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Jokowi's call for new capital sparks lively response on Facebook

Straits Times - May 1, 2019

Francis Chan – President Joko Widodo's social media post calling for public views on his plan to relocate Indonesia's capital away from Java island drew more than 25,000 comments on Facebook within an hour yesterday.

Some netizens, understandably, recommended their own hometowns – from Ambon and Batam to even far-flung Papua. But the place that came up repeatedly was Kalimantan, Indonesia's side of the massive Borneo island.

This was not a surprise since Indonesia's founding president Sukarno had once considered making Palangkaraya, in Central Kalimantan province, the country's administrative centre.

Netizen Tommy Wijaya, who lives in Medan, North Sumatra, said Central Kalimantan is "most suitable", given its land area, population, lower potential for natural and artificial disasters, as well as defence and security factors.

"Agreed, Palangkaraya," posted Muza Ahmad, a resident of Lamongan, East Java. "So far, there have been no earthquakes and floods."

While a new location for the capital has yet to be finalised, Mr Joko has given the assurance that ongoing discussions will not only consider short-term benefits, but also the needs and interests of Indonesia as it continues on its journey to becoming a developed nation.

The President, best known by his moniker Jokowi, hinted that it will be a long process, adding that the idea of moving the capital has been part of the discourse in every presidency since the Sukarno era.

According to The Jakarta Post, the Jokowi administration, following the Washington DC-New York model, will make the new capital the centre of government, while Jakarta continues to function as the business, trade and financial hub.

All three branches of government – the executive, legislative and judiciary – as well as the headquarters for the National Police and Indonesian Armed Forces, embassies and other international organisations, will relocate to the new capital.

Officials said on Monday that the move, first revived by Mr Joko in 2017, could take up to 10 years.

With almost six in 10 Indonesians living in Java, relocating the capital will ease the pressure of overcrowding on Indonesia's most populated island, even as the country seeks new growth directions.

This will mean that he will unlikely preside over the completion of the relocation even if he is expected to be declared the winner of the April 17 presidential polls later this month, as Indonesian presidents are limited to a maximum of two five-year terms.

Mr Joko's comments on Facebook yesterday followed Monday's high-level meeting where he reportedly made known his decision to relocate the capital outside of Java.

With almost six in 10 Indonesians living in Java, relocating the capital will ease the pressure of overcrowding on Indonesia's most populated island, even as the country seeks new growth directions.

Jakarta, a sprawling metropolis of more than 10 million people, has suffered from traffic congestion, over-crowding, widespread pollution and regular flooding for decades.

But not all are in favour of relocating. Many social media users from Jakarta have urged Mr Joko on Facebook to dedicate more resources to solving the city's problems instead.

Likewise, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said on Monday that Mr Joko's plan will not resolve the city's congestion, among other problems, because governmental activities are not the cause.

About Jakarta

In the 4th century, it was known as Sunda Kelapa, a major trading port for the Hindu Sundanese kingdom.

The city was christened Jayakarta while under the Banten Sultanate, but renamed Batavia in the era of the Dutch East Indies, and later Djakarta for a short period of time from 1942 to 1945.

Today, people know it as Jakarta, Indonesia's capital. It has about 10 million inhabitants, but many say it sometimes feels as though there are 10 times more; it is also a concrete jungle infamous for its gridlocks on the roads.

There are 18.2 million vehicles registered in Jakarta, almost double the number of registered residents, with more than a million people travelling daily to the capital from outside the city for work and business, again, officially.

Indonesia's founding president Sukarno had envisaged Jakarta as a global city, but floods, widespread pollution and overcrowding continue to beset the capital to this day.

Over the centuries

  • Sunda Kelapa (397-1527)
  • Jayakarta (1527-1619)
  • Batavia (1619-1942)
  • Djakarta (1942-1945)
  • Jakarta (1945-present)

"So the relocation of the capital city will not automatically alleviate congestion because the largest contributors to the issue in Jakarta are household and private activities, Mr Anies told reporters.

Mr Joko yesterday gave his take on why keeping Jakarta as the capital may not be sustainable in the long term. "Jakarta currently bears two burdens at once – as the centre of government and public services, as well as a centre for business. Can this city still carry these burdens in the future?"

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/jokowis-call-for-new-capital-sparks-lively-response-on-facebook