Wed, 17 May 2000

Government not broker in islets lease plan

MAKASSAR, South Sulawesi (JP): Minister of Maritime Exploration Sarwono Kusumaatmadja resisted on Tuesday the mounting criticism against the government's plan to lease islands to investors, saying his office would not act as a broker in the business.

The plan to lease thousands small uninhabited islands was in accordance with the government's wish to empower the people living around the islands, Sarwono told participants of the second national conference on the management of Indonesian beaches and marine resources.

The ministry held the conference in cooperation with the Coastal Resources Center of the University of Rhode Island.

The plan to lease the islands must comply with resource conservation and sustainable economic activities, Sarwono said.

"Treatment of our small islands in the past was poor. Everybody felt they owned the islands and had the right to exploit the natural resources at will by ignoring environmental aspects."

Criticism against the plan has been rife, but many have agreed to the idea with some conditions.

Marine and fishery experts of Hasanuddin University here previously said that proper regulations must be prepared before the plan took effect.

Deputy speaker of the House of Representatives A.M. Fatwa said earlier that the government needed to consult with the House before carrying out the plan.

Another House member, Gregorius Seto Harianto, shared Fatwa's opinion saying the government must not act arbitrarily with the business plan.

Responding to reporters' questions, Sarwono said on Tuesday he saw no reason to oppose the plan. "We have yet to make the regulations on the business," he said, adding that the government wanted to lease, not just to rent, the islands.

He admitted to not having identified the islands to be leased to investors. "Just wait for the regulations, then we will decide what islands are to be leased."

The regulations would protect the islands from being used as gambling dens, red light districts or dumping sites, he said.

Director General of Beaches, Marine Resources and Small Islands Management Rokhmin Dahuri said on the sidelines of the conference that Japan, Kuwait and the Netherlands had expressed interest in the offer.

The conference also conferred awards on individuals and institutions considered meritorious in preserving beaches and marine resources in Indonesia.

In the individual category, the award fell to HM Thayeb, a resident of the Sinjai regency, South Sulawesi, for his success in rehabilitating mangrove forests in 1985. PT Bali Cruises Nusantara, which runs a marine tourism business in Benoa, Bali, won the award in the company category. (27/sur)