Dion Bisara, Yustinus Paat, Jakarta – A United States citizen has run for a district head election in Sabu Raijua, a region in one of Indonesia's poorest provinces East Nusa Tenggara, and managed to win the election with a wide margin in the strangest election mishap the country might ever see.
The winner, Orient P. Riwu Kore, 56, run with backing from former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, Defense Minister Pabowo Subianto's Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) party, and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the current ruling party, in the last year's regional election.
He secured 48 percent of the votes, enough to win with a simple majority over the two other candidates: the incumbent Nikodemus N. Rihi Heke (30 percent) and seasoned bureaucrat Takem Irianto Radja Pono (22 percent).
It appeared that nothing wrong with Orient's paperwork. When registering for his candidacy, Orient used an ID issued in Jakarta last year, not uncommon among political candidates in Indonesia, who often come back to their hometown after years of accumulating sizable political and financial backing in the capital.
The General Election Commission (KPU), an institution responsible for holding and officiate elections in Indonesia, even went on to officiate the result and named Orient as the next district head of Sabu Raijua, a region with 93,000 people.
Then, there was the bombshell. Sabu Raijua's Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) announced on Tuesday that it had received confirmation from the United States Embassy (US) that the elected district head Orient P. Riwu Kore was still a US citizen.
"The US Embassy in Jakarta has confirmed that the person concerned is still a US citizen," Yugi Tagi Huma, the head of Sabu Raijua's Bawaslu, said on Tuesday.
Indonesia does not recognize dual citizenship. According to the 2006 Law on Citizenship, one's Indonesian citizenship is void once they swore allegiance to other countries or serve under foreign armed forces.
Still, they can write to Indonesia's president for their Indonesian citizenship to be reinstated once they meet the requirements, including living for at least five years in a row in the country – or ten years if not consecutively – among others.
Yugi said Bawaslu has raised concern about Orient's citizenship in January and urged the KPU to hold off officiating the election result after the matter was clear.
"We have also issued a warning before the stipulation. We asked them not to rush to determine the elected district head, but in the end, they were also determined [to officiate Orient winning]," Yugi said.
Yugi said Bawaslu sent letters to the US Embassy in Jakarta early in January. "However, we only received confirmation from the US Embassy in Jakarta today, after the appointment of an elected regent," he said.
KPU officiated Sabu Raijua's election result on Jan 23, according to a publication on the commission's website.
Ilham Saputra, the KPU interim chairman, said the East Nusa Tenggara's election commission had checked Orient's citizenship status with the Citizenship and Civil Records Agency (Dukcapil) and received a confirmation that he was still an Indonesian citizen.
"In principle, the province's KPU has done right by clarifying the matter to the authorized agency, Dukcapil," Ilham said. Still, he said that the KPU would wait for reports from the province before moving forward on the issue.
Orient P. Riwu Kore was born in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara on Oct 7, 1964, and spend his youth in the province's capital until he acquired an undergraduate degree in business administration from Nusa Cendana University in 1987, according to his election campaign material.
He then worked as a tax controller at flagship carrier Garuda Indonesia in Jakarta before went to the US to work in several telecommunications companies between 1994 to 2007.
A 2016 edition of the Shipbuilder, a magazine published by General Dynamics Nassco, a ship repair contractor for the US Navy, listed him as an electrician who had worked at the company for ten years.
This was not the first time a question over citizenship status creeps up against one holding public office in Indonesia. In 2016, Arcandra Tahar, a seasoned oil and gas executive and US passport holder, was appointed as energy and mineral resources. Arcandra was sacked 20 days after his appointment, only to be reinstated after the government cleared his citizenship status and paperwork.