Yogyakarta. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is set to inaugurate Yogyakarta’s Sultan Hamengkubowono X as governor for life following a landmark ruling recognizing monarch rule of the autonomous province.
The inauguration ceremony, scheduled for Oct. 9, will cost around Rp 1.6 billion ($168,000), according to Yogyakarta’s Assistant of Administration and People’s Welfare, Astungkoro, adding that the cost of the inauguration had been approved by the Regional Representatives Council in the province’s revised budget.
Officials expect 1,500 guests to attend the inauguration, including Vice President Boediono, foreign ambassadors, other governors and regional leaders, as well as the business community.
Calling the inauguration “humble,” Astungkoro said the majority of the budget is not spent on decor and entertaining guests, but for added security for the high-profile guests.
The main ceremony will be held at the Siti Hinggil hall of the Sultan’s palace, traditionally used for official monarch ceremonies. But Astungkoro said the decision to use the main hall was “not political but more technical,” adding that the local military command suggested it for security reasons.
The Sultan traditionally only uses the Siti Hinggil three times a year for traditional celebrations, aside from other major events like his own coronation. But it is unclear whether his inauguration as governor would be customarily accepted.
By law, a governor should be inaugurated by the president or vice president. “The presidential office has not given any confirmation, but let’s just wait for it,” the Sultan said.
Last month, the House of Representatives passed a law affirming the Sultan would automatically become the governor of the province.
The ongoing struggle among political parties to win the support of Sultan Hamengkubuwono X has also come to an end because a newly passed law on the special territory of Yogyakarta bars him from becoming a member of any party.
Gajah Mada University lecturer Pratikno said his university will supervise the implementation of the newly passed law.
“The framework to think comprehensively is important to [ensure] the implementation of one regulation is in line with another. Because in practice, laws on politics often contradict one another,” he said. “We must formulate a comprehensive framework about the instrumentation to interpret the five pillars of the special autonomy law. We are ready to be involved in design policies so that each pillar results in regional regulations.”
The national government had wanted the governor and deputy governor of the province to be elected, like in all other provinces, but locals pointed to the special status of the region awarded by founding President Sukarno in return for the region’s services to the young Indonesian republic. They claim that the former president was adamant that the position should not be an elected one, adding that as part of the special status, the house of the Yogyakarta sultanate and the head of the Pakualam princedom should automatically become the governor and deputy governor, respectively.
At the peak of the tension, many Yogyakarta residents staged large rallies, demanding that the region break away from Indonesia. Realizing the strong resistance, the central government eventually softened its stance.
A breakthrough following almost 10 years of discussions on the draft came in last month’s meeting between the president and the Sultan. A compromise was reached allowing the sultan to stay on as governor as long as he was not a part of any political party. Despite the regulation, the Sultan did not rule out possibility of running for president in 2014, saying that he would still be involved in politics. The Sultan is a Golkar member. However, other major parties claim to have received support from the monarch.
Analysts have praised the 66-year-old Sultan as an able governor, with the province of more than 3.5 million people increasing its economic prosperity and sociopolitical stability since he took office in 1998.
Under his rule, Yogyakarta remains one of the wealthiest and most religiously tolerant provinces, with Muslims, non-Muslims and other minority ethnic groups coexisting with little conflict. Muslim minority sects, such as Ahmadiyah, have felt protected inside the province.