Thu, 17 Jul 2003

Megawati donates Rp 1b to Christian center

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan, North Sumatra

President Megawati Soekarnoputri donated Rp 1 billion on Wednesday to fund the building of the Nomensen Christian Centre in North Tapanuli regency, North Sumatra, during her visit to launch the project.

And, Minister of State Enterprises Laksamana Sukardi symbolically handed over 40 tractors in assistance to local farmers, while Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Rokhimin Dahuri gave one million "Batak" fish for breeding in Lake Toba.

The donations were presented to North Tapanuli Regent R.E. Nainggolan and Simalungun Regent Jhon Hugo Silalahi during a special ceremony.

For health reasons, Megawati did not speak herself, though she led the inauguration ceremony for the construction of the center, along with her husband, Taufik Kiemas.

Also present were Minister of Forestry M. Prakosa and a number of legislators, including Sabam Sirait and Mangara Siahaan, as well as thousands of local people.

In her address, which was read out by Minister of Religious Affairs Said Agil Hussein Al-Munawwar, the President said the Rp 1 billion donation fund for the Nomensen Christian Centre development had been collected from Cabinet members.

"The government hopes the center will be able to serve as a facility to help achieve development progress in this region," she told the ceremony at Sipoholon village, North Tapanuli.

Megawati called on the people of North Sumatra, a predominantly Christian province, to mutually respect religious freedom and continue to maintain brotherhood amid heterogeneity.

Meanwhile, Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) leader Rev. J.R. Hutauruk told the same event that the people of North Tapanuli had collected Rp 250 million in humanitarian assistance for Muslims suffering the brunt of the ongoing military operation in the war-torn province of Aceh.

"These were spontaneous donations from residents here to show our concern for our brothers in Aceh. We hope peace will return to Aceh soon," he said, adding that the money would be sent to the province immediately.