North Kalimantan becomes 34th province
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The House of Representatives (DPR) and the government have officially endorsed the establishment of North Kalimantan as the nation’s 34th province.
The province will have Tanjung Selor as its capital and be comprised of several regencies carved out of East Kalimantan, including Bulungan, Nunukan, Malinau and Tana Tidung, as well as Tarakan municipality.
“These areas are rich in oil, gas and mining. Thus, the new local administration can focus on efforts on enriching the people,” Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi told reporters on the sidelines of a House plenary meeting on Thursday.
North Kalimantan will border with the Malaysian states of Sabah and Serawak in its north and west, respectively; the Makassar Strait and the Sulawesi Sea in the east; and the regencies of West Kutai, East Kutai, Kutai Kertanegara and Berau in East Kalimantan to the south.
Lawmaker Agun Gunandjar Sudarsa, who sits on House Commission II on regional autonomy, said that the endorsement of North Kalimantan would secure the loyalties of Indonesians living on the Malaysian border.
“North Kalimantan will be an open gate to enter Malaysia, the southern Philippines and Brunei Darussalam. Therefore, the province is a strategic location to counter threats against the unity of the nation from neighboring countries,” Agun said.
According to the Golkar Party lawmaker, the establishment of the new province would also prevent Malaysia from making territorial claims on Sebatik Island, which is divided between the nations, and in nearby Krayan subdistrict.
“A gradual improvement of the people’s welfare will also curb the inhumane treatment of Indonesian workers trafficked to work illegally in Sabah and Serawak,” he said.
The bill on the province mandates the home minister to hold a gubernatorial election within the next nine months.
Lawmakers at the House plenary meeting on Thursday also approved the creation of four new regencies: Pangandaran in West Java, Manokwari and Arfak in West Papua and West Pesisir in Lampung.
The endorsement of five new autonomous regions surprised observers, given the government moratorium on establishing new provinces or regencies.
Siti Zuhro from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said the government should openly announce such an about-face before establishing new provinces or regencies.
“It’s true that some of the regions are resource rich, and thus have great potential to enrich the local residents. However, natural riches will bring nothing without other resources, such as human resources, as well as infrastructure,” Siti told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
“The government, as well as the House, should have been more careful with their decision, because the autonomous regions that were previously endorsed have yet to better the people — the reason continuously cited to justify the establishment of autonomous regions nationwide,” Sita said.
Endorsement of five new autonomous regions, according to Siti, would encourage other regions to demand the same, which would bring additional troubles to the nation.
“There are more than 1,500 problematic regional laws. The number will surely be added to following the endorsement of new autonomous regions. Thus, the central government will gradually lose control of most of its regions,” she said.
With the endorsement on Thursday, Indonesia has 529 autonomous regions, comprising 34 provinces, 402 regencies and 93 municipalit
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