Elected District Head Disqualified, Court Says He’s an American Citizen
Jakarta. The Constitutional Court on Thursday disqualified an elected district head in East Nusa Tenggara after it was revealed that he is in fact an American citizen.
Orient Riwu Kore, 56, won the December election in Sabu Raijua district in the eastern Indonesian province but he soon became a subject of mounting controversies for having a valid United States passport.
The court said in a ruling that Orient has obtained US citizenship since 2007 and didn’t formally give it up by the time he registered himself for the regional leader election, which was held simultaneously in many other districts and cities across the country.
Constitutional Court Chairman Anwar Usman said Orient’s case is a blatant violation to the election law, which requires Indonesian citizenship to become a candidate.
He also ordered the General Election Commission (KPU) to hold reelection in the district involving two remaining candidates.
“The reelection shall be held within 60 days since this verdict is read out by the court,” the justice said.
A verdict by the Constitutional Court is final and binding with no chance given for an appeal.
The losing candidates, Nikodemus Rihi Heke and Taken Irianto Radja Pono, have disputed the election result due to Orient’s citizenship issue.
Another judge, Saldi Isra, said Orient has been dishonest with authorities about his citizenship by providing conflicting testimonies when asked about the issue.
“It’s a fact that Orient Riwu Kore has acted dishonestly by covering up his citizenship when he registered himself as a district head candidate in Sabu Raijua in 2020,” Saldi said.
Orient applied for travel documents with the Indonesian consulate general in Los Angeles, California, claiming that his US green card had expired in 2011. However, he later told the Jakarta Immigration Office that he had lost his Indonesian passport and applied for a new one, the judge said.
Had the Indonesian consulate been told honestly that he was a US citizen, his application for Indonesian travel documents and passport would have been denied in the first place.
Orient has never admitted to Indonesian foreign representatives and immigration officials that he owns a valid US passport, the judge said.
Furthermore, he used the travel documents issued by the Indonesian consulate general in Los Angeles to apply for an Indonesian passport in Jakarta, the court heard.
Earlier this month, a consulate staff testified in the court that Orient has claimed he neither obtained a US citizenship, nor did he serve in the US military and police.
Orient applied for Indonesian travel documents and passport with the consulate in March 2019, according to the court.
His district head candidacy won the backing from the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and the Democratic Party.
A senior politician with PDI-P’s East Nusa Tenggara chapter puts the blame on the government, which somehow has granted Orient with Indonesian passport and ID.
“We are the one who bears the brunt of this saga. It’s not our fault [that Orient obtains Indonesian passport]. He has won but it’s now annulled,” Nelson Matara, deputy chairman of the East Nusa Tenggara chapter, commented on the ruling.
“We certainly regret the decision because the Civil Registration Office should have solved his citizenship issue since the beginning,” he added.
Orient got 48 percent of the votes during the December election to win a simple majority over two other candidates in the district of less than 100,000.
Problems emerged when the Election Supervisory Agency announced it had received confirmation from the United States Embassy that Orient still holds US citizenship.
Orient was born in Kupang on Oct 7, 1964, and spent 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 moving to the US to work in several telecommunications companies between 1994 and 2007.
A 2016 edition of 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.