Tue, 21 Nov 2000

House near to approving Bangka-Belitung province

JAKARTA (JP): The Bangka-Belitung islands are edging closer to winning approval to become a province after Minister of Home Affairs and Regional Autonomy Surjadi Sudirdja and a special House of Representatives committee inked a note to forward a bill for deliberation.

"Bangka-Belitung, according to the government's assessment, is feasible economically, territorially and based on its population to become a province," Surjadi said after a meeting with legislators on Monday.

He said barring unforeseen obstacles, the government would likely appoint an acting governor and inaugurate the province by December.

He said the governor would be charged with preparing various provincial administrations, including preparing members to serve on a local council with a composition based on the results of last year's general election.

"We hope that by May next year, the council can elect the provincial governor," he said.

If the bill is approved by the House plenary session on Tuesday, Bangka-Belitung province will become, de jure, the country's 31st province.

The new province, which would separate from the province of South Sumatra, would consist of two regencies -- Bangka and Belitung, and the municipality of Pangkalpinang.

It would have a territory of 16,000 square kilometers with the two main islands of Bangka and Belitung and dozens of small islands.

Bangka is home base to state-owned PT Timah, the country's largest tin producer, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange as well as the Jakarta Stock Exchange.

Dozens of Bangka-Belitung leaders attended the committee meeting on Monday.

Zulkifli, one of the attendees, said the two most likely candidates to be elected governor were incumbent Bangka regent Navy Col. (ret.) Eko Maulana Ali and Aceh Police chief Brig. Gen. Khairuddin Rasyidi.

"They are both natives of Bangka-Belitung. But we may also nominate for governor Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra, who is also a native of Belitung, if he wants to," Zulkifli said.

The House is also discussing a bill on the establishment of a province of the Riau islands.

However, it is facing strong opposition from current Riau (mainland) officials.

The head of Banten, Indonesia's 30th province, was installed by Surjadi on Saturday.

Hakamudin Djamal became acting governor for the newly established Banten province, which separated from West Java province.

Apart from Banten, the House has passed laws in the last two years for the establishment of another three new provinces: North Maluku and two provinces in Irian Jaya.

But the two provinces in Irian Jaya have yet to be inaugurated due to objections from the local population. (jun)