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Jakarta Post

Surabaya mayor'€™s award sparks controversy

  • Indra Harsaputra

    The Jakarta Post

Surabaya, East Java   /   Sat, May 10, 2014   /  10:01 am

Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini'€™s achievement in winning an international award has drawn mixed reactions from the people of Surabaya, East Java.

The mayor, widely known as Risma, claimed that she had received the International Socrates Award. The award is aimed at promoting the world elites, who work hard to support an exchange of ideas and experiences among the international community in several areas, including economics, politics, education and culture.

The controversy emerged after a local media outlet in Surabaya reported that the International Socrates Award for Innovative City of the Future, announced by the Europe Business Assembly (EBA) in Oxford on April 16, was filled with irregularities.

The award is inscribed with the category '€œFor Personal Contribution to the Development of European Integration,'€ and not '€œInnovative City of the Future,'€ as Risma had referred to it in a press release made available to journalists after the Socrates award presentation on April 20.

In the statement, Risma claimed Surabaya had beaten a representative city in Montenegro and was entitled to win the award for '€œInnovative City of the Future.'€

'€œSurabaya became the first city in the world to receive the award in the city category,'€ a statement on the Surabaya municipal website read.

However, according to the EBA website,, neither Risma nor Surabaya were included on the list of Socrates award recipients.

'€œWe don'€™t intend to deceive the public,'€ Surabaya municipal spokesman Muhammad Fikser told journalists, adding that the website had not been updated.

A report by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), a media outlet in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, referred in August 2013 to a document that listed the fees accompanying the awards in respective categories. The most expensive fee is for the International Socrates Award, which is valued at ¤9,700 (US$13,362), while the United Europe Award is priced at ¤3,900.

Fikser denied that Risma had paid money to obtain the award. On the other hand, he said the Surabaya city administration had apparently spent ¤3,900, but that money was used to pay seminar expenses.

'€œThe payment was for a seminar, not to win a prize or to get the award. Moreover, Ibu Risma said since she first took office that she would not accept the award if it was paid for,'€ Fikser said.

Regarding the achievement, Surabaya Legislative Council (DPRD) Commission D chairman Baktiono said Risma had not yet been particularly innovative in Surabaya, as she was simply rehashing the policies pursued by her predecessor, Bambang Dwi Hartono. All three, Baktiono, Bambang and Risma, are politicians with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Meanwhile, a student in Surabaya, Fransiska Yustin, voiced a different opinion about the award. Fransiska said that despite the controversy, she was proud of Risma for her courage and determination in developing the city.

'€œSurabaya is now very different to how it was. Ibu Risma has been successful in establishing many parks in the city, so it feels cooler during the day time,'€ Fransiska said.

Since her inauguration in 2010, Risma, who is the first woman mayor in Surabaya, has been both criticized and applauded for her bold leadership style.

For instance, she has transformed several slums in Surabaya into green spaces, and plans to shut down the city'€™s redlight district, Dolly. The Dolly closure plan is strongly opposed by her deputy, Wisnu Sakti Buana, amid ongoing tension between the two PDI-P politicians. Risma has also filed a report with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), accusing the former management of the Surabaya Zoo of graft.

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