Thu, 30 Aug 2001

'Becak' drivers withdraw support for PDI-P

JAKARTA (JP): More than 200 becak (pedicab) drivers handed over on Wednesday several Indonesia Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) attributes at the party's headquarters to demonstrate that they had withdrawn their support for the party.

However, none of PDI Perjuangan's members met with the pedicab drivers as they were either attending a meeting at the City Council or House of Representatives (DPR), said Ario Bimo, administrative head of PDI Perjuangan's headquarters.

Jukimin Suseno, leader of the Daya Manunggal pedicab drivers' union, read out a statement before Ario, "We are very grateful to PDI Perjuangan for fobbing us off with promise after promise."

Jukimin said the becak drivers came to hand over PDI Perjuangan membership cards, flags and T-shirts since the party failed to keep its promise, made during the 1999 general election campaign, to defend their interests.

He claimed that instead of protecting the common people, PDI Perjuangan was protecting the city governor and city councillors, who he said had failed to accommodate the aspirations of pedicab drivers.

"PDI Perjuangan has broken its promise and forgotten its power base as a political party. To us PDI Perjuangan is dead," Jukimin said, adding that Megawati can only rule this country with the support of the common people.

The drivers, who are members of four pedicab drivers' unions in Jakarta, staged a rally at the parking lot of the PDI Perjuangan's headquarters on Jl. Pecenongan, Central Jakarta.

The drivers sang the national anthem Indonesia Raya and orated mostly on their poverty and how they were being "colonized" by the city administration.

After Jukimin read the statement, the drivers handed over their PDI Perjuangan attributes to Ario and two clerks.

The rally ended peacefully.

However, Jukimin said after the rally that the becak drivers would support PDI Perjuangan again if the party helped them solve their problems.

The drivers had twice asked PDI Perjuangan to help them fight against raids by the city administration. The raids have angered the drivers and sparked riots in several parts of the city recently.

Ario said he had no idea why the pedicab drivers returned their PDI Perjuangan attributes. "Our members have been discussing their problems in the City Council," he remarked.

After the rally, Jukimin and nine other drivers went to the City Council on Jl. Kebon Sirih to hold a meeting with the councillors.

Jukimin urged the City Council to revoke Bylaw No. 11/1988 on public order, which bans the operation of pedicabs on the city's streets, and discuss the problem with Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso.

Deputy chairman of the City Council Tarmidi Subardjo, said he could not guarantee that the raids on pedicabs would stop and that he could only urge the administration to do so.

"However, you (becak drivers) should remember that you had violated the city bylaw," he said, citing Bylaw No 11/1988.

The meeting ended with a promise from the councillors that they would discuss the pedicab drivers' problems with Sutiyoso next week.

Separately, Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Jacob Nuwa Wea held a one hour meeting with the Urban Poor Consortium and some 60 becak drivers and street car washers.

"I will personally go to Governor Sutiyoso to seek a solution to this matter. Hopefully, there will be a solution to this," Jacob was quoted as saying by Antara.

Jacob urged becak drivers and street car washers not to hold any demonstrations for a week and the administration not take repressive actions in its attempt to rid the capital of becak and street car washing activities.

He offered several alternatives, including channeling pedicab drivers and street car washers to scrap iron processing companies or other businesses in Greater Jakarta.

He also proposed that pedicabs be improved by equipping them with engines as had been done in North Sumatra and Aceh, and to allow the pedicabs to operate on the city's main streets at certain hours only.

"So, the becak must not be eradicated from the capital," he said.(04)