Tue, 08 Mar 2005

Acehnese demand greater public participation

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan

A group of people, claiming to be representatives of the Aceh people, stepped up pressure on the government on Monday to review its blueprint on post-tsunami rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh.

During a meeting in Medan, they also voiced demands for greater public participation in the development of the blueprint, slated to be made public by the middle of March.

"The government has missed many points in the making of the blueprint. The blueprint has to be reviewed," said Achmad Humam Hamid, chairman of Aceh Recovery Forum Action Committee, during a seminar held by the Aceh Recovery Forum in Medan.

The two-day seminar was attended by some 270 people including Muslim ulema, scholars, students, businessmen, non-governmental organization (NGO) activists and victims of the tsunami.

According to Hamid, the blueprint failed to live up to people's expectation because it did not involve the people of Aceh in the rehabilitation and reconstruction projects.

The government had thus treated Acehnese as objects, instead of subjects, of the programs.

Muslim Ibrahim, chief of Aceh's Ulema Consultative Assembly, said that the government's rehabilitation and reconstruction plan did not emphasize Islamic culture. "There is too much emphasis on Indonesian secular culture in the blueprint", he said.

"This development model goes against the culture of Acehnese, which has long been known as a religious community. I doubt that Acehnese will accept the blueprint when it is launched in March," said Muslim.

Aceh ulema had earlier put similar demands to the government in Banda Aceh, but it seemed that they were being ignored, said Muslim.

Meanwhile, director of True Partners of Indonesian Women, Syarifah Rachmatillah, said that, in general, the blueprint failed to promote women's concerns in Aceh.

The blueprint does not mention the construction of facilities that support women in carrying out public activities, such as women's prayer gatherings.

The government should have included plans to build small mosques that allow women to conduct such public prayers, said Syarifah, who is also a member of Aceh provincial General Elections Commission (KPU).

The blueprint also failed to clearly understand the roles of women in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh.

Despite the protests, a government official said in defense that the government was still open to public participation in the development of the blueprint.

Tatag Wiranto, deputy chief of the National Planning and Development Body (Bappenas), said that the government was open to all input. All the input will be discussed on March 11 and 13 in Bogor, before the blueprint is presented to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on March 15.

Tatag, deputy chief for regional autonomy and regional development at Bappenas, said that the rehabilitation and reconstruction projects will cost the state between Rp 40 trillion and Rp 50 trillion over five years. The money will come from donors and the state budget, he said.

The money will be used to finance the construction of public facilities and housing, among other things, said Tatag.