Papuan Leader Takes Bid For Re-election to Court

Papuan Leader Takes Bid For Re-election to Court

Jakarta Globe, 27 January 2011


Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu on Thursday mounted a legal challenge against a law that prevents him seeking a third term in office later this year.

Under Article 17 of the 2001 Papuan Special Autonomy Law, a governor is limited to two five-year terms in office. The 2004 Regional Governance Law also sets a similar cap.

Based on these regulations, the Papuan General Elections Commission (KPUD) has barred Barnabas from running for re-election this year.

However, in a judicial review being heard by the Constitutional Court, Barnabas’s lawyers are arguing that the laws do not apply in his situation.

“He was first elected in 1988, then later in 2006,” said Sugito, one of his lawyers.

He said that because his terms were not consecutive, Barnabas should be allowed to run for governor again.

Zairin Harahap, another of his lawyers, said the 2001 law took precedence over the 2004 law, and because the former was not clear on whether the term limit applied to non-consecutive terms, Barnabas should be allowed to run again.

He also argued that because the law was passed after Barnabas had already served his first term, that term should not count.

“The term limit shouldn’t apply retroactively,” Zairin said.

He added that they were not seeking to repeal the article in question, but only wanted to ensure that Barnabas’s first term was not included.

Justice Ahmad Sodiki, however, pointed out that term limits for regional heads were mandated under the Constitution.

“If we annul the term limit, regional heads would be allowed to serve multiple terms,” he said. “Setting a cap is normal for a constitutional republic. We also have a term limit for the president.”

Constitutional expert and lawyer Refly Harun agreed.

“The spirit of the law is to set a term limit, regardless of whether the law came into force after the term was served,” he said.