Tue, 15 Aug 2000

VP warns of declining appeal of scout movement

JAKARTA (JP): The scouting movement is no longer compulsory and is fast losing appeal because of failing to keep up with the times.

Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri made the warning on Monday, referring to the new image of joining the scouts as "old fashioned."

"There is an impression among young people that joining the scouts is just about first aid, rescue, trekking and camping," Megawati said, addressing a ceremony of the 39th anniversary of Pramuka (the Indonesian Scouts) in Cibubur, East Jakarta.

Deputy chairman of the movement, Sundoro Syamsuri, said the movement already has a home page on the Web and "adventurous activities."

In the ceremony attended by Governor Sutiyoso and State Minister of Youth affairs and Sports Mahadi Sinambela, Megawati added, "Activities such as amateur radio networking, hiking, and marine diving can be adopted among scouts to increase interest."

Last year officials announced that the scout movement would no longer be compulsory. Critics have said that Indonesia's scout membership claim of 10 million in 1998 was baseless given its compulsory nature in schools.

Sundoro said the voluntary approach would lead to stricter recruitment. "This is not to scare students but instead to encourage their own motivation to join the scouts," he said.

Responding to questions on students brawling in their scout uniforms, he said this was one reason why the sale of scout emblems in stores and recruitment should be better supervised.

Scout meetings are held every Saturday after school hours in elementary schools.

Sundoro said scouting skills are still relevant for many reasons, among others, the emphasis on helping fellow humans in daily life. Scouts can be relied on to help in emergency situations such as in the aftermath of the earthquake in Bengkulu, he said.

In the ceremony, awards were given to 179 senior members for their dedication to the national movement.

In Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi, President Abdurrahman Wahid opened a ceremony for the National Anniversary in which scouts will assist with public facility improvements in several villages. (07)