Lawmakers Urge Sanctions Against District Head Who Closed NTT Airport

[Updated at 7:30 p.m.]

Following mounting calls by several lawmakers, police have said that they will investigate a report about an East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) district head who temporarily shut a local airport on Saturday after he was barred from boarding a flight.

Marianus Sae, the head of Ngada district, ordered the region’s Turelelo Soa Airport to shut down after he was refused a ticket on a Merpati Nusantara flight that was already fully booked. Airport officials said they could do nothing to end the blockade because they were outnumbered by local Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) officials enforcing the district head’s wishes.

Flights returned to normal on Sunday after a mediation between Marianus and the state-controlled airline by the head of the airport operator.

“It’s clear in the law — he should be facing three years in prison and be subject to Rp 1 billion [$82,000] in fines,” lawmaker Teguh Juwarno, of the House of Representatives’ Commission V on transportation, told Indonesian news portal liputan6.com.

Teguh was referring to Article 421(1) of the Aviation Law, which states that “anyone causing obstacles and or doing other activities in a flight operational zone, which may harm flights and aviation safety… may be sanctioned with a maximum of three years in prison and/or fined Rp 1 billion.”

“We from Commission V are encouraging legal action against him in order to make him learn his lesson and deter a repeat scenario,” Teguh added.

Hajriyanto Y. Thohari, a deputy speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), criticized Marianus and said his case was an example of how regional officials sometimes display conceited and feudalistic attitudes.

“I think the case is an example of the arrogance of local officials, which shows us that feudalism is still strong in our country,” Hajriyato said. “Only a few regional heads are egalitarian and not feudalistic.”

“Such practices are frequent; local officials make a sudden trip and because of bad planning, they don’t get a seat and take over someone else’s place. That’s not a secret — some airlines have to make their seats vacant to reserve them for local officials.”

Another member of the transportation commission, Saleh Husain, similarly urged penalties against Marianus, saying his shutting of the airport could have harmed passengers.

Indonesian news portal kompas.com reported that two Merparti planes, one of them carrying 54 passengers, were forced to return to El Tari Airport in Kupang after the Turelelo Airport was closed from 6:15 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Saturday. Several other flights were also reportedly redirected.

“Police should be able to immediately take action because [blockading the airport] may harm people’s lives,” Saleh said.

Another lawmaker, Eriko Sotarduga, asked the NTT governor to take punitive action against Marianus.

“That is to warn the Ngada district head against repeating his actions,” Eriko. “This is no longer an era of arrogant power.”

What authority would issue the potential sanctions, however, remains unclear.

Bambang S. Ervan, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transportation, said the district head would not face charges unless a police report were filed. The ministry currently has no plan to file a legal suit.

“As for the legal process of the case, I cannot say anything on that yet,” Bambang. “There’s no legal complaint against as of yet.”

Police on Monday said that they may file charges against Marianus.

“Investigators with East Nusa Tenggara Police will study the facts of what happened and whether there was any violation of the law,” National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar said in Jakarta.

“If that happened, we can’t let it be. It harms people’s safety and the public interest at large.”

Boy added that police might actively pursue the case even though no legal charges have been filed against the head of Ngada district.

He said police would seek explanations from the Turelelo Soa Airport authority about the incident.

“That will serve as evidence, without anyone having to file a report,” Boy said.

Meanwhile, Marsianus’ party  defended the district head’s move, saying it was Merpati’s fault for not giving him an airline ticket.

Drajad Wibowo, a deputy chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN), said Marsianus was upset because he needed to attend a meeting on the regional budget.

“The incident happened because he really needed to attend the meeting to fight for the budget for his region,” Drajad told Liputan6.

He said the airport closing would not have occurred if there had been better communication between Marsianus and Merpati.

“I will advise him, though. As the deputy chairman, I understand his reasons, but I’m sure in the future there should be better [coordination] between both parties,” Drajad said.

“Let me emphasize: they [Merpati and Marsianus] need each other.”

  • Greenbug

    It is nonsense for the Ministry of Transportation to say no action can be taken against Marianus Sae because there is no report made against him. Pure nonsense. If those 54 passengers were to perish if their plane had run out of fuel when diverted to another airport, who will be alive to file a report for action to be taken? Arrest Marianus Sae now and charge him and send him to jail, don’t give excuses!

  • Botak

    Let me emphasize: they [Merpati and Marsianus] need each other.

    Merpati don’t need people like Marsianus. And we don’t need a party like PAN if they serve the public with such an understanding…..

  • antifreeze

    “Meanwhile, Marsianus’ party defended the district head’s move, saying
    it was Merpati’s fault for not giving him an airline ticket.” the moral logic and reasoning of two year olds.
    Heaven help us!

  • Deddy K.

    Did the regional budget meeting suddenly come up within 10 hours? I would assume something as large or important and a deliberation for any budget meeting would be planned out months in advance. So to think arrogantly you can get a ticket at a last minute no matter whom you are is just idiotic.
    There doesn’t need to be any communication, by leaving empty seats on airlines for the idiot politician that can’t plan two seconds ahead of his time, you are increasing costs per flight which in turn of course will be placed on regular passangers no?
    PAN is full of idiots now as well. But then what do you expect from islamic parties. They are teeming with arrogant, self rightious individuals whom don’t care about the average citizen or the country but utilize the veil of islam to misdirect from their true purposes of being in politics, line their pockets with the money of Indonesia and it’s citizens.

  • sheldon

    Sanctions? Fire him. Throw him in prison for exceeding his authority, endangering lives, causing losses to the public etc and them have him pay a fine to cover everyone who lost time and money due to his childish action. Anyone heard from SBY?

  • LUWANTO

    LUWANTO@BILLY
    No one is above the law and yet people show their arrogance as if they are sitting next to Almighty God. What’s your position? A District Head? So What? In USA they say: Tell it to the marines. In my kampong they say: Go to hell. In the Indonesian Court they say:
    Pay the fine and get stuffed in jail for behaving like a Mole chief.
    Luwanto
    25 Dec 2013