Thu, 17 Jul 2003

Tallo sworn in as governor despite charges of corruption

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara

Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno swore in East Nusa Tenggara Governor Piet A. Tallo here on Wednesday to assume office for another five-year term, despite corruption charges leveled against the governor.

The inauguration ceremony, which took place at 2 p.m. local time in the provincial capital Kupang, was endorsed by President Megawati Soekarnoputri through Decree No. 111/M/2003 dated July 14.

Present were some 1,000 guests, including East Nusa Tenggara administration officials, councillors, community and religious figures. No protests marred the event.

Tallo was scheduled to be sworn in on July 15. There were hints that the inauguration could be delayed indefinitely, pending the result of the police investigation into his graft charges.

Police identified Tallo as a suspect in a Rp 3.83 billion graft case based on material evidence and several witnesses' statements.

Now the police are awaiting presidential permission to question the governor over a questionable deal involving the procurement of Rp 15 billion (US$1.8 million) worth of hospital equipment in 2002.

The deal, called the Sarkes project, caused Rp 3.83 billion in state losses.

Police began investigating the matter last year, but Tallo was linked to the case only after the council reelected him for a second term in June.

Wednesday's inauguration of Tallo stirred controversy as the home minister had earlier refused to swear in the elected governor of Lampung province, Alzier Dianis Thabranie, who has been named a suspect in a 1993 corruption case.

Hari had said Alzier's installation would be postponed until the case was resolved, and signaled that a revote would have to be held to elect a new governor if he was found guilty.

Alzier defeated Oemarsono, the then incumbent Lampung governor, whose reelection bid was supported by President Megawati.

However, Hari said on Wednesday that despite the graft charges against Tallo, his swearing-in ceremony had to go ahead, arguing that it had nothing to do with the police investigation.

Tallo, paired with Frans Lebu Raya, was elected "democratically and transparently" as governor on June 19 for the 2003-2008 term, he said.

"That's why the President issued a decree to endorse the results of the East Nusa Tenggara gubernatorial election," Hari said.

The minister claimed that Tallo's case differed from the Lampung case because Alzier had been implicated in the graft case before he was elected governor.

Hari said the police could go ahead with the probe into Tallo after they obtained permission from Megawati.

Tallo and Frans, backed by Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), won the election by one vote over B. Laiskodat and Simon Hayon, who were nominated by the coalition faction in the East Nusa Tenggara legislative council.

Megawati has been accused of practicing authoritarianism as her party has moved to replace councillors ignoring her instructions to vote for her candidates for governors, mayors or regents.

At least 20 councillors from PDI Perjuangan across the country are likely to become victims of Megawati's authoritarianism, as they are to be replaced or expelled from the party.