Three years ahead of Governor race, possible candidates already surface

Bumpy ride: A truck drives along a dirt track in Bulungan regency. The new North Kalimantan province is hoping to speed up development in regions that lack infrastructure. JP/Prodita Sabarini
Bumpy ride: A truck drives along a dirt track in Bulungan regency. The new North Kalimantan province is hoping to speed up development in regions that lack infrastructure. JP/Prodita Sabarini

The election of the governor of North Kalimantan province is still three years away, but names are already being bounced around for the first elected leader of the new province.

Golkar party chief in Nunukan regency Ngatidjan Ahmadi said on Wednesday that his party had three names that they saw as strong candidates to support. “Jusuf SK, former mayor of Tarakan; Martin Bila****, former regent of Malinau and Anang Dahlan, former regent of Bulungan,” he said.

Jusuf Serang Kasim, a doctor who ran the Tarakan hospital before becoming mayor of Tarakan, is one of the driving forces behind North Kalimantan earning its provincial status. He founded Gerakan Kaltara Bersatu (the United North Kalimantan Movement) to intensify lobbying for North Kalimantan at the House of Representatives. Local North Kalimantan political observer from Borneo University, Yahya Ahmad Zein, says that while the initiative to form a new province came from university students of North Kalimantan origin, Jusuf SK was the man who organized and unified the movement.

“He took over, so after he finished his term as mayor he started to strengthen the movement,” he said. Yahya said that people had been sporadically advocating provincial status for North Kalimantan. “There was the KNPI (Indonesian Youth Committee) and other organizations but after he took over, the campaign for North Kalimantan was more intense and organized,” he said.

Yahya says that due to Jusuf’s work in lobbying for North Kalimantan, he is currently very popular in the region. Another potential candidate, Martin Bila, a former Malinau regent, is known for his conservation activities as Malinau mayor. In 2007, he received the Kalpataru award from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for his work in preserving the environment in Malinau. Jusuf SK also received the Kalpataru award in 2006 for preserving mangroves in Tarakan.

Ngatidjan added that the incumbent Bulungan regent Budiman Arifin might be a strong contender with the backing of the Democratic Party. Budiman however declined to comment on the gubernatorial election.

The law that endorsed the establishment of North Kalimantan as a new autonomous province mandated the Home Affairs Ministry to appoint an acting governor by July 2013 at the latest. The acting governor would then prepare for the 2014 legislative election while the gubernatorial election is scheduled for 2015, three years after the passing of the law.

Jusuf, with the Gerakan Kaltara Bersatu, and politicians that sit in the East Kalimantan council representing regions that are now part of North Kalimantan territory, plans to challenge the law that leaves the new province without a local council for a year and prolongs the time until the province has an autonomous administration to three years.

“By law North Kalimantan exists, but in reality it doens’t,” Yahya said regarding the North Kalimantan administrative arrangement. In fact voters in the regions of North Kalimantan are still included on the electoral roll for the East Kalimantan gubernatorial election in 2013.

Constitutional Court expert Ni’matul Huda said that each of the prospective challengers had a chance at winning, as quoted by radartarakan.co.id. She also questioned the accountability of the acting governor in managing the budget.

Ngatidjan said that the three-year hiatus could cause the political map to change ahead of the election.

Yahya also said that it was too early to predict the candidates that would run for governor.

Prodita Sabarini and Nurni Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post, Bulungan | Reportage | Mon, January 28 2013

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