Tue, 25 Feb 2003

Police to quiz Batam mayor over gambling

Fadli, The Jakarta Post, Batam, Riau

Following strong protests against gambling activities on Batam Island, the local police are set to question Batam Mayor Nyat Kadir who has issued a license for PT Dewa Menara Wisata to organize a gambling center in Tering Bay, a tourist resort in Nongsa subdistrict.

Chief of Batam Police, Sr. Comr. Suhartono, said on Monday that the police would soon question the Batam mayor over allegations that he had breached a bylaw prohibiting gambling activities on the island.

An alliance of local non-governmental organizations and local religious leaders have protested the widespread gambling and prostitution on the island. They said that society was facing a moral crisis because of the rampant prostitution and gambling.

According to the NGOs, many of the thousands of tourists from Singapore and Malaysia make weekend visits to the island for gambling and woman.

Batam has the third highest incidence of HIV/AIDS after Papua, East Java and Jakarta.

The Independent Anticorruption Body (Bakin) disclosed recently that the municipal administration had given a three-year license to the company to manage the gambling activities in Tering Bay.

Suhartono, however, did not give an exact timetable for the investigation.

He said that the investigation would be conducted by Riau Police as there would be a conflict of interest in the investigation because according to law, local police are part of the municipal administration.

Earlier, spokesperson of Batam mayoralty, Suhartini, told The Jakarta Post that the mayor was ready to face the police investigation.

Suhartini remarked that the mayor has appointed a legal team to deal with the investigation.

She, however, said that the administration should not be blamed for authorizing PT Dewa Menara Wisata to build a gambling center.

"A higher power from Jakarta forced the mayor and head of the Batam tourism office to sign the contract with the company," she said, refusing to disclose the identity of the Jakarta businessman allegedly involved in the gambling business on the island.

The head of the local tourism office, Buralimar, said that the contract given to the company was part of the municipal administration's program to accelerate tourist activities on the island.

Separately, the head of the government prosecutor's office in Batam, Zulkarnain, said that he was still waiting for the police to finalize their investigation into case before his office would process it further.

The head of the local chapter of Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI), Asyari Abbas, supported the police investigation into the case, saying the mayor should be brought to justice.