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Jember regent impeached for alleged power abuse, legal violations

Jakarta Post - July 24, 2020

Tri Indah Oktavianti, Jakarta – The Jember Regional Legislative Council in East Java has voted to impeach, for the first time in the regency's 91-year history, a sitting regent.

The seven political factions in the council voted unanimously for the impeachment of Regent Faida following a four-hour hearing on Wednesday.

"The council has decided through the seven factions to use the right to express our opinion [in the form of impeachment]," said the council's deputy speaker, Ahmad Halim, who presided over the hearing.

Faida – elected in 2015 as Jember's first female regent – was accused of breaking the law by ignoring interpellation notes issued by the council and infringing upon the right of inquiry.

She was missing from Wednesday's hearing, saying she did not approve of large, in-person gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. She had asked the council to hold a virtual hearing, but the councilors had denied the request.

The regent has been embroiled in a sprawling legal and political drama that began when the State Civilian Bureaucracy Commission (KASN) declared in October 2019 that she had broken the law for dismissing and appointing local officials without adhering to the merit-based system.

The councilors also argued that Faida – who is now seeking reelection as an independent candidate in the upcoming Jember regional race – had ignored the calls of Home Minister Tito Karnavian to retract 15 decrees she had issued to circumvent existing laws to demote officials.

In October 2019, the Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Ministry refused to grant a quota for civil service recruitment in the regency because of irregularities in the regional bureaucracy.

Councilor and NasDem Party politician Hamim said Faida's decisions had caused the regency to be denied its 2019 civil servant quota. This, he said, had brought disadvantages to many underemployed staff members and workers in the city who were seeking positions.

"She also disobeyed the recommendation given by the KASN and repeated the same mistakes over and over," Hamim said during the hearing, as quoted by kompas.com.

He claimed that Faida had "hurt the 2.6 million Jember residents" because her actions had caused the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) to give a "disclaimer opinion" – the lowest audit ranking – to the regency, meaning its financial transparency and budget management were deemed poor.

Edi Cahyo Purnomo, a council member with the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) – which, alongside NasDem, the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the Hanura Party, had backed Faida's candidacy in the 2015 election – said her governance was "full of failures, violations and chaos".

Indonesian law, however, does not give the regional legislative council the final authority in the impeachment of a regent. A 2014 law on regional governments gives the final say on the impeachment of a regional leader to the Supreme Court, which has the authority to review a decision of impeachment.

Ahmad Halim said the regional legislative council would soon forward a dossier on its decision to the country's highest court. "We are now completing the documents so that we will be able to submit them to the Supreme Court for review," he said.

Home Ministry spokesperson Bahtiar said on Thursday that the ministry respected the decision made by the Jember legislative council and that it was in accordance with Article 80 of a 2014 law on the council's supervisory role.

"The Ministry demanded the East Java provincial administration facilitate the impeachment procedures based on the existing rules," Bahtiar told The Jakarta Post.

Separately, East Java governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa said the administration would await the Supreme Court's review of Faida's impeachment.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/07/24/jember-regent-impeached-for-alleged-power-abuse-legal-violations.html