Traders vow to remain in
gutted Pasar Turi

Indra Harsaputra, The Jakarta Post, Surabaya

Traders at Surabaya's Pasar Turi, the largest traditional market in eastern Indonesia, are refusing to leave despite the extensive damage done by a fire last Thursday.

There is widespread concern about workers' employment prospects should they shut down or move to another market.

Abdullah Alaydrus, one of the traders, said that if the traders moved to a relocation site, their business would dwindle, thereby forcing them to lay off their workers.

An estimated 12,000 people work at the market.

""We, regardless of our ethnicity, be it Chinese, Arabian, Madurese or Javanese, agree to clean up the debris of the damaged buildings and renovate the damaged facilities,"" Abdullah told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

""For the traders whose kiosks were totally damaged, they can share other kiosks,"" he said.

As was reported earlier, Pasar Turi, which is similar to the Mangga Dua retail market in Jakarta, with 4,795 kiosks over its four stories, was gutted by fire on Thursday.

At least 2,257 of the kiosks at the market are seriously damaged. Daily transactions at Pasar Turi amounted to Rp 20 billion (US$2.20 million) before the fire.

Head of Surabaya Industry and Trade Office M. Taswin said an assessment would be conducted of kiosks that were not destroyed by the fire to confirm whether they were still safe.

If they were found to be unsafe, the administration would close the market for all trading activities, he said.

Several witnesses said that the fire at the market was caused by arson.

It was thought that the fire originated in one kiosk through an electrical short circuit, although after it was extinguished more fires were found in other areas.

The forensic and identification team of the Surabaya Police is still investigating the case and has not issued any statement regarding the case.

Several traders claimed the fire was part of the Surabaya city administration's plan to renovate and revitalize the market.

The plan, conceived in 2004, could not be implemented due to conflicts between the city administration and state railway company PT KAI, who claimed ownership of 1.6 hectares of the 4.3-hectare market. The Supreme Court had issued a verdict entrusting the ownership of the 1.6-hectare plot of land to PT KAI.

The traders said the revitalization plan had also been hindered by business interests in line with the rapid growth of malls in the city.

The deputy chairman of the Tanggulangin Bag Industry group in Sidoarjo, Syihabudin, said that at least 10 bag producers supplied up to 500 bags to the market every week.

""We hope the traders can start their sales again at the gutted buildings because many consumers are loyal shoppers,"" he said.

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