The Jakarta Globe, October 21, 2013.
Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo is moving ahead with plans to rid the city’s sidewalks of masked monkey performances — known as topeng monyet — by 2014 in a bid to improve public order as well as prevent an outbreak of illness from the monkeys.
“That is related to order on the streets as well as rabies and other sorts of diseases, that is why we want to be free of performing monkeys and we will start this week,” Joko said on Monday.
Posters promoting the campaign with “No More Masked Monkeys 2014” written on it have been seen across the city, as part of ongoing efforts to bring the issue to the public and raise awareness towards putting an end to practices of animal cruelty involved in masked monkey performances.
In the posters, the government pointed out that cruelty against the monkeys would be considered a violation to Article 302 of the Criminal Code.
Joko, who over the weekend said the city government planned to buy back all the monkeys used as street buskers, further elaborated on the plan on Monday, saying the monkeys would be placed under the Jakarta Marine and Agriculture Office and will be sent to and taken care of by the Ragunan Zoo in South Jakarta.
He had previously said the owners of the performing monkeys would be trained to learn new skills for other jobs in the city, but noted that the government will focus on the issue after first buying back the monkeys.
“We will think about them later, especially keeping in mind that most of the owners are not residents of Jakarta,” he said
According to Joko, the Jakarta administration will this week collect data of the number of masked monkeys across the city before taking them to the Ragunan Zoo.
“The exploitation of monkeys for performances has become an international issue and the city administration will act immediately to save them,” Joko said.
Animal rights groups had long campaigned for a government order banning the practice. Former Jakarta governor, Fauzi Bowo, allowed the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) to seize the monkeys off the streets, but stopped short of issuing a bylaw banning their use.
But the government’s plans did not come without criticism.
In a report by Rakyat Merdeka, Child Protection Task Force chairman M. Ihsan said the unit’s proposal to the government to tackle issues related to street children had not been fruitful.
“It arrived at a dead end and eventually stopped,” Ihsan said.
He added that the issue of street children has not been prioritized by the city government because of a lack of international attention.
“Maybe because the international community has not yet spoken directly to Joko Widodo about the issue. Hopefully the international community would talk to him in the same way it did on the issue of masked monkeys,” said Ihsan, who is also secretary general to the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI).
“Hopefully the fate of children in Jakarta will be better than the monkeys who are placed in Ragunan and whose owners will receive training.”
Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama denied the government had abandoned street children.
“We are still following up on the issue of the children. Of course children are more important than masked monkeys,” Basuki said, adding that he was aware that Jakarta remained a far cry from becoming a child-friendly city and that child security in the city still needed plenty of improvement.
According to him, the city’s public order agency, Satpol PP, plays an important role in ensuring security across the city’s districts and that officers should take a bigger part in maintaining the public’s safety and prevent student brawls or other forms of violence towards children.
“So far our Satpol PP officers are only doing patrols without really observing the public, despite being present in every sub-district,” he said.
The city government has prepared a 1 hectare field at Ragunan Zoo to house the purchased macaques.