Wed, 18 Oct 2000

Govt's commitment to sports questioned

JAKARTA (JP): The government's decision to abolish the state ministry of youth affairs and sport in August showed its lack of commitment to develop sports in the country, the former incumbent of the ministry said.

The ex-minister, Abdul Gafur, regretted President Abdurrahman Wahid's decision and at the same time questioned the government's commitment to sport.

"The ministry's abolition was pitiful because its existence had been fought for for several years. Even developed countries, such as Australia and the European nations, have their own sports ministries," he said.

"The government's political commitment to sport is really in question. It must reestablish the ministry."

He was speaking during a coffee morning held at the National Sports Council (KONI) offices in Senayan, which was also attended by KONI chairman Wismoyo Arismunandar.

Gafur said that sport was the only thing this crisis-torn nation could turn to in order to promote patriotism and nationalism irrespective of people's backgrounds.

"It's the only tool we have now for national character- building and for boosting our patriotism and nationalism," Gafur said.

"Everyone here cheered whenever our shuttlers of Chinese descent won a title, Thomas Cup or Olympic gold medal. There were never any questions asked about our shuttlers' ethnicity or religion when they were representing this country."

According to Gafur, there were things that could only be done by the government rather than by KONI.

"KONI can't charge cigarette levies, for example, or any other levies to raise funds for sports' development. But the government can easily impose such levies," he said.

Meanwhile, Ismangoen Notosaputro, a legislator and member of the House of Representatives Commission VI on human resources and religious affairs, said the House would deliberate a sports bill following the abolition of the state ministry.

"We have asked KONI to provide the House with suitable drafts for such a bill. We have also requested input from KONI experts on how we should manage our sporting development," he told the participants.

"The House will deliberate the bill in the middle of next year and pass it by the end of 2001," he added.

Wismoyo said the decision (to abolish the ministry) had been taken and sports activists had to adapt and be ready to face such changes.

"The important thing is to maximize the public's participation as desired by the president," he said.

"The abolition of the state ministry has left KONI as the sole body charged with developing sport in this country. The question is whether we have been granted enough power and rights. It's useless for us to try without having the proper authority," he added. (nvn)