Thu, 28 Aug 2003

Golkar accused of misusing aid program

Nana Rukmana, The Jakarta Post, Cirebon, West Java

The regent of Indramayu, West Java, has been accused of misusing the government-sponsored program to provide free rice and clean water to poor people affected by the current drought for Golkar Party campaign purposes.

Hundreds of yellow Golkar flags were seen fluttering at a number of locations where free rice and clean water were being distributed in at least six villages in two subdistricts of Indramayu on Tuesday.

Many villagers who received the government aid were seen wearing yellow T-shirts -- yellow being the Golkar color.

Some of the recipients told The Jakarta Post that they were ordered by their village heads to wear the T-shirts when collecting their allotments of free rice.

"My village head asked me to wear this T-shirt during the distribution of the free rice and clean water because the event would be attended by the Indramayu regent, who is a Golkar figure," said Sonjaya, an ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver in Cangkring village.

Indramayu regent, Irianto M.S. Syafiuddin, denied issuing an order for Golkar flags to be flown, or for all the aid recipients to wear his party's T-shirts or jackets emblazoned with the banyan tree, the symbol of Golkar.

"I came to these villages to distribute the free rice and water that has been provided by the central and Indramayu governments. There is no hidden agenda. So, these allegations are unfounded," he said.

Irianto, who also serves as the deputy chairman of Golkar's Indramayu branch, promised to take action against any village head found misusing the assistance program for political purposes.

Apart from Cangkring, Irianto said the five other villages to which assistance was being provided were Cantigi Kulon and Cantigi Wetan in Cantigi subdistrict, and Linggajati, Panyingkiran Lor and Panyingkiran Kidul in Arahan subdistrict.

"During the first stage, the rice and water aid will be distributed to 4,474 families in these six villages," he explained.

The regent said the central government had allocated 100 tons of free rice for Indramayu and Rp 50 million to cover the cost of distributing the aid.

"The rice will be distributed for three months and each family will get 30 kilograms per month," he said.

The central government has decided to provide 1,800 tons of free rice and send water trucks into 18 regencies in East, Central and West Java, the areas worst affected by the prolonged dry season.

Around 250,000 people in these regencies will receive assistance.

In Jakarta on Wednesday, Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla said the assistance would gradually reach all the affected farmers.

"I have received reports on this from the 18 regents involved this morning," he said.

The 18 regencies have been allocated 100 tons of free rice each. They are Indramayu, Cirebon, Subang, Majalengka, Sukabumi and Ciamis -- all in West Java; Wonogiri, Sragen, Rembang, Grobogan, Demak and Cilacap -- all in Central Java; and Bojonegoro, Subang, Sampang, Ngawi, Ponorogo and Bangkalan -- all in East Java.

Kalla said that the central government was also providing 140 trucks to supply clean water to the drought-hit regencies on Java island, adding that the trucks would arrive early next month.

Under the program, East Java will get 33 water trucks, Central Java 48, Yogyakarta seven, West Java 40 and Banten 12.

The free rice and clean water assistance was worth Rp 100 billion, Kalla said.

He said the central government had also allocated Rp 60 billion for job creation schemes to provide work for the poor.

These schemes, to be organized by the Ministry of Settlements and Regional Infrastructure in cooperation with the regency administrations, would include improvement work on irrigation canals.

Those employed on the schemes would be paid Rp 15,000 per day.