Jakarta

Even after you die you
have to follow rules

Such projects were often met with protests from relatives of the deceased, as it involves dismantling tiled and decorated graves reportedly without prior notification.

Sofyan, a caretaker in the Karet Bivak cemetery, grumbled as he wiped the dust off a tombstone,

"I don't get these people, all they do is destroy these nice graves."

The block in which he works houses a range of graves - some have magenta tombstones, some are equipped with custom seats for visitors, and some are ornately tiled around their edges.

However, a few blocks away from the block he tends, a field of uniform tombstones and graves was seen. The uniform tombstones and graves were part of the city administration's makeover project. All the stones are gray and the graves are covered with tufts of grass, without any tiles.

Sofyan said that some of his clients, whose relatives' graves underwent the "makeover", were unhappy with the changes they discovered when they went to visit the graves.

"Many of the customers complained because they were not informed of the plan. They found it hard to find their relatives' graves," said fellow caretaker Supri, as he rested under a tree in the cemetery.

Andre, who also works at the cemetery, said that some customers complained because their relatives' names were misspelled.

"The frequent misspellings are unsurprising. They *the city administrations* made around 2,000 tombstones in one month," he said, adding that those who made the tombstones were not the usual manufacturers who earned their living from the cemetery.

The makeover project, dubbed "plakatisasi", began around three months ago.

City Parks and Cemetery Agency head Ery Basworo said the relatives of the deceased buried in Karet Bivak and Karet Tengsin or Karet Pasar Baru cemeteries were given prior notice of the plan.

"*The makeover was done* to increase the amount of green spaces and to use cemeteries as water-retention spaces. It is also part of Governor Fauzi Bowo's plan to change the spooky image of cemeteries," Ery told The Jakarta Post in a phone interview.

"The city law prohibits any decorations for graveyards, anyway."

Bylaw No 3/2007 stipulates that those responsible for a grave, such as relatives of the deceased buried in it, must not build or install anything on the grave.

Aside from the law, the usage of tiles to enclose graves, for example, hinder the ability for the graves to retain water, Ery claimed.

He said that in the future all of the city's cemeteries would undergo the same process, except cemeteries that had historical and artistic value.

"The graves of national heroes will not be altered," Ery said.

The Karet Bivak cemetery is home to the graves of several national heroes, such as Muhammad Husni Thamrin and Fatmawati, the wife of first President Sukarno.

In Karet Tengsin cemetery adjacent to the Karet Bivak cemetery, the renovations were still in the progress. Workers have just dismantled some of the graves' tiles and a block in the cemetery grounds was filled with plain graves, as if they were freshly dug.

According to a caretaker, the project caused some graves' locations to be wrongly depicted.

"Some of the graves are not perfectly lined. They tend to be in a zig-zag," he said, pointing at several graves that appeared to be lying in the middle of paths that separate one line of graves from the other.

But the makeover project tried to make the graves to appear as if they were following a straight line, by only altering the surface, thus missing the actual location of the graves.

Ery said the project will not alter the depiction of the graves' location, however.

"As long as they are all decorated in the same manner, it's all right."

The makeover project will be conducted in around 648 more graves in the future, Ery said.

"We will renovate 116 graves in the Grogol cemetery, 104 in Utan Kayu cemetery, 168 in the Menteng Pulo cemetery, 130 in the Karet Pasar Baru cemetery and 130 in Semper cemetery," he explained.

The renovations would be rationed between the five burial grounds as each project would first serve as an example for the building of other graves in the same cemetery.

"People will see the newly decorated graves and use that as an example," Ery explained.

Rizky Septriana, whose grandmother and uncle were buried in the Karet Tengsin cemetery, said that she had not heard of the project.

"I didn't know about that plan. But I guess it's fine as long as they don't actually relocate the graves like they did in Casablanca."

In 1991, the administration moved more than 1,000 graves in Menteng Dalam, South Jakarta and Rawa Bunga, East Jakarta, to make way for bigger roads and more buildings. In February this year, the administration relocated 3,500 graves to make way for a new access road in Rasuna Said, South Jakarta. (dis)

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