Thu, 03 Jul 2003

Group demands new province in Sulawesi

Andi Hajramurni, The Jakarta Post, Makassar, South Sulawesi

Some 500 members of the Mandar ethnic group, a dominant tribe in western Sulawesi, gathered at the South Sulawesi governor's office and legislative council on Wednesday to demand the immediate establishment of a West Sulawesi province.

The demonstrators came from five regencies -- Mamuju, Mamuju Utara, Majene, Mamasa and Polmas. They began their demonstration at the South Sulawesi governor's office at 9:30 a.m.

After Governor Amin Syam declined to meet with the demonstrators and security officials blocked their entrance to the governor's office, the situation became tense.

One demonstrator broke a window and several others jumped onto desks and demanding the governor and his deputy come out and meet with them.

With the governor and his deputy were reportedly out of town, the demonstrators were received by the chairman of the national unity affairs division at the governor's office, Andi Baso Makmur.

Those gathered demanded Andi Baso fax their petition for the establishment of a West Sulawesi province to the House of Representatives and the Ministry of Home Affairs in Jakarta.

They also told the official to make sure the petition reached the governor as soon as he returned to his office.

The petition, which was read out by Ma'mun Hasanuddin, the brother of former coordinating minister for people's welfare and current ambassador to Iran Basri Hasanuddin, accuses the South Sulawesi provincial administration of being behind a delay in the endorsement of a proposal for the establishment of the West Sulawesi province.

"Based on our own monitoring since the preparation stages for the establishment of West Sulawesi province, we have concluded that the South Sulawesi provincial authority has withdrawn its support and has been seeking out possibilities to prevent the establishment of the province," Ma'mun said.

Sutardji, a councillor with the Polmas regency legislative council, said House Deputy Speaker AM Fatwa, who visited Majene regency last week, hinted that the House had agreed in principle to the establishment of the new province.

But the problem now rests with the government, which has yet to give the green light to the proposal, Sutardji quoted Fatwa as saying.

The petition also demands that the South Sulawesi administration invite a team from the Directorate-General of Regional Autonomy at the Ministry of Home Affairs to conduct field observations to judge whether the people are prepared for a new West Sulawesi province.

The petition demands the House immediately endorse the draft law on the establishment of West Sulawesi province and deliberate the draft at its next session in August.

"They (the House) have no other reasons to delay the deliberations on the proposal to establish the West Sulawesi province, as all of the requirements have been met," Rahmat Hasanuddin, also a brother of Basri Hasanuddin, said.

Rahmat said should this demand be ignored, the Mandar people would boycott the 2004 elections and carry out "social disobedience".

Currently, the five regencies are a part of the South Sulawesi province.