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Jakarta Post

Isolated Flores villagers' pleas for bridge fall on deaf ears

  • Markus Makur

    The Jakarta Post

East Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara   /   Wed, November 6, 2019   /   11:09 am
Isolated Flores villagers' pleas for bridge fall on deaf ears Residents cross the Wae Musur River, located between Purang and Lidi villages in October 2019. (JP/Markus Makur)

A frustrated villager in East Manggarai regency, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), printed a plea on a T-shirt he often wears after several efforts to ask for a 3-kilometer-bridge in his village had yet to deliver results.

Theodurus Pamput, 30, wore the black T-shirt with a message written in the local language: Tuang, Senget Koe Gesar Dami #WaeMusur (Leaders, please listen to our plea, #WaeMusur).

Wae Musur is the name of a river that separates Kampung Lidi, in Lidi village in Ranamase district, Flores Island.

Residents cross a rickety wooden bridge to cross the Wae Musur River in Ranamase district, East Manggarai regency, in East Nusa Tenggara in October.Residents cross a rickety wooden bridge to cross the Wae Musur River in Ranamase district, East Manggarai regency, in East Nusa Tenggara in October. (JP/Markus Makur)

During the rainy season, in particular, residents of Theodorus’ village cannot access other villages or the regency’s capital, Borong. Nor can teachers for a junior high school in Nanga Lanang go to work when the river is brimming with rainwater, he said.

“We have conveyed our pleas several times; through the press, to the East Manggara Legislative Council and through the East Manggarai administration. But they haven’t delivered any results,” Theodorus said last month.

“When the rainy season comes, Wae Musur is always flooded and we cannot cross it.”

He said the villagers had formed the Wae Musur People Forum and United Wae Musur Youth Movement to fight for the bridge.

“So, I made this T-shirt,” he said.

He was once told that the bridge had to be built using the state budget, not the regional budget. Because the villagers also hoped President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo would build the Wae Musur bridge, the message on the T-shirt was also for the President.

“The message is for all the nation’s leaders to listen and to pay attention, to realize equal development for [everyone] in Indonesia,” he said.

Development in Indonesia has favored Java Island and the western part of the country. The eastern part of the country, including East Nusa Tenggara, has fallen behind in terms of infrastructure and development.

NTT’s gross regional product (GRP) has been in the country’s bottom 10, reaching Rp 99.08 trillion (US$7.07 billion) in 2018. In comparison, Jakarta posted a Rp 2.599 quadrillion GRP the same year. Manggarai Timur is one of 22 regencies and municipalities in the province and is also among the bottom 10 in terms of GRP, booking Rp 2.7 trillion in 2018. Statistics Indonesia (BPS) reported that in 2017, 25 percent of the population living in rural areas were considered poor.

Theodorus said that during the legislative and presidential election campaign period last year, several officials from the Public Works and Housing Ministry, Public Information Commission (KIP) member Romanus Ndau Lendong and East Manggarai Public Works and  Housing Agency official Yos Marto visited the Wae Musur area. They were welcomed with a customary ritual and the officials promised to accommodate the people’s requests.

Romanus confirmed the visit last month and said he had asked for updates from the ministry. He added that the villagers had to wait because “development is happening gradually across Indonesia”.

“Perhaps [the bridge] will be built next year,” he said.

Public works agency head Yos Marto said that as of last month, the administration not received any information about the follow up to the ministry’s visit.

“The East Manggarai regency administration does not have the budget to build a bridge over the Wae Musur River,” he said.