Thu, 20 Mar 2003

W. Java gubernatorial hopefuls make glowing introduction

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Candidates for the West Java governorship arrived in luxury cars, on a bike, alone and with dozens of cheering supporters at the provincial legislative building in Bandung on Wednesday, in their first public appearance to introduce themselves.

Some of the 80 would-be governors and deputy governors made a public display of wealth and power. While others arrived with much less fanfare, one even riding in on a bicycle adorned with flags and a broom, reported on Wednesday.

The candidates hope to take over the province's top post now held by R. Nuriana, whose second term as governor ends in June.

The upcoming gubernatorial election will be West Java's first under the regional autonomy law, which empowers councillors to elect the governor.

Among the candidates being touted to replace Nuriana are retired military officers Maj. Gen. Tayo Tarmadi and Maj. Gen. Adang Ruchiatna, and retired police officer Lt. Gen. Nana S. Permana.

Several public officials are also joining the race, among them deputy governor Husein Jachjasaputra and the province's secretary, Danny Setiawan.

Luxury cars belonging to some of the candidates filled the parking lot of the council building, which is known as the Gedung Satay (satay building).

The man with the bike and the broom, Sariban, is among the independent candidates. Well-groomed and wearing a dark red tie, Sariban said he was a janitor, but little else is known about him.

Regardless of their background, each candidate had the chance on Wednesday to address the council in the plenary meeting hall.

Many of the councillors, however, seemed much happier following the speeches on television sets mounted outside the hall.

Supporters of the candidates packed the grounds of the legislative building. Some of the stronger candidates, like Danny Setiawan, Tayo Tarmadi and Adang Ruchiatna, attracted large crowds of supporters, as well as people who just wanted to shake their hands or have a picture taken with them.

"Mr. Governor, Mr. Governor!" the crowd shouted to the candidates as they left the meeting hall.

West Java's next governor will have to cope with a host of problems, including security, economic and environmental issues.

During former president Soeharto's 30-year rule, West Java was seen as the backbone for security in Jakarta.

As a result, Soeharto reserved the governorship in West Java for retired military officers, which was also the case for Central and East Java.

Before becoming governor in 1992, Nuriana was the head of the Siliwangi Military Command, which oversees the province.

One candidate, Tayo, another former head of the Siliwangi Military Command, hopes to continue this tradition.

But some councillors have said it is time to dispel the notion that the governor of West Java must have a military background.