Wed, 12 Mar 2003

S. Kalimantan governor fends off bribery charges

Yuliansyah, The Jakarta Post, Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan

South Kalimantan Governor Sjachrial Darham on Tuesday rejected claims that he had bribed Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno in order to retain his governorship after the local council dismissed him last year.

Last week provincial legislative head Mansyah Add accused Sjachrial of granting minister Hari 5,000 hectares of coal mining concessions to cancel the council's move to oust him.

Sjachrial denied this, saying the allegation was unfounded.

He described Mansyah's statement as "sick" and said he may report the accusations to the minister himself.

Sjachrial said he might consider suing the council head, and argued that such allegations could tantamount to treachery.

But Mansyah's statement was enough to kick start a police investigation.

Local police chief Brig. Gen. Dody Sumantyawan said he would at least seek to clarify the charges by asking Sjachrial.

"We will move cautiously and won't respond emotionally," he said.

Intelligence assistant at the province's prosecutors' office Muchjar Sjaifullah signaled support for an investigation.

"The statement by the South Kalimantan council head Mansyah Add could be a starting point for prosecutors to investigate," Muchjar said, but added his office had not decided to act yet.

The bribery charge is the latest in a year-long row between the governor and the council in one of Indonesia's most natural- resource rich provinces.

Tension between the provincial branch of the executive and the legislature have emerged in a number of regions since Indonesia adopted autonomy laws in 2001.

Decentralization gave councillors free reign over the election of governors, but first must obtain Jakarta's approval to appoint or dismiss them.

South Kalimantan councillors impeached governor Sjachrial on August last year for incompetence and suspicion he was corrupt. Jakarta blocked the move, when minister Hari issued a decree calling the impeachment illegitimate.

At the council, factions look set to decide whether or not to discuss Sjachrial's accountability speech over the use of the 2002 budget. The speech is slated for this week.

The Golkar, the Justice Mandate, and the Awakening, Justice and National Unity factions, would skip the accountability speech of the governor who they decided to dismiss last year.

The Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle and the Unity and People's Sovereignty factions remain undecided. They were among the factions that had ruled for the governor's ouster.

Facing councilors' rejection, Sjachrial threatened "those who don't join the discussion must return their salaries and their allowances."