Fri, 30 Nov 2001

Job seekers stranded in Padang

Kasparman, The Jakarta Post, Padang

Thousands seeking jobs on Mentawai island have been stranded for two days in the provincial capital of West Sumatra, Padang, due to the lack of transportation.

The job seekers, who were going to apply to be civil servants in the new regency, have canceled their 120-mile boat trip because of the lack of transport, even though the deadline for applicants expires on Nov. 30, 2001.

Some of the job seekers are staying at cheap accommodation, while many of them have had to put up with spending their nights in restaurants and buildings at Teluk Bayur seaport.

"There are thousands of applicants but only two passenger vessels that ply the Padang to Mentawai route," said Syarifuddin, a graduate of the city's privately run University of Bung Hatta.

No less than 6,000 job seekers, mostly university and senior high school graduates, have left for Mentawai for the same purpose this week.

Imran Hakim, who works at the seaport, said the two ships Sumber Rezeki and Barau, which normally sail on Mondays and Fridays, have made an additional twice-a-week service to cater for the huge surge in demand.

"The two ships have an official limit of 176 passengers but both have increased this capacity to 400, without permission from the seaport's authorities. I am worried because it is risky to sail to the island during the rainy season because of the high waves and strong winds," he said.

Imran expressed his deep concern over the lack of foresight by the seaport's authorities to ensure the safety of the two ships.

"The administration running the seaport should bar the ships from carrying passengers beyond their capacity to ensure passenger safety," he said.

An assistant to West Sumatra's governor on development affairs, Basril Taher, regretted the policy of the Mentawai administration, which requires all applicants to take their applications to the new regency, causing massive overcrowding and pressure on public transport services.

"We don't know why the Mentawai administration has made such a policy even though they are fully aware of the infrequent transportation facilities to the island. In addition, the regency administration also has to provide food and accommodation for the massive number of applicants," he said.

Mentawai Regent Edison Saleleubaja, who was contacted by telephone, expressed his concern about the huge influx of applicants from the mainland and said that the job opportunities were earmarked for local people on the regency's islands.

"We only expect to fill around 100 positions in the regency administration," said Edison, who was sworn in as first regent on Nov. 13, 2001.