Sat, 08 Mar 2003

Sutiyoso vows to restore homes

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Governor Sutiyoso said Friday that the city administration would not relocate the fire victims in Manggarai, South Jakarta, saying the administration would build a decent housing complex.

Sutiyoso said the housing complex would be equipped with clean water, electricity and even parks.

The fire that ravaged the slum area on Jl. Manggarai Utara II left thousands of people homeless. Rumors quickly spread that the fire was deliberately set to remove the slum dwellers.

Most of the recent fires in the city have occurred in slums as the buildings are made of flammable materials and the residents there channel electricity illegally between houses.

"To meet the demand of the residents, we will reconstruct houses in this area to make them more decent to live in," he said, denying allegations the city administration would force the victims from the location.

The residents living in the area are squatters who erected their houses on the riverbank, an area, which according to local regulations, should be free of any type of building.

The governor said the city administration would finance the proposed construction.

"After the fire, they no longer have any money, so we don't want to add more burden on them," he said.

Sutiyoso, however, refused to give details on when construction would begin and how much it would cost.

In the short term the city administration would start a relief program to help the fire victims, he said.

"I have instructed the city's housing agency to build a temporary shelter for each family in the area," Sutiyoso said, adding that stationery would also be provided for schoolchildren.

Separately, city fire department head Johnny Pangaribuan denied allegations that the firefighters were slow to respond the resident's call.

Residents attacked firefighters for the late response.

"In fact we arrived at the fire only 10 minutes after the first call was made," Johnny told The Jakarta Post.

He added that crowds in the street hampered the firefighters' efforts to reach the blaze.

Johnny also spoke out against accusations that kerosene was mixed with water which was used to extinguish the fire.

"It doesn't make any sense, as such an act will be dangerous to the fire engines and the personnel themselves," he said.