Sat, 12 Mar 2005

City Council okays bylaw on Betawi village

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

The City Council endorsed a draft bylaw converting the Srengseng Sawah subdistrict in South Jakarta into an Islamic Betawi village on Thursday despite objections by the Golkar Party and Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) factions.

While not a single article in the bylaw explicitly calls for the establishment of an Islamic Betawi village, annotations on several articles clearly show that the councillors were out to create an exclusively Islamic village.

One appendix to Article 4 (1) of the bylaw designating Srengseng Sawah as Jakarta's Betawi Village, for example, says that the ruling was meant "to preserve and nurture awareness of local residents to embrace a way of life based on Betawi culture, including a community life deeply rooted in Islamic values, Betawi attire, works and handicrafts with Betawi characteristics and maintaining and performing Betawi arts."

An explanation of Article 7 (1) on development planning, includes a section about the development of public facilities in the Betawi village, and how they must reflect Betawi culture, including the importance of mosques and mushollas.

An explanation of Article 9 (1) says that the development of the Betawi village "should be adapted to Islamic Betawi culture."

Only the Golkar and PDI-P factions opposed the explicit reference to Islam of the planned Betawi Village, but they were outnumbered by factions favoring the Islamic designation.

Golkar and PDI-P have a combined 18 seats in the 75-seat council.

"We do not agree with the development of Betawi culture that is explicitly associated with Islamic values. This will certainly betray the history of Betawi culture itself, which is inherently open-minded and tolerant," Marthin Octavianus Makatita of Golkar said.

Marthin pointed out the fact that some Betawi people were Christians, like those in Kampung Sawah, Pondok Gede, while some others were Hindus, like those in Kranggan Wetan, also in Pondok Gede.

"We emphasize that the bylaw, which is meant to preserve Betawi culture should not be followed by forcible action to exert values in the Betawi culture to every individual or community living in Srengseng Sawah," he said.

Sumiyati Soekarno of PDI-P said that the wording, "deeply rooted in religious values in the Betawi village" should be reworked so as not to be taken to mean that non-Muslims were not allowed.

The 289-hectare Srengseng Sawah subdistrict is currently inhabited by approximately 9,500 people from different religious and ethnic groups.

It was unclear, however, if the bylaw required that non- Muslims living there would be evicted from the subdistrict.

The Jakarta administration has issued several regulations in relation to the Betawi culture, but little has been done by the administration to follow up on those regulations.

Any violations of the new bylaw will mean a maximum sentence of six months in prison and/or a Rp 50 million (about US$5,400) fine.

Srengseng Sawah was chosen to become a Betawi village after the administration failed to develop the vast area of 18,228 hectares in three subdistricts in Condet that were declared to be preserved cultural areas in 1974 by former Jakarta governor Ali Sadikin.

"The administration needs to involve local residents in all stages of planning and development of the area," said Rahmat Syah of the Prosperous Justice Party faction.

Abdullah Prawiradirdja of the United Development Party faction said that the management of the area should involve various parties, including relevant city agencies, the Betawi people's forum (Bamus Betawi), the Betawi Cultural Institute (LKB), architects, cultural observers and private companies concerned with the preservation of Betawi culture.