Hidden beauty: Apart from hosting a maximum security prison home to murderers and convicted terrorists, Nusakambangan also boasts beautiful beaches that the local government intends to exploit for tourism. JP/Agus Maryono
Little has been said about the beauty of Nusakambangan Island in Cilacap regency, Central Java, as it is more famous for its maximum security prison, which is home to criminals and terrorists, than as a tourism destination.
In fact, the island, whose 30 kilometers of coastline feature beautiful golden beaches, could be a haven for tourists, at least according to the government.
One of the island’s most beautiful beaches is Permisan Beach, which has virgin white sands. There are also caves there — a popular subject of exploration among tourists.
“It’s unfortunate that we have hesitated to develop Nusakambangan as a tourist attraction because of the changing policy issued by the Law and Human Rights Ministry,” Cilacap Tourism Agency head Imam Yudianto told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.
The status of the island has long been debated among government related institutions, including the Cilacap regency administration, the Central Java provincial administration and the Law and Human Rights Ministry.
The ministry claims full authority over Nusakambangan in accordance with its management of the prison, which is home to 1,500 inmates.
The regency administration says it has the administrative authority to manage the island. The provincial administration, which issued the mining license for a cement industry on the island, is also demanding its own slice of authority.
Imam said that in 1996 the ministry declared the island open to public tourists, but then closed it again a few years later due to terrorism concerns.
Despite these concerns, the cement producer has continued to operate on the island.
“If it is closed to the public, it should be completely closed to the public. If an industry is allowed to continue operating there, then Nusakambangan’s tourist attractions should also be opened to tourists,” Imam said.
He said that to help make the Visit Central Java Year 2013 program a success, his agency would reopen Nusakambangan to tourists so that tourism could be developed on the island.
“First, we will go to the ministry to request a wider authority to manage things. We completely guarantee the safety and the comfort of visitors,” Imam said.
He also said that it was time for the central government and the regency and provincial administrations to sit together and coordinate about who would have the authority to develop tourism on the island.
“We actually have the legal basis to develop tourism in Nusakambangan, which is the 1996 agreement between the ministry and the penitentiaries in which both agreed to grant a license for opening tourism on the island for the public,” he said.
He added that the opening of Nusakambangan as a tourist destination had received praise from the public, and that the regency administration with the support of the provincial administration had improved the condition of the roads as well as other infrastructure.
“According to the data, we used to receive an average of 10,000 visitors annually despite the shaky management,” Imam said, adding that the closure of the island had not stopped some tourists from visiting the island illegally with the knowledge of the regency administration.
Separately, Cilacap Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Rudi Darmoko said that his institution was ready to get involved in maintaining security on the island once Nusakambangan was reopened to the public.
He said that since the drug dealing network in Nusakambangan prisons was uncovered, the Cilacap Police had been involved in securing the penitentiaries.
“Previously we were only authorized to secure the gateway to the island, but now we are involved in jointly securing the areas around the prisons,” Rudi told the Post last Saturday.