Thousands of Village Chiefs Plan Weeklong Protest at DPR
Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Michelle Natalie
Thousands of village chiefs protesting at the House of Representatives say they won’t leave for at least a week to force the government to prioritize the long-awaited Village Governance Bill, but where they will stay seems to be an issue.
“We will not leave Jakarta until the president signs the bill. Or alternatively, the House will have to take the initiative to process the Village Governance draft bill,” said Sudir Santoso, chairman of the Nusantara Village People’s Association (Parade Nusantara), on Monday.
The village chiefs are demonstrating in front of the House building, blocking parts of Jalan Gatot Subroto.
“We want to meet with the leader of the House and the leaders of the nine factions to seek support,” Sudir added. “For factions that don’t give any support to the bill, we will boycott them in the 2014 elections when they come to our villages.”
However, he appealed to the House leaders to lend one of the rooms in the Senayan complex for them to stay in while they are in Jakarta.
“We don’t have any money to stay in a hotel. But the House building is the public’s house, so please allow us to stay here,” Sudir said.
The bill aims to improve welfare at the village level by, for instance, ensuring that the village benefits financially from natural resources found in it. It also proposes inreasing the number of village officials who are classified as civil servants.
After being dropped from discussion for re-drafting in 2009, the village bill was again submitted into the 2009-14 national legislation program. However, a new draft of the bill has not yet been submitted for discussion.
Deputy House speaker Priyo Budi Santoso told the protesters that he would immediately convey their request to government officials and political parties.
“We will send a second letter to the president, saying there is no reason to delay the Village Governance bill,” Priyo said. “If it’s still rejected, that is unacceptable. But I know the palace has good intentions, so I assure you that it won’t be a waste of time to be here.”
Home Affair Ministry spokesman Reydonnyzar Moenek told the Globe the bill was now in its final stages and on its way to the president.