Fri, 19 Dec 2003

House hearing with governor Sutiyoso turns farcical

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A hearing on evictions between Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso and House of Representatives Commission II for home affairs turned into a farce on Thursday as commission deputy chairman Abdul Rachman Gaffar, who presided over the hearing, prevented invited evictees and urban observers from criticizing Sutiyoso.

Gaffar, a legislator from the Indonesian Military and Police faction, whose last rank was major general in the Indonesian Army, repeatedly shouted that the hearing was not intended to put Sutiyoso, whose last rank was lieutenant general, on "trial."

"This is a hearing between Commission II and Pak Sutiyoso," he asserted. "So, let commission members speak first, and we will let members of Pawang (Coalition of People Against Eviction) speak after that."

He tried to cut in and interrupt every time the evictees or urban observers spoke. He snapped at anybody, including the legislators, who tried to criticize Sutiyoso or counter his statements and allowed those making a speech supportive of the governor more time.

Early in the hearing, Sutiyoso read a written speech, repeating his previous statements about evictions, saying that it was a law enforcement matter and it was his task as the leader of the city to do that.

"We saw what happened in May 1998 when people violated the law, looting and raping. These evictions are only to give the people a lesson to respect the law, as legal certainty is one of the major concerns of investors in the capital," he argued.

After the speech, Sutiyoso did not say much as the legislators were busy debating whether Pawang members should be given time to talk or not.

Tired of being interrupted and treated harshly by Gaffar, Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, a noted human rights activist and member of the People's Consultative Assembly, questioned his attitude.

"I'm really disappointed at the way you are presiding over the hearing. The point of the hearing is we want to tell the governor that his way of treating the urban poor is wrong," she said to Gaffar, who listened and grinned at her.

The coalition accommodates the evictees and noted scholars, social workers and urban architects like Romo (priest) Sandyawan Sumardi, Franz Magnis-Suseno, Nursyahbani, Karlina Leksono- Supelli, Herry Priyono and Marco Kusumawijaya.

They were invited by the commission and brought papers on a concept of city development that involved the community, including the urban poor.

"But as you can see for yourself, we did not get a chance to offer the concept (to the administration)," said Sandyawan after the hearing. "At least Sutiyoso has invited us to meet another time. We shall arrange a time and urge the government to form a national forum to find solutions on urban poor housing."

He said that he expected the forum to have officials from the National Land Agency, the Ministry of Settlement and Regional Infrastructure, Jakarta administration, academics and urban architects.

"I have discussed the community-based development concept with some concerned urban experts, and they all said it was feasible," he added. "The key is political will on behalf of the government."