Wed, 06 Aug 2003

Security upped as legislature set to elect Bali gubernor

I Wayan Juniartha, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali

Police said on Tuesday that at least 650 personnel, including soldiers, would be deployed to provide security in the vicinity of the Bali legislative council, which is electing the province's governor on Wednesday.

The personnel will include two companies of elite Mobile Brigade paramilitary police and about 200 riot police. Two platoons of Army soldiers and Navy marines have also been put on stand-by.

"We will search the building and cordon it off early on Wednesday. When the process is complete, only authorized personnel and invited guests will be allowed to enter the plenary hall, where the gubernatorial election will take place," said the Denpasar Police's chief of operations and control, Comr. R Agus Sugianto.

A walk-through metal detector has been placed at the entrance to the plenary hall. During the election, guests are banned from bringing cellular phones, while the council's secretariat has issued special identity cards for journalists covering the event.

Three candidates -- incumbent Bali Governor Dewa Made Beratha, wealthy businessman Putu Gede Ary Suta and former Gianyar regent Tjokorda Budi Suryawan -- are contesting the race.

Beratha, from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), has secured the support of top party leader President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Megawati had issued an order to her party's councillors in Bali to vote for Beratha. The PDI Perjuangan is the largest faction in the 55-strong council, holding 39 seats.

Ary Suta has been nominated by the five-seat Golkar faction, while Tjokorda's candidacy has been backed by the five-member Kebangsaan Indonesia faction, a coalition of councillors from the National Awakening Party, National Mandate Party and the Republic Party.

Since Monday night, all 39 PDI Perjuangan councillors have been sequestered in the remote five-star Bali Cliff resort, some 35 kilometers away from the Bali capital.

They have been forbidden from having cellular phones and from contacting those outside the resort.

"It's not a quarantine. It is a meeting aimed at solidifying the faction's stance so as to secure the execution of the party's recommendation," Bali PDI Perjuangan chairman Ida Bagus Wesnawa said on Tuesday.

Senior executives of the party's central board, Gunawan Wirosarojo, Pramono Anung, Mangara Siahaan and Sutjipto are in Bali to brief the councillors.

The sequestration of councillors is normal in Indonesia to prevent them from being "got at" by third parties so as to make them switch their allegiances to rival gubernatorial candidates hours before the election.

Initially, many PDI Perjuangan councillors had opposed the central board's support for Beratha, instead supporting the nomination of Cok Ratmadi, who is currently serving as the Badung regent.

The opposition apparently ended after Ratmadi withdrew his bid for the Bali governorship after failing to win the support of Megawati.

"However, all the party's councillors will still be asked to make legal affidavits declaring that they will vote for Beratha and are ready to face any consequences if they fail to do so," Wesnawa said.

He said the central board had agreed to fire party councillor, Gede Ngurah Wididana, who is also a traditional herbal entrepreneur, as he is continuing to stand as Ary Suta's running mate.

On Tuesday, two groups of protesters staged rival rallies at the council -- one in support of Beratha and another against him.