Ahok limits public participation in RPTRA community center projects
Corry Elyda and Dewanti Wardhani
The Jakarta Post
Despite initial success with a public participation method, the Jakarta administration has decided to limit the involvement of residents in building and managing child-friendly integrated public spaces (RPTRA).
Jakarta Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama said recently that the city administration had issued Gubernatorial Decree No. 349/2015 to limit residents' involvement in the development of RPTRAs due to the friction and differing interests among residents.
He said that 'irresponsible' community organizations were also taking part in negotiations, although they were not residents of the area.
'In many areas, we observed that a number of organizations became involved and this caused friction and tension between residents,' Ahok told The Jakarta Post.
He added that despite the decree, residents could still take part in developing the parks.
'Residents can still be involved, but their involvement will be limited. We will listen to their needs and we will do our best to accommodate them, but we will not negotiate,' Ahok said.
The decree states that the spaces would be managed by city administration officials such as subdistrict heads, district heads and the Family Welfare Movement (PKK) groups. It does not refer to the involvement of residents or stakeholders like informal leaders and other organizations such as youth organizations like Karang Taruna, or remaja masjid (mosque youth organizations).
RPTRA pilot projects in six areas has until now seen local residents fully involved in project planning. The six spaces are located in Gandaria Selatan in South Jakarta, Cideng in Central Jakarta, Kembangan Utara in West Jakarta, Sungai Bambu in North Jakarta, Cililitan in East Jakarta and Untung Jawa Island in Thousand Islands.
The RPTRA in Gandaria Selatan, for example, has accommodated the various needs of residents and provides space and facilities to practice hadrah (Islamic music), traditional dance, conduct math and English study groups and plant medicinal plants and vegetables.
The city aims to build another 54 RPTRAs funded by private companies through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs this year.
Sociologist Imam Prasodjo, who has been responsible for the social mapping of the six pilot projects, said that involving residents in building and maintaining the public spaces was very important.
'It is essential to nourish the sense of belonging of the residents to the place, so they will take care of it,' he said.
Imam said his team had previously undertaken social mapping by discussing and talking with residents about their wants and needs.
'Therefore, each RPTRA has different facilities, as each subdistrict has its own activities,' he said.
'If residents are actively involved, the city administration only needs to monitor and facilitate them,' he said.
He gave an example of an interactive park built by the city administration without consulting with the public. 'The park has now become a place where residents dry their clothes,' he said.
Imam expressed concerns that limiting residents' involvement would detract from the effectiveness of the centers. 'I am not saying the new system will fail, but it is way much better if the participatory method is maintained,' he said.
The sociologist said differences of opinion and friction were a normal part of making an agreement with residents. He said conflicts were an opportunity for everyone to learn what was best for them. Imam said in the event of conflict, the city administration had the opportunity to educate residents.
Eka Permanasari, an urban designer and architect involved with the RPTRA projects, said she could not say whether the new method would affect the outcomes of the project.
'We still need to see the results, but it would be better if the residents were involved in the construction of the facilities that will eventually be used by them,' she said.
The urban designer said that public participation took time. 'However, it is a precious lesson for all stakeholders to be mature in solving their differences,' she said.
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