Mon, 03 Oct 1994

Experts, traders not upbeat about `Zebra'

JAKARTA (JP): Experts and vendors question a plan of the police to ticket jaywalkers, undisciplined commuters and street vendors, saying that poor traffic infrastructure have forced people to commit the offenses.

Frans Hendra Winarta, the secretary of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), Sandyawan Sumardi, the president of Jakarta Social Institute (ISJ), and a number of street vendors told The Jakarta Post on Saturday that such an operation will only worsen the life of underprivileged residents.

"We don't have enough sidewalks, how can they ticket a jaywalker then because every pedestrian is a jaywalker," Frans queried.

Citing an example, he said that Jl. Kebon Sirih Timur Dalam in Central Jakarta has no sidewalk to separate the asphalt road and fences of houses along the street.

"We could be ticketed if we walk there," Frans said with a laugh.

Sandyawan also questioned the durability of the transportation system in the capital if commuters are forced to wait for buses at bus shelters.

"How many bus shelters do we have?" he asked, adding that the government has not constructed enough bus shelters in Jakarta.

Police said earlier that jaywalkers, street vendors and undisciplined commuters will be fined between Rp 10,000 (US$4.60) and Rp 15,000 per violation.

Operation Zebra is part of government efforts to enforce Traffic Law No. 14 issued in 1992, which stipulates high fines, ranging up to Rp 6 million ($2,760), for traffic violators.

Some street vendors, however, said that they have nothing to worry about with such "threats", adding that the operation is intended as a means to remove street vendors and to promote big- scale businesses.

"Let's see what will happen. We're not worried although we have yet to be informed about it," said Satimin, 37, a meatball (bakso) seller, who runs his business on a sidewalk in Blok M area, South Jakarta.

He said that vendors might run away and move to another place if the authorities come to ticket them.

Like most of her fellow vendors, the 25-year-old Narsih, a soft-drink seller on the roadside of Blok M bus terminal, believed that the ticketing of jaywalkers, undisciplined vendors and commuters might only be carried out for few days.

"After that, everything will run as usual," she calmly said, adding that she would never pay the fine simply because she cannot afford it.

APEC summit

Sandyawan also questioned whether such an operation is closely related to the coming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November.

Eighteen presidents and prime ministers from as many countries, including U.S. President Bill Clinton, are scheduled to attend the conference.

"An urgency to provide a good image of the country to the international community has driven the government to sweep our rubbish under the carpet," Sandyawan said.

He predicted that instead of improving public behavior in terms of traffic orderliness, such action will psychologically harm people like street vendors.

According to a trader on a bridge close to the Blok M Plaza, the authorities should have thought about a site to relocate the vendors.

"The rental fees must be set at a level which can be paid by vendors like us," Buyung, 22, said.

At the moment, a large number of people are in the habit of jaywalking across main roads, such as Jl. Sudirman and Jl. Thamrin in Central Jakarta, even though pedestrian bridges are located just above their heads.

Others crowd onto the road while waiting for buses, which causes heavy traffic jams as cars have to drive around them. (bsr/09)