Tue, 26 Aug 2003

Authorities ignore plight of terrorized senior citizens

Zakki Hakim and Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

As the terror at the Pniel nursing home on Jl. KH Samanhudi Dalam in Central Jakarta ended with the management deciding to abandon the century-old facility to the bullyboys, both the public and the police seem to be unmoved by the fate of the terrified senior citizens.

Suparsih, the head of the Senior Citizens' Welfare Division at the City's Psychiatric Guidance and Social Affairs Agency, told The Jakarta Post on Monday that the nursing home was not the responsibility of the agency as it was owned by a private foundation.

She said that she still had no idea if the agency would be willing to help the senior citizens until such time as they had a new home as the head of the agency had yet to issue any instructions on the matter.

Syarifuddin Mahfudz, the head of the agency, could not be reached for comment last night.

Meanwhile, Azas Tigor Nainggolan, chairman of the non- governmental organization, the Jakarta Residents Forum (Fakta), criticized the police for failing in their duty to assist the senior citizens.

"If the police wanted to, they could immediately investigate and arrest the attackers. But, their response has been suspiciously slow," he told the Post.

Therefore, the police must now take action to protect the public before being branded the protectors of thugs, he said.

"The police have a slogan printed on their cars: 'To serve and to protect', and they need to put this into practice right away," he said.

The Central Jakarta Police claimed that its officers had been deployed to the scene. However, this statement was adamantly denied by the nursing home director, Stien Hitipeuw, who said that the police had only arrived two hours after she had called the Sawah Besar police subprecinct office.

In contrast to the previous days, no more "unidentified" men were to be seen loitering around threateningly in the grounds of the nursing home on Monday.

However, the holes smashed in the walls next to the nursing home's residential wards by the attackers on Thursday night were still uncovered.

Although the nursing home management has decided to surrender to the thugs and their well-connected employers, there appears to be some light on the horizon for the more than 70 residents and staff.

Stien Hitipeuw said that a good friend had donated a plot of land in Bintaro, South Jakarta.

The sole donor, she said, was businesswoman Wong U, who is well known for her charitable work on behalf of a number of orphanages and nursing homes in the city.

"But we still need time and money before starting to build. In the mean time, we can only pray and trust in God," she told the Post.

The 7,000-square-meter site on which the facility has stood since 1903 has been the subject of a protracted legal dispute over its ownership. The current value of the land is estimated at about Rp 70 billion (US$8.3 million) as the site is located in the central business district.

The property was reportedly sold to a director of the now defunct Bank Tata in 1993 without the consent of the land's owners, the congregation of the Pniel church.

Bank Tata's assets were later acquired by Bank Artha Graha, which is controlled by businessman Tommy Winata.