Leader in Jail, Papua District Stalls

Leader in Jail, Papua District Stalls

, 8 December 2010


By: Nivell Rayda


The Ministry of Home Affairs should look for a solution to resolve the prolonged absence of leadership in the impoverished district of Boven Digoel in Papua, a nongovernmental organization said on Monday.

Boven Digoel district head Yusak Yaluwo was taken into custody by the antigraft commission in mid-April this year on graft charges, and last month, the Anti-Corruption Court sentenced him to four and a half years in prison.

The court ruled that Yusak had enjoyed illicit profit in the purchase of a tanker ship in 2005, which was illegally sold back to the district the following year.

Yusak was also found guilty of siphoning money from the district coffers — up to Rp 49 billion ($5.4 million) — including money earmarked for social aid and emergency disaster relief.

He is now appealing the decision to the Jakarta High Court.

The Boven Digoel Elections Commission (KPUD), despite Yusak’s arrest in April, refused to take his name out of the race for district head. And on Aug. 31, the incumbent district head was not only re-elected, but enjoyed a landslide victory over his closest rival, Xaverius Songmen.

“We want the government to discuss the controversies surrounding the regional election in Boven Digoel.

The government must listen to the aspirations of the people, but at the same time uphold the law,” Joko Ariwibowo, chairman of the Papua Development Foundation (YPTP), said in Jakarta.

Joko said the Home Affairs Ministry’s indecisiveness over the issue had caused political friction between Yusak and Xaverius’s supporters and had brought local development to a standstill.

Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi has distanced himself from the matter by saying the dispute would be resolved once there was a final and binding decision from the judiciary in Yusak’s corruption case.

Gamawan has in the meantime endorsed the election results and in October formally announced Yusak as the 2010-15 district head of Boven Digoel.

Analysts have agreed that Yusak’s running mate, Yesaya Merasi, should be named interim district head. But Yesaya has himself not been officially sworn-in, since Yusak is in prison and thus could not attend their inauguration ceremony.