Wed, 03 Sep 2003

Official detained, development delayed

Kasparman, The Jakarta Post, Padang, West Sumatra

The arrest of Mentawai administration secretary Ridwan Siritubui in the province of West Sumatra, who is charged in a corruption case, has been blamed for the suspension of development programs in the newly created regency.

"It's really worrying. If Mentawai is not managed well from now, local people will surely be increasingly left behind," M. Bakri Tasirebeb, chairman of the Mentawai People's Consultative Body (BMMM), said on Tuesday.

He said the disruption in development projects in the regency was related to the detention by the West Sumatra Prosecutor's Office of Ridwan who is in charge of many local development projects.

Citing an example, Bakri said the planned building of Rokot Airport, which is a vital transportation facility for Mentawai -- around 180 kilometers from the West Sumatra capital Padang, had been called off.

The plan to build a military district office in the Mentawai capital of Tua Pejat also remains unclear, he said.

Also the development of a public hospital, which was planned to be finished by this year, was halted.

"Other vital projects, such as the development of asphalted roads, have also suffered a similar fate," Bakri said.

Bakri urged West Sumatra Prosecutor's Office head Holius Hosen to suspend the detention of Ridwan to facilitate the Mentawai development programs.

Support for the temporary release of Ridwan came from the Mentawai regent, the regency's legislative council speaker, the local branch of the Indonesian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (Kadin) as well as student groups.

In response, Hosen said on Tuesday his office would consider accepting the demand for the suspension of Ridwan's arrest.

Ridwan was arrested on July 9 as a key suspect in a graft case involving Rp 24 billion (US$2.8 million) from Mentawai's 2002 budget.

Six other officers were also charged in the case.