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Begging for a Jail Sentence

The government issues a new regulation on public order. Hopefully it will not turn into another paper tiger.

"LADIES and gentlemen, very soon you will be prohibited from giving money to buskers,” said the boy by way of an introduction before belting out a song to the passengers on an air-conditioned bus plying the route between Rawamangun and Block M. “But don’t worry. The bylaw isn’t in force yet,” he said with a smile. The steady rhythm of guitar and song swelled amongst the crowded passengers.

He wasn’t just making a joke. On Monday last week, the Jakarta Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) ratified Bylaw No. 8/2007 on Public Order. The new law will not only be a bugbear for buskers, but also vagrants, beggars, and street peddlers. And it is not only them who will be punished if they persist in operating in public places; those giving donations will also be charged. The punishments vary, from a fine of Rp50 million to six months in jail.

The new regulation, which is currently the subject of lively discussion, represents a revision of Bylaw No. 11/1988. First mooted in 2004, the regulation was discussed intensively by the DPRD in early 2007. “The government has been preparing the draft for around three years,” said head of the Jakarta government’s Legal Bureau, Journal Siahaan.

The government has strong reasons for revising the policy. Journal said that there is growing concern about buskers that will never decline as long as they can still seek their livelihoods on the streets of Jakarta. Bylaw No. 11/1988 does indeed already prohibit people from working as beggars or buskers. But after being returned to their places of origin, they always come back because there are still those prepared to give them money. “So, in the new regulation, donors will also be subject to the law,” said Journal.

The DPRD is in full agreement with the government. Jakarta DPRD Commission A member Nur Alam believes that Jakarta is now very different from what it was in 1988. Then there were no toll roads, there were few flyovers, and the busway did not yet exist. “This bylaw is to respond to the situation,” he said. A colleague of Alam’s on Commission A, Marullah Soleh, believes that the revisions are necessary in order give the government more teeth. The thing is, “Almost all the articles in the previous bylaw were being violated,” he said.

Deliberations over the policy in the DPRD were not without debate. According to Alam, there were members of the assembly who disagreed that giving alms to beggars should be prohibited. The reason being that the government cannot prohibit those collecting for charity. Conversely, those who supported the prohibition did so on the grounds that beggars are now no longer “natural.” There are even indications that the number of beggars that are dropped off, or the coordinated beggar syndicates, is greater than the individual beggars.

The other topic that was also the subject of debate between the DPRD’s Commission A and the government was the issue of exception articles. In a number of articles there are violations that are exempted providing they have permission from the governor, such as the prohibition on establishing buildings near a train line or toll road. DPRD members who disagreed with this consider the rule to be discriminative.

Whatever their reasons, the regulation does indeed have many revisions compared with the earlier one. Bylaw No. 11/1998 for example, contained 34 articles. Criminal penalties were set at a maximum jail sentence of six months and a maximum fine of Rp50,000. In the new regulation, the number of articles has swelled to 76. Criminal penalties are as heavy as six months in jail with a fine of up to Rp300 million. The stiff criminal penalties of jail and fines are simply to deter people. “If there is no awareness, we are like a sweeper while other people keep creating dirt,” said Journal.

During the deliberations, the personal experiences of assembly members were also heard. One of these was regarding the prohibition on littering. “Just go into the Kampung Melayu bus terminal. The smell is unbelievable,” said Marullah.

Among the general public, the regulation has become a talking point. “This bylaw oppresses the little people,” said Sunarya, a street trader at Kampung Melayu. It is not that he doesn’t want to have a permanent location to conduct business, but he simply has no capital.

Similar concerns have been expressed by buskers. “If busking is prohibited, can the government give us jobs?,” asked Suhadi, 22, a busker from a group operating in Slipi, West Jakarta.

The DPRD and the Jakarta government deny that the regulation violates people’s right to seek gainful employment. The prohibitions are simply for street peddlers who sell at intersections and the like. “Because it disrupts traffic and causes congestion,” said Marullah. On the prohibition against busking, he also has his reasons. “What we are prohibiting is not charity, but the location. If people want to be charitable, please channel it to a foundation,” he said.

Although ratified last week, it does not mean that the bylaw will be applied immediately. “Socialization is still needed,” said Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso. According to Journal, the socialization process will be carried out over a period of three to six months. Marullah said that dissemination should be over a period of one year at most. “We hope that it can be applied next year,” he said.

The backbone of the legal enforcement of the bylaw, aside from the police, will also be the Civil Service Police, who now number around 6,400 personnel. Journal conceded that this is too few to cover Jakarta with a population of 12 million. For Marullah, what is also extremely important is that a firm attitude is taken by law enforcement officials. “So that it does not suffer the same fate as the previous bylaw,” said the United Development Party (PPP) faction member.

Abdul Manan, Rudi Prasetyo, M. Iqbal, Wens Manggut

Newly Prohibited


* Walking not using the sidewalk
* Crossing the road without using a pedestrian overpass or zebra crossing
* Public transport passengers boarding or alighting other from a bus stop
* Littering, smoking and spitting in public transport
* Directing traffic at intersection in order to obtain remuneration
* Parking vehicles outside of designated areas
* Trading on footpaths, bus stops and pedestrian overpasses
* Purchasing trade goods from street traders
* Working as a ticket scalper
* Using ticket scalping services
* Working as a beggar, busker, street peddler, or car wiper
* Giving money to beggars, buskers, and car wiper
* Failure to display a halal (permitted under Islam) label by those conducting business
* Offering ones services as a jockey (to circumvent the 3-in-1 policy)
* Transporting dusty or foul goods in an open vehicle
* Drawing graffiti, painting or placing advertising on walls or the sides of bridges, bus stops, electricity poles, trees, public vehicles and other public facilities
* Disposing of or piling up rubbish on roads, green strips or rivers
* Defecating on roads, green strips, parks, rivers and drains
* Using motorized or non-motorized vehicles services that are not classified as public transport
* Asking for assistance or donations on the street, in markets, public vehicles, residential areas, hospitals, schools and offices
* Visiting a premises for more than 24 hours without reporting to the neighborhood association head


* Putting up signs, symbols, flags, posters or banners in public places such as on electricity poles, roads, pedestrian overpasses and not cleaning them