Government Urged To Halt 'Failed' Regional Expansion

Jakarta Globe, Putri Prameshwari - Proposals to create new administrative regions in the country should be frozen and evaluated for at least 10 years, a legal expert from a Central Java university said on Monday.

The comment, made by Isharyanto, a law lecturer at 11 Maret University in Surakarta, Central Java Province, came a week after a violent protest demanding the establishment of a new province in northern Sumatra led to the death of a senior legislator and sparked calls for the government to halt the creation of new regions.

Isharyanto said the government should stop approving new provinces, districts and municipalities across the country and engage in a thorough evaluation of those that had been created over the past decade.

"Expansions have taken place for almost a decade," he said, "but have they really changed the lives of local people?"

The creation of new administrative regions is usually aimed at providing better and more accessible public services to the public, as well as improving local living standards.

'Expansions have taken place for almost a decade, but have they really changed people's lives?'

Isharyanto, law lecturer

Isharyanto said that 10 years would be enough time for the government to evaluate the success of provinces and districts that had been established in the last decade.

Regional expansion, he said, should be a tool that allows government authorities to be more in touch with local people.

"But they have created horizontal conflicts instead, like in Papua," he said.

Following the end of former President Suharto's authoritarian regime in 1998, regions demanded partitions of provinces, districts and subdistricts as part of the reform euphoria.

The central government split the immense eastern Papua province in two, reportedly to shorten the distances between centers of public services and the regions they served. The western half of New Guinea Island now has West Papua and Papua provinces.

The move, however, has failed to alleviate poverty and underdevelopment there and many people still live below the poverty line, often triggering conflicts among tribes. It has also encouraged corruption among local government officials who were not prepared to manage their own budgets.

Isharyanto said that political interests were also a problem.

"State officials still prioritize their own political interests, including their rank in office, rather than thinking about local people," he said.

Following the violent protest in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra Province, which claimed the life of Abdul Azis Angkat, the speaker of the provincial legislative council, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for a moratorium on the creation of new regional administrations.

Indonesia is currently comprised of 33 provinces, with 398 districts and 93 municipalities. The country saw the creation of seven new provinces, 173 new districts and 35 new municipalities between 1999 and 2008.

In 2006, the House of Representative ratified the establishment of 16 new regions and eight more followed in 2007.

Last year, the House postponed the ratification of three new regions, but also ratified two others.