Sat, 04 Jun 1994

Mayor criticized over his remarks on scavengers

JAKARTA (JP): City councilors yesterday strongly criticized West Jakarta Mayor Sutardjianto for his derogatory remarks over the presence of scavengers in his territory.

"An administrator like him is by no means expected to express such words," said Muhammad Rodja from the PPP (United Development Party) faction at the City Council.

Mayor Sutardjianto told reporters Thursday that he would like to see landless scavengers move out from his territory, either to transmigration sites or back to their hometowns.

The mayor made the statement when he was asked by reporters about the recent arson allegedly committed by the municipal guards against the property of 215 scavenger families who had settled near the garbage dump in Srengseng Sawah subdistrict, Kembangan district, West Jakarta.

The May 27 incident saw 215 makeshift houses and 170 tons of plastic waste previously collected by the scavengers burned to ashes.

The mayor denied that an arsonist was behind the incident, saying the guards were instructed by Kembangan district chief Sadoni to demolish the scavengers' makeshift homes because they had illegally settled on the state land which was earmarked to be left a green area.

The mayor said that although the order came from the Kembangan district chief, he would take responsibility for the what took place.

"If they (the scavengers) don't own any land here, they'd better get off my turf," Sutardjianto warned.


Rodja noted, however, that President Soeharto himself had once admitted that scavengers are beneficial to the environment because they help the city administration recycle waste.

Rodja said Sutardjianto's remarks run counter to the government's basic constitutional obligation to care for orphans and the poor.

"Above all, if it is true that the guards burned the scavengers' huts, they can be charged with a crime. The mayoralty has damaged the property of others. I urge the scavengers to report the case to the police," said Rodja.

Rodja added his faction would soon hand a petition to Governor Surjadi Soedirdja asking him to investigate the mayor and, if necessary, fire him.


"I really wonder if the mayor intended to imitate (King) Nero (of Rome) when he burned down the city of Rome," wondered Rodja.

Djenny Harso and Romulus Sihombing of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) faction at the council also expressed their concern over the mayor's statement and the alleged arson.

"Our faction highly deplores the event (arson). It was inhumane," said Djenny.

Romulus questioned the mayor's right to order the scavengers to leave.

"I wonder what is the basis behind his idea. The city is open to everyone in the country. They have left their hometowns because of poverty and want to make a better life here," said Romulus.

Like Rodja, Romulus noted the president himself has deemed the works of scavengers s beneficial in environmental terms, hailing them as "laskar mandiri" (self-sufficient units).

Atje Mulyadi, chief of Golkar's faction at the council, seemed restrained in his comments.

"I don't think the mayor made the statement intentionally. He may just want to upgrade their lives so that they don't live in slum areas any longer. As for the arson, we should examine if the news is true," said Atje. (jsk)