I registered for a (free) ticket for a limited attendance (and ‘sold out’) meeting last night at Jakarta’s Goethe Haus. It was part of the Guardian’s week long focus on Jakarta.
The organisation was impeccable, every panellist was listened to because they had something to say, yet what we learned can be summed up with this somewhat negative statement: “If Indonesia is dysfunctional, Jakarta is the neglected stepchild who learns to do everything herself.”
Yet within that, there lies the answer: in a democracy, the ruling parties and bureaucracies need to learn from their paymasters – the tax paying electors who can’t be bought. The overtly Muslim political parties are in the minority, and although notionally part of the government are seemingly being used by anti-government forces.
As Elizabeth Pisani observed, the “tens of thousands of white-robed protesters stomped through the streets of Jakarta, baying for the blood of Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama” were paid something like Rp.200,000, even Rp.500,000, yet will “continue to vote for Ahok because of what the no-nonsense governor had done to clean up the city’s corrupt bureaucracy.”
None of that was mentioned at the meeting, and Marco Kusumawijaya, the moderator, had told us at the outset that politics was not to be part of the discussion.
So what we heard was anecdotal, with few insights.
JJ Rizal, a Betawi historian at the University of Indonesia, pointed out that Sukarno, the first president, and national hero M.H. Thamrin envisaged Jakarta, né Batavia, as a group of ‘traditional villages’ (e.g. Kampung Melayu). That vision is now lost, initially partly destroyed by Ali Sadikin, Jakarta’s Governor from 1966 to 1977. is now lost and such areas are now regarded as slums, ripe for clearance. The city’s cultural diversity is being subsumed by centralised economic forces.
(Note: In recent weeks, two Betawi ondel-ondel have visited our neighbourhood on a daily basis. On Sunday they were not accompanied with Betawi music instruments but with a sound system blaring out dangdut.)
Evi Mariani, a Jakarta Post journalist, living in Bumi Serpng Damai, a new township, lamented that the gated communities there provided expensive schools, which she could not afford. More to the point, was that they do not offer cultural diversity which she’d like her three year old son to experience.
Architect Ign Susiadi Wibowo posited “a zero waste city“, and pointed out that trash bins only encourage waste and that “cleanliness is part of our religion“. He seemed to overlook the many localised, community recycling projects, and that waste disposal is a national problem which can only be solved with a clamp down on the packaging industry – world wide. BTW. ‘Adi’ lives in Bintaro, another ‘township’ with a planned infrastructure.
(Note: the recent anti-Ahok demonstration was also notable for the efforts by demonstrators to collect the trash left behind.)
Gugun Muhammed, billed as a community “leader”, prefers to be known as a community “organiser”. He recounted how his north Jakarta community had cleaned up their section of the river Ciliwung, yet still faced the problem of rubbish dumping upstream. “How can an entire city operate together?“
Other panellists were musician Kartika Jahja, who lives here for professional and financial reasons, Alan Koropitan, an oceanographer is concerned with the build up of sediment, a major cause of flooding, and comedian David Nurbianto‘s every utterance produced loud laughter, but they didn’t translate well into English.
The final question from the audience was “How can I get involved?“
The only involvement she had … we had … was listening to anecdotes from the panel, all of whom are undoubtedly inspirational on a personal level. Yet none answered the topic question.
Note 6.12.16: You can now watch it all on YouTube
This evening I’m going to a meeting at Goethe Haus for a discussion co-hosted by the Guardian newspaper and the Rujak Center for Urban Studies founded by Marco Kusumawijaya, who I’ve praised in the past. The evening’s discussion is entitled Jakarta @30Million: Where does the city go next?
Naturally, I’m assuming that the number refers not only to the future population of Jakarta, but also the satellite towns, inc. Jakarta, Depok, Bekasi, Bogor, Tangerang, Serpong et al. The complete set, all built on a floodplain is known as something like Jabadebekoboggertangarpong which ten years ago I abbreviated to Japong.
