supreme Court's clearance, Abraham said.

"The letter from the Supreme Court did not come but the election was still held. So (the election) is legally flawed ... that is the grounds on which our lawsuit will be based," he said.

A member of the coalition, Syamsuddin, said bribery had tainted Amin and a number of other gubernatorial candidates.

He said members of Amin's campaign team held meetings with several councillors in Jakarta and in Makassar.

Following these meetings, a number of the councillors went to Singapore using "facilities from the candidate", Syamsuddin said.

"We strongly suspect that the 2002 gubernatorial election process, involving the candidate on the one hand and members of the South Sulawesi legislative council on the other, meets the criteria outlined in law number 11 on corruption," he said, citing articles 2 and 3 of the law on bribery.

Responding to these claims, home affairs minister Hari Sabarno has said the election was legal.

Since regional autonomy took effect in 2001, a number of provinces have encountered problems with their governors facing opposition either from the public or from the local legislative council.

The recently sworn-in governor of Southeast Sulawesi, Ali Mase, is facing legal charges over his alleged involvement in bribery during the gubernatorial election last December.

His swearing-in ceremony was attended by Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung, who was sentenced to three years in prison for misusing state funds. His sentence was upheld last week by the High Court.