Fri, 24 Nov 2000

Ramadhan closure terms disputed by owners

JAKARTA (JP): Immediately following pressure from Muslim groups and six City Council factions, the city administration announced on Thursday Governor Sutiyoso's expected notice of which nightspots should close during Ramadhan, Idul Fitri and Christmas.

However, the nightspot owners said the policy was unclear.

The notice, announced by Head of the City Tourism Agency Parlindungan Hutabarat, said "saunas, nightclubs, discotheques and arcades were to close during Ramadhan" starting on Monday.

Massage parlors must also be closed "except those that offer traditional massage therapy, Japanese massage and where massaging is done by the blind".

The hours of operation are limited between 9 p.m. and 12 p.m.

The notice, signed on Wednesday, differs from the 1999 city bylaw which allowed all nightspots to operate after the end of the evening Ramadhan prayer at about 8:30 p.m. until the predawn meal, or about 3 a.m.

The notice said legal sanctions would be imposed and business licenses revoked for those violating the prohibition.

The Association of Nightspot Operators (Aspehindo) requested that all the businesses be allowed to operate from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. during Ramadhan.

The notice also says all nightspots, including those at hotels, are to close on the eve of Ramadhan and its first day and one day before the Idul Fitri celebration until the third day after Idul Fitri.

Restaurants are requested to "respect moral and religious norms" although they cater to those who are not fasting.

Aspehindo chairman Affendie Sastra questioned the reason for closing massage parlors and discriminating between discotheques and karaoke bars or live music halls.

Parlindungan said discotheques must close during Ramadhan, but karaoke bars or live music halls were allowed to operate from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

"I don't understand it. A discotheque is similar to a karaoke bar or live music hall. We can just change the (recorded) house music to live music to comply with the (Governor's announcement)," Affendie said.

Asked to clarify the difference between discotheques and karaoke bars, both of which had been targeted by protests, Parlindungan only said "all businesses not mentioned in the notice are allowed to operate".

The selection of businesses to close was based on those with a reputation for permitting illegal activity, such as adultery and drug transactions.

Nightspots banned during Ramadhan make up 40 percent of Jakarta's entertainment spots, Parlindungan said.

Affendie, who said he owned a discotheque, added that he would seek clarification from the City Tourism Agency. Even if the nightspots were closed, employees' wages and allowances would still likely be paid, he said.

In a talk show program with Radio Elshinta on Thursday, Sutiyoso said he hoped the decision would comply with all demands made by various parties, including Muslim organizations, businesses and employees of nightspots in the capital.

Parlindungan said, "I call on operators of entertainment centers to manage their businesses more ethically.

"On the other hand, people should also take responsibility for their choice of nightspot. Don't go there if you believe these places aren't right," he added. (07)