Its current growth is unsustainable, and not merely because of the increasing consumer demands on diminishing resources. Building on a floodplain diminishes its capacity to absorb ever increasing rains due to climate change. Couple that with rising seal levels due to the collapse of the polar ice caps thanks to global warming. there is little point in building more roads.
The ownership of private vehicles may be considered to be the epitome of middle class aspirations, but providing for them decreases the quality of life for those who have to live with the air and noise pollutions and the stress of getting from A to B.
I’ve long put my faith in public transport, and written about it extensively as an urbanist with one foot in my past life in London, and the other here in Jakarta.
In 2004, Ken Livingstone, the then Mayor of London, announced a five year $10 billion transport scheme for my home city. I had a good look at it and figured that several of its proposals were suitable for Jakarta. So how is Jakarta getting on a dozen years later?
– Air-conditioned carriages
Done, although some have roof fans. However, the doors shut, and there is no more roof riding. That means that although rush hour commuters may continue to be crushed in, at least they are perspiration-free.
– New security measures for trains and stations
I was referring to vendors walking up and down the aisles and ticket touts at stations.
I don’t know about local trains outside Jakarta, but vendors, buskers and dangdut singing beggars are now not to be seen on express and commuter trains because there is e-ticketing enforcing entrance to platforms. Another benefit is that ticket touting is an occupation of the past.
– Rail extensions to … Kelapa Gading? Soekarno-Hatta Airport?
Construction is now well under way for one, and possibly two, lines to the airport.
– Initiatives to encourage more walking
Governor Ahok has only recently ordered the renovation and creation of sidewalks.
– Priority given to pedestrians with enforceable crossings on major roads.
I’m not aware of any such developments.
– New street lighting (rather than illuminated advertisements and fairy lights)
Large advertising hoardings have been removed or have dropped of their own accord, as in the case of the one attached to a pedestrian bridge in Pasar Minggu.
There are new street lights in my neighbourhood which illuminate far beyond the street below. There’s one in front of Jakartass Towers which is bright enough to let me read a paperback book, and fractionally cuts down our electricity bill.
– A cycle network
There are very few dedicated cycle paths, and those that do exist are used to park cars and meals-on-wheels vendors.
– Extension of the 3-in-1 scheme throughout the day and to points north, south, east and west.
The original scheme has recently been replaced by an odd/even number plate system while City Hall dithers over ERP, (electronic road payment?). I’ve no idea whether either is effective in reducing the traffic chaos because I now commute out of, rather than into, town during the rush hours. And I generally get a seat on the train in both directions.
The word ‘consequences’ is rarely heard in Indonesia, and much of my writing effort has been to highlight the short-termism of government proposals and actions. For example, in 2011, a policy of leaving the first and last carriages in commuter trains empty was proposed as “part of a campaign to increase passenger safety in the event of a train collision.”
That didn’t happen: these carriages are now women only … so in the event of a collision …
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
From a photo essay: Members of the critically endangered orangutan are cared for and nursed back to health before their release at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme rehabilitation centre in Kuta Mbelin, North Sumatra.
Note. The Guardian UK newspaper has daily photo essays which I have regularly ‘tapped’ for my Image of the Week series. Sadly, of late their photo essays have been formatted for smart phones rather than large screens, which is somewhat like admiring the Mona Lisa on a postage stamp.
In all my years of playing various sports, and watching them in parks and stadia and on TV, I don’t think anything compares to my delight in Andy Murray’s achievement of finally becoming the world’s best male tennis player.
As Kevin Mitchell says, “It is a towering achievement that the world No1 is essentially no different to the tennis player the game first became aware of over a decade ago.”
Murray beats the Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-4, 6-2 to win the boys’ title at the 2004 US Open.
I scheduled this post before a certain racist misogynist trumped almost everything else in the news this past week. Like millions throughout the world, I’ll continue the good fight against all exploiters of the wong cilik because I know of no other way. And that is exemplified through the discipline and character demonstrated down the years by Andy Murray, I only occasionally wish that my causes were similarly rewarding in a financial sense!