Wed, 15 Mar 2000

Student organizations hold free wedding service for poor

JAKARTA (JP): Some 150 poor couples in West Jakarta exchanged wedding vows in front of local imams at several religious affairs offices on Wednesday, a member of the committee which organized the weddings said.

The couples are the first of some 600 poor couples -- mostly beggars, prostitutes, scavengers and construction workers -- who will take advantage of the free weddings organized jointly by the Student's Social Network of the University of Indonesia, the Jakarta chapter of the Nahdlatul Ulama Islamic social organization, Gema Pemuda Madani and several other student organizations, along with the help of the local administrations.

A wedding reception for the 600 couples is scheduled to be held at Senayan Sports Stadium in Central Jakarta on Sunday evening, with President Abdurrahman Wahid expected to attend.

Prima Ariestonandri, one of the organizers, said on Wednesday over 100 couples in Central and East Jakarta would take part in the free weddings by visiting religious affairs offices in their respective areas, where they would be joined in matrimony.

"We haven't received the latest confirmation from the religious affairs offices in South Jakarta and North Jakarta about the schedule for the local couples taking part in the weddings," Prima said.

But the process of marrying the 600 couples is expected to be completed by Sunday morning at the latest, he added.

"Later in the evening, they will all attend a wedding reception at Senayan, wearing free wedding attire provided by us," Prima said.

The organizers planned to marry at least 1,000 poor couples, including a number of couples who already have babies but never officially registered their marriages.

"Problems occurred due to the late arrival of Governor Sutiyoso's instructions to his subordinates in the subdistricts," Prima said.

In the directive, the governor ordered officials in the subdistricts to register poor couples in their respective areas for the event.

"The late arrival of the directive left many couples unable to fulfill certain prerequisites, such as providing Jakarta resident identification cards (KTPs), which are required to get married," he said.

It takes at least 10 days to obtain a KTP, Prima added.

The organizers spent at least Rp 20 million (US$2,702) -- collected from donors -- simply to identify the poor couples, Prima said.

"We're still short of money for the project, including for the purchase of the wedding attire, which we estimate will cost around Rp 250 million," he said.

According to Prima, only a few of the couples registered to be married could afford the passport-sized pictures for their wedding albums.

"Most of them received money from us to pay for the pictures," Prima said.

The main goal of the event is simply to help the poor couples legalize their marriages since they cannot afford to pay for weddings, he said. "No more than that."

The organizers have yet to receive final confirmation from the Presidential Office that Abdurrahman will attend Sunday's wedding reception at Senayan.

"We're scheduled to meet with the President on Wednesday to discuss the matter," Prima said.

Entertainment for the reception will be provided by dangdut singers Cici Paramida and Ikke Nurjanah, pop singer Aldi and comedy group Srimulat. (bsr)