Thu, 12 Feb 2004

Pressures up over regent

Haidir Anwar Tanjung, The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru, Riau

Thousands of teachers and students in Kampar regency, some 60 kilometers west of the Riau capital of Pekanbaru, took to the streets again on Wednesday, forcing schools in the regency to close for a second day.

Unlike the first day of the protest on Tuesday when demonstrators occupied government offices, the students and teachers descended on the office of Kampar Regency Council on Wednesday.

Some of them occupied the council building, and demanded that the councillors hold a plenary meeting to oust Kampar Regent Jefri Noer.

The representatives of the protesters were eventually able to meet with top councillors in the council building.

The protesters demanded the councillors remove the Kampar Regent from his post within two days.

"The councillors have to establish a committee to hold a plenary meeting immediately. We will close all schools until our demand is met. The regent has to either resign or be dismissed," said Nurhadi, a representative of the protesters, from Tapung district.

Nurhadi said that the demand was valid, because the regent had insulted the teaching profession. Nurhadi claimed the regent had given little attention to education, by allocating only 5 percent out of a total budget Rp 700 billion (US$82.8 million) for education.

The Constitution requires that a regional government allocates at least 20 percent of its total budget for education, he said.

A similar protest was previously raised by teacher Abdul Latief in a meeting on Thursday last week between the regent and the teachers in the regency.

In the meeting, the regent ordered Abdul Latief to leave the room, because he questioned the regent's education budget.

The regent's outburst caused a backlash, as teachers and students began to protest on Tuesday, to demand that the regent resign.

Meanwhile, in response to demands by the protesters, Nurbit, a councillor from Golkar Party, said that he agreed that the councillors must establish a committee and hold a plenary meeting soon.

But, Kampar Regency Council speaker, Syaifuddin, asked protesters to exercise self-restraint.

He said in the meeting with protesters on Wednesday that not all representatives in the council's factions were present on that day, so it would take time to assemble them and convene a plenary meeting.

"We will convene a meeting between the 45 councillors tonight (Wednesday night), so that we can discuss the demand soon," he said.

After the meeting, the protesters demanded the addresses of all of the councillors, so that the protesters could pressure them to attend the plenary meeting.