Saturday, March 3, 2007

Capital Relocation: Lessons from Tasikmalaya and Riau Islands

In this post, we have two commentaries from my fellows: Miming Miharja and Fajar Hari Mardiansyah concerning their experiences of capital relocation projects. I am pleased to have their commentaries that give us some perspectives regarding the idea of Indonesia’s capital relocation.

Miming Mihardja is a faculty member of the School of Architecture, Planning and Policy Development, Bandung Institute of Technology. His comment was from his experience when he led a team of LAPI of Bandung Institute Technology a few years ago. His team investigated a new location for the capital of Tasikmalaya Regency (Kabupaten Tasikmalaya) . Tasikmalaya Regency is one of regencies in West Java province and needed to relocate its capital because the old capital was then located in new municipality, the city of Tasikmalaya (Kota Tasikmalaya) that was split off from Tasikmalaya Regency in 2001.

His case shows the challanges faced by his team in the selection process of new capital location. The case confirms that the capital relocation is highly political process. He asserted that even in local level, the political tension among different stakeholders was very high. The public hearings that were intended to accomodate the citizen participation put the team on edge. I fully agree with him that the case of the nation capital relocation would be more complicated than the regency capital relocation. Indeed, not to mention the cost of relocation.

Other thing that amazes me is rationality is not in demise. Using technical argumentation, the team was able to convince different stakeholders of the proposed location of new capital. It should be a case demonstrating stakeholders' trust in the expert team. Many scholars argue that the post-modern era characterized by fragmented power, distrust of government and experts, and incommensurable discourse leads to the demise of modernist planning practice in which rationality is one of the important premises. The case of Tasikmalaya regency's capital relocation shows the high political tensions in the planning process but the political stakeholders still have trust in the expert.

Miming's comment also brings up the issue of the cost of relocation. One interesting thing is the possible choice of private sector to finance the cost of relocation. I absolutely agree with this possible choice. Private finance instead of public finance. However, we should discuss it separately in other post ...

Below is the completed comment from Miming Mihardja:

Reflection from a local experience, when I was the LAPI-ITB acting team leader of Tasikmalaya Regency capital relocation in 2001. This case to some extent represents the socio-economic- political characteristic of our nation capital relocation topic of discussion.

First of all, we experienced a complicated and painful process during the location selection stage. This stage is a highly political game for many interest groups contributed as well as distorted the process. I learn a lot, that the Patsy Healey's collaborative planning, Tore Sager's communicative planning etc. are not only complex in theory, but far more complex in application, especially in our young-democratic country where euphoria is a fact that neglect every public planning process. I remember that to survive public hearing attended by many self (or selfish)-motivated stakeholders is a high-challenging moment i have to went through several times. Thank God i survive. Many times we had to face the strong opposed debate to our technical justification. Sometimes the argument simply came from the local sentiment feeling, just to fight for their own municipality's candidacy without clear justification. I learn a lot that strong technical argumentations often saved our proposed location. So, engineering approach is still useful in that case.
The study finally chose Singaparna-Mangunre ja municipalities as the selected new capital. The existing condition of the candidates are in the very early stage of development, especially in terms of basic infrastructures which are no doubt the substantial needs for a capital.

As we can easily imagine, the budget issue is definitely the other main constraint or limitation to be said more straightly. We estimated a number of trillion rupiahs for the development which was very far from local budget capability. Some higher tier government financial aid were identified, but still far from enough. The solution promisingly came from private investors. However, this last alternative generates high economic-political cost due to our clienty style of governance. This limitation implies the prolonged execution of the plan, despite the readiness of the physical plan our team prepared.

Talking about Indonesia new capital..... . You may multiple my story by 100, 1000, i don't know, you just mention it....

Just to mention that we should still proud of planner, our team succeeded in settling down the turbulence in the location selection process. Now, Regency Tasikmalaya has the widely accepted new capital together with its physical plans. The execution of the plan is their next challenge... .

Fajar Hari Mardiansyah is a faculty member of the Department of Regional and City Planning at Diponegoro University, Indonesia. He was a member of team that investigated the location of Riau Islands Province’s capital. Riau Islands Province is originally parts of Riau province that was split off as a separate province in 2004. He needed to leave the team before the project was completed and left for Paris to pursue his doctorate degree in the University of Paris.

Fajar’s story confirms Miming’s story that the selection process of capital location is highly political process. Technical argumentation from the team was not easily accepted by the parliament. Interesting interpretation from this story is the vested interests of some parliament members may be the reason of opposing the technical argumentation. Distrust of experts is rooted from the vested interests. Indeed, it is saddening and is a big challenge for developing democracy in Indonesia.

