Thu, 18 Sep 2003

Councillors to defy protests against overseas trip

Suherdjoko, The Jakarta Post, Semarang

Despite protests from activists and other local people, as many as 19 members of the Central Java legislative council are going ahead with their plan for an overseas trip.

The councillors, all members of the council's Commission B, are scheduled to leave for Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, on Thursday for a three-day visit ending Sept. 21.

Commission B chairman Muchson Burhani said the visit was to attend an Indonesian exhibition in Sarjah, which features commodity products from Surakarta, Central Java.

The visit was planned after the councillors failed to go to Europe and the United States following mounting protests from the public.

"Actually, all the Commission B members previously wanted to visit Europe and the U.S., but it was canceled. Now we will soon leave for Sarjah," Muchson said on Monday.

He said at least 25 businesspeople from Central Java had already left for the United Arab Emirates on Sept. 13 to prepare for the Indonesian Solo Exhibition to promote the province's commodity products, including furniture, brass handicraft and others.

Muchson said the trip would spend around Rp 100 million (US$11,764) from the province's budget.

However, non-governmental organizations criticized the councillors' visit, saying it would only waste public money as the purpose was not clear.

"Their departure is only to have fun abroad and the visit is not significant for the people at large," said Jawade Hafidz, chairman of the Consortium of Non-Governmental Organizations for Anti-Money Politics (Kolamp).

He accused the councillors of lying to the local people as they would arrive in Sharjah as the four-day exhibition ends on Sept. 20.

Another Commission B member, Sutoyo Abadi, defended the trip, saying it was his and other councillors' right to take trips using the state funds.