Mon, 04 Sep 2000

Government to open Selayar islands for all

SELAYAR ISLANDS, South Sulawesi (JP): The government has vowed to end the isolation of the islands of Selayar, some 700 kilometers from the South Sulawesi capital of Makassar, and to develop its economy.

The government's commitment was marked by a pioneer flight by an Indonesian Air Force CASA 212 from Makassar to the islands on Friday. It was the first aircraft to land on the islands since the country gained its independence in 1945.

The aircraft brought 15 people, including pilot Capt. Ardjianto, two Air Force officers, three officials of the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications and five journalists.

The aircraft was the object of intense interest, with locals flocking to Aruppala Airport in Tanabau Padang village to witness the landing. The airport was constructed in 1984.

Selayar Regent Akib Patta said the flight was aimed at encouraging the development of the island, which has been isolated and virtually off the government's radar for decades.

The Selayar regency includes one large island, Selayar, and a number of other small islands which have no official names. The island of Selayar has three districts, Bontomatene, Bontosikuyu and Bontoharu, while the districts of Pasimasunggu and Pasimarannu are located on two of hundreds of islets.

"The physical development of the districts on the big island has been very, very slow," Akib said.

"The government will open regular flights from Makassar to the islands, which takes only 38 minutes. In this way the tourist flow to the islands will increase," he said. He added the islands boasted a world-class tourist destination, National Marine Park Taka Bonerate, which is believed to be the third largest atoll in the world.

"With the opening of the flight, we hope the tourism industry in the Bali-Lombok-Selayar triangle will develop," Akib said, not going into the details of the plan to boost Selayar's development.

According to Ardjianto, the airport on Selayar was sufficient, and required just a little upgrading. "Now the runway is only 900 meters in length. It needs to be extended so that larger planes can land on it." (27/sur)