Below is the completed commentary from Fajar Hari Mardiansyah:

My experience in a project of location selection for the capital of Riau Islands Province was much rather a selfish-economic-interest of the major group of the political leaders in the province, especially in the provincial parliament,
rather than a socio-politic aspects. The well-technically recommended location had to struggle hardly to the demands of the majority of the parliament members who had done a speculation for some majority parcels in a certain location that they recommend to be the location of the capital. They did it with an assumption that they are the majority stakeholders in the decision process. But the problem was they never tell the true reasons meaning they have speculated in the location they preferred but arguing without unclear justifications when they rejected the better technical-based recommendation. Many arguments, ranging from the history of the location, the acceptance of the community members who owned the land, the close distance to the previous city, etc had been raised by them to cover the true that the most of the land had been owned by themselves.

Technical explanation countering their arguments of what they think they are good is not quiet good enough in the implementation part of the development seemed to be non-sense for them. Many dead-locks happened in the discussion just because theair of the discussion that seemed to me as a situation of a 'demokrasi pokoknya', that means every body can speak and tell his/her opinion but their position will never change. Later, the number of dead-locks was the main reason for the postponed of the process in order to give some time to the technical team to lobby some parliament members. Unfortunately, I don't know the later story because I had to begin my French preparation course for my current study. Is the decision has been made? Which location that is chosen? Frankly I am really curious about it.And the most importantly, how the decision process was finally completed (if the decision has been taken) is the one that I really want to know.

Looking to this experience, I am sure that the conflict of interest in selecting the new location of the capital of the Republic of Indonesia will be very... very... very... far bigger (this is the French culture to mention a huge of something by telling 'un tres...tres..tres.. grand problem', for example), than the selection of the capital of Riau Kepulauan. Especially the conflict of the selfish-interest of the economic players who collaborate to the political players. I just hope that the location is not in Java if we want to move our capital. It can be used also to make a more balance regional development in the country. Somewhere in the central or the North Sumatera, I think, will be my preference, then the next 50 years it will move again to Sulawesi. A planner or a dreamer am I....?


Anonymous said...

Politically, Indonesia had experiences in shifting the capital from Jakarta. Bukittinggi, a small town in the Province of West Sumatera once was the capital of the country when Soekarno was arrested by Dutch and appointed Mr. Sjarifuddin Prawiranegara as the governmental leader (Strugling Prime Minister?). Yogyakarta, the city province was also the capital of Indonesia in, if I'm not mistaken, 1949.

In early 1960's, again, Soekarno declared to move the capital from Jakarta to Palangkaraya (now is the capital of Central Kalimantan Province). At that time, the City of Palangkaraya was a small village named Palangka. Soekarno simbolically marked the development of Palangka Village to be the Future Capital of Indonesia and gave it a new name Palangkaraya. The fall of Soekarno in 1966 ended the program. Palangkaraya was stopped at the third base before making a home run, being a country capital.

Anyway, the experience of developing a small village to be a city like Palangka Raya shows that a radical idea has its opportunity to be real. If you have more complete story about Palangkaraya, please share. Thanks.

Deden Rukmana said...

Agus: Thank you for providing some historical information regarding Indonesia's capital relocations. Yes, the story about the capital relocation program or initiative to Palangkaraya is a missing piece in our discussion. I look forward to this missing piece of story.

dwiAgus said...

With well established arguments and good reasoning on cost and benefit of having a capital relocated, and with political negotiating skills, nothing is impossible for planner to do what they dream for.

Best regards to pak Deden .... and pak Miming.

Delik Hudalah said...

Dear pak Deden, I would like to support your post. Probably we also should distinguish between "location" and "RE-location". The two cases you are pointed are the former. Kab. Tasik hasn't had any capital before (previously attached to Kota Tasik). Meanwhile, Riau Islands is a new province. For both cases, selecting capitals are politically and administratively inevitable. However, Indonesia have already had her capital. "RE-location", offcourse, is more challenging since it is politically not as urgent as "location". It is also high costs in short term. However, I agree to move it outside Java because Java is about to sink :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the historical information here. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Protests are mounting in newly formed Banggai Island regency, South Sulawesi, following the Supreme Court's approval of a plan to move the regency capital from Banggai to Salakan.

Protesters in Banggai effaced the words "South Sulawesi" on signboards in government buildings throughout the town and replaced them with "North Maluku", demanding the government create a new regency, Banggai Laut, to be integrated into neighboring North Maluku province.

They claimed they were within their rights to demand to be a part of North Maluku because the province was still a part of Indonesia.

The unrest began in 2006, when newly elected regent Irianto Malinggong declared Salakan the new regency capital. Banggai Laut residents filed a lawsuit against the regent's move but the Supreme Court eventually sided with the regent.

The local military chief, Lt. Col. Syarif Hidayatullah, played down the protests as a transient reaction by people venting their emotions. He said the secession declaration represented the wishes of only a very small number of people upset about the relocation of the capital.

Syarif said the security condition in the regency remained relatively calm despite ongoing protests.

However, Rizal Awrie, a youth activist and head of the Mondopolian Banggai United Front's motivation and propaganda division, said Syarif was painting an unrealistic picture by making uninformed remarks.