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Populist, anti-mining district head in Jember impeached by councilors

Jakarta Globe - July 23, 2020

Jakarta – A female district head known for her charity works and anti-mining stance was impeached by local councilors in East Java on Wednesday in a rare concerted political maneuver involving nearly all members of a district legislative council.

Jember District Head Faida, who goes with a single name, was declared guilty of violating oath of office and incompetence by a plenary session in the Jember Legislative Council. Councilors also called for law enforcement agencies to launch graft investigation against the woman.

The district head, who has been in office since February 2016, is accused of violating her oath of office, leading to many accusations such as bad budget management, unlawful transfer of civil servants in the district government, maladministration and issuance of local regulations contravening those of the central government.

She is also accused of corruption concerning the district budget.

"The District Legislative Council who represents the people no longer wants her as Jember district head," Speaker Itqon Syauqi was quoted as saying by Antara news agency after the plenary session.

The motion was approved by 47 councilors of the 50-member council.

But the speaker admitted that the political move has no legal power to oust the district head, who can only be dismissed by the home affairs minister and the Supreme Court.

He said results from the plenary session will be sent to the Supreme Court and Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian for considerations.

Faida, who is a doctor with no political background, was popular among residents in the district of 2.6 million for her charity works in which she organized free surgeries for people with cataracts and hernia.

She was nominated by the National Democratic Party, or Nasdem, in the 2015 district head election and won 53 percent of the votes.

Three Nasdem councilors abstained in the plenary session but their four colleagues joined the motion.

Rights defender

The National Commission for Human Rights, or Komnas HAM, has described the 51-year-old woman as a fierce rights defender in the district, noting that she had stood with villagers who opposed the opening of a gold mine in their area and promised to issue anti-mining regulations in Jember.

"Faida has also won praises for her tolerant views. She held a Ramadan communal feast at the Santo Yusuf Catholic Church in Jember in 2018 to promote friendship among people of different faiths," the commission said of the Muslim district head in an article published in August last year.

"She was the only district head from Indonesia who was invited to the UN forum on sustainable development goals in June 2019," the article reads.

Faida, who is running for reelection through independent candidacy, didn't attend the hearing at the council after her request for videoconferencing was turned down.

She said her appearance at the council would attract a big crowd of either her supporters or those against her around the council's compound, and that was not a good idea during the Covid-19 outbreak.

East Java was the worst-hit province in the Indonesian Covid-19 outbreak with over 19,000 cases and nearly 1,500 deaths.

In a Facebook post shortly after the council's hearing, Faida ran a video to counter the motion, explaining that all attacks by councilors were "merely allegations" which have no legal ground whatsoever.

Source: https://jakartaglobe.id/news/populist-antimining-district-head-in-jember-impeached-by-councilors