Jakartans demand Monas be more open to the public
Triwik Kurniasari , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Mon, 04/06/2009 9:38 AM | City
For many students, playing soccer in playgrounds around the National Monument is a not-to-be-missed activity.
Destri, 13, relishes the opportunity. He was full of energy, enthusiastically playing soccer with his schoolmate on the futsal pitch under the heat of the midday sun on Saturday.
“My friends and I always play soccer here every Saturday after school because it’s near our school in Salemba,” Destri said, dribbling a ball with his feet.
“It’s free and quite spacious. We also have a chance to meet students from other schools and play together,” he said.
The junior high school students said they did not ask for permits from Monas’ management to play in area.
“As far as I know, we don’t need any written permits. We usually just come here and play,” Destri said.
“Besides, the Monas officials let us play here. So, I think there’s no problem at all. It’s a public place anyway,” the eighth grader said.
His comments were in stark contrast to those made by Governor Fauzi Bowo three months ago.
At the end of January, during an impromptu inspection at Monas Park, Fauzi expressed his displeasure at finding many children playing futsal without official permission.
“Have you all got permits to play futsal in this area?” Fauzi asked. The children told him that they had asked for the permissions.
“Yes, sir. I have permission from emak (mother),” replied one of them.
The answer was apparently not what Fauzi was expecting.
“That kind of permission is not what I’m talking about. I mean, have you asked for a permit from the management of this area? Because if you want to play here, you must have their permission first,” Fauzi said in Betawi.
Fauzi’s statement raised the eyebrows of many Jakartans, as the 80-hectare Monas area is a public place, where all people have the right to come and enjoy their leisure time.
In 2002, citing security concerns and the need to reclaim the park from unruly street vendors, the city administration made the decision to erect a high iron fence around one of the only green spaces in the city, at a cost of Rp 8.7 billion (US$770,000).
Many experts and urban activists slammed the project, criticizing the administration’s decision to evict street vendors from the area.
There are four controlled gates from which the park can be entered and dozens of public order agency officers patrol the park 24 hours a day.
The administration restricted visits to Monas this New Year’s Eve, after the park was damaged during 2007/2008 celebrations.
This restriction, however, led into harsh action from some people who broke a number of park fences to enter the area. Others employed wooden ladders to allow people to climb over the fences, at a cost of Rp 1,000 per person.
Monas is not like Yogyakarta’s alun-alun (town square), for instance, where whole communities, including street vendors, are given space.
Director of Monas Rini Hariyani said her office wanted to give comfort and security to visitors.
“People are pleased to do activities like exercising in this area. But for Jakartans who want to hold big events, they should apply for permits from the central Jakarta administration.”
“There will be a fee for any event, depending on the space they want to use,” she said, adding that the charge ranges between from Rp 350,000 (US$30) per event per day to Rp 1,500,000.
Mahatmanto, an urban expert, said the fence and strict rules limit opportunities for visitors to take advantage of the park.
“The administration erected the fence because it felt insecure. In reality, the fence has been a barrier and limits interactions between people,” Mahatmanto said.
“Monas used to closely engage and connect with other buildings around the area. But now, it is separated from others,” he said.
He suggested the administration design more friendly, lower fences.
Untoro, 32, a resident, nodded in agreement.
“Monas was like an arrogant place. It should be crowded and lively, but for me it is now just a monument with a high fence.”
“I think the administration should redesign the fence. If it is afraid that street vendors will occupy the area, it should provide some places for the vendors instead of just evicting them,” he said.
Yunie, 30, said that she had not been to Monas for more than 15 years.
“I did not know that the monument was open daily, since it’s fenced in. I prefer going to the Senayan [sports] complex with my family because it offers more interactive and lively things.”
“Monas should offer something unique to attract visitors. I heard the administration has banned delman (traditional buggies) from operating in the area. Well, that’s so sad. I think delmans are a good attraction for visitors,” she said.
1961 Monas project started.
2002 The Jakarta administration builds a 3.2-meter iron fence around the park at a cost of almost Rp 9 billion. The project leads to the eviction of 2,000 street vendors.
2007 The administration spends Rp 25 billion to renovate the fenced-off base of the monument. It has also had installed a Rp 26 billion ‘dancing’ fountain and a Rp 15 billion laser light system to illuminate the monument.
2008 The Central Jakarta administration prohibits delmans from entering Monas Park, following the opening of two recreational trains. The trains serve visitors from 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. everyday, for free.
2009 Fauzi Bowo orders Central Jakarta Mayor Sylviana Murni to improve the condition of Monas. Sylviana erects temporary tents to closely monitor the improvement of the park. Sidewalks are repaved, grass is replanted, 200 garbage bins are placed around the park and 1,000 biopores are dug. Sylviana further instructs Monas management to draft stricter regulations on the use of Monas by organizations and the private sector, saying they should sign a contract to keep Monas Park clean and intact after an event. If the organizer fails to do so, the organization will be barred from using the park for a year.