Thu, 10 Mar 2005

Ali Sadikin throws gambling issue on Council's table

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Former Jakarta governor Ali Sadikin, who made his name legalizing gambling in the city during his tenure from 1966 to 1977, proposed on Wednesday that the city administration reintroduce gambling in the capital.

"I completely agree with suggestions to legalize gambling in restricted areas. Please, don't turn a blind eye to the facts (that gambling is widespread) around us," Ali said in a special meeting with 75 city councillors.

"The administration could designate the Thousand Islands as a gambling center, but it would need to take stern action against illegal gambling outside that center," Ali said.

He highlighted Jakarta's status as an international city, which hosts foreigners who sometimes need "a place, like a casino, nightclub or bar in which to spend their evening after work."

He cited his success in legalizing gambling in Jakarta and the huge amount of money earned from the lotteries and casinos of the day, which was used to finance development projects in the city, despite the opposition of religious leaders.

"I talked to those religious leaders, who harshly criticized my policy and called it forbidden and against religious law. I told them that they should have choppers to travel across the city since I have built the roads with funds taken from gambling. And, eventually, they were speechless," he said jokingly.

Ali was responsible for the legalization of gambling and provided several locations for gambling centers, but due to criticism from ulema and other religious leaders, the practice was later banned.

According to the law, all forms of gambling are a crime. Those who break the law will be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment or fined up to Rp 10 million.

The Association of Indonesian Entertainment Centers (Aspehindo) estimates that illegal gambling sees a massive turnover of Rp 200 billion a day.

Ali also said that he supported the move to legalize prostitution to prevent the city's sex industry from growing.

"We have all witnessed that prostitution is more openly practiced than before -- and in public places. We must stop the practice and localize the industry," he said.

"I agree with the idea. We have to protect the community from the negative impacts of gambling -- which is widespread in the city -- through the designation of certain restricted areas," Abdul Muthalib Shihab of the Democratic Party faction said.

Inggard Joshua of the Golkar faction said the administration could use the profit made from gambling to finance projects in the capital.

"We could use the money from gambling to fund our war against drugs, for instance," Inggard said.

However, Abdurrahman of the Prosperous Justice Party faction rejected the idea.

"As a faction, we are consistent in rejecting the idea since we doubt that the administration is really serious about doing its utmost to combat gambling practices. The administration must show its strong commitment to cracking down on gambling, then, we could later speak about gambling localization," Abdurrahman said.