Fri, 14 Mar 2003

Meet Jakarta governor's nemesis

Ahmad Junaidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Many activists who fight for the poor in Jakarta have found themselves on the bad side of Governor Sutiyoso, who has been known to find fault with the way in which these activists criticize his public policies and look into allegations of corruption.

Azas Tigor Nainggolan, the chairman of the Jakarta Residents Forum (Fakta), a non-governmental organization that fights for the rights of Jakarta's oppressed, is one such well-known figure.

Tigor entered the public consciousness when his opposition to some of Sutiyoso's policies landed him in police custody last year on defamation charges filed by the governor.

The activist had accused Sutiyoso of paying city councillors Rp 3 billion to approve his 2003-2003 budget. He was detained in October but later released.

Tigor challenged the authorities to take the case to court so he could prove his allegations that the city administration was riddled with money politics.

This was just one incident that cemented Tigor's and Sutiyoso's relationship as adversarial. He has also come out in opposition to Sutiyoso's policies on street vendors and spatial planning, and a number of city bylaws deemed detrimental to residents.

Tigor defends the poor and the wealthy alike. He has opposed the eviction of street vendors from the Pulogadung bus station in East Jakarta, and the administration's plan to build a basketball stadium in the upscale Kelapa Gading housing complex in North Jakarta.

His equal concern with both the rich and the poor separates him from another vocal critic of Sutiyoso, Urban Poor Consortium (UPC) chairwoman Wardah Hafidz.

It has been rumored that Tigor and Wardah do not get along and rarely speak to each other.

But Tigor denies this. "We have no problem. UPC concentrates on the poor, while Fakta doesn't discriminate based on socio- economic status. We want to make things better for all Jakartans."

Tigor said Fakta and UPC shared similar concerns but took different approaches to resolve these concerns.

UPC, Fakta and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) set up the Alliance of NGOs for City Budget Transparency (KOTA) in 2001. They sued the administration and the City Council for allegedly passing a budget that harmed the poor, but their lawsuit was thrown out by the courts.

Last year, Fakta and UPC also backed a class action filed by flood victims against the administration. That lawsuit also was thrown out.

Tigor, was born in Medan, North Sumatra, on Feb. 9, 1965, and grew up in a poor area of Matraman, East Jakarta, where his parents had moved when he was four months old.

Tigor met Tiarlin Afrida, his future wife, in a Matraman church. The couple have two children, Ignatius Kevin Nainggolan, 6, and Yoseph Madelin Nainggolan, 2.

While attending law school at Indonesian Christian University (UKI), from which he graduated in 1989, Tigor often took part in student demonstrations. He and several other activists were detained for several days in 1988 for protesting evictions.

After graduating from law school, Tigor became the legal division coordinator at the Jakarta Social Institute (ISJ), a non-governmental organization founded by Catholic priests to help the poor.

While still active in the ISJ, Tigor, along with other activists, set up Fakta in 1998 after the downfall of authoritarian president Soeharto, becoming the group's chairman.

During last September's gubernatorial election, Tigor joined forces with activists from Muslim organizations to protest Sutiyoso's nomination.

"It is common interests that makes us one. Ideology does not count," he said.

He was arrested three days before the inauguration of Sutiyoso on Oct. 11, but was later released.

Tigor has built relationships with street vendors, evicted residents and pedicab drivers, often serving as their lawyer and defending them in court.

Asked if someday he would set up a law firm, he said: "Yes, some fellow activists and I have plans to set up a law firm. But I will still set aside time to defend the poor."

Corruptors will not be defended, he added.

Tigor has criticized former activists from government watchdogs such as the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute and the Association of Legal Aid and Human Rights for defending accused corruptors after they joined law firms.

"I will not be like them. I will be like the few lawyers who have maintained their reputations while still being able to build respected law firms," he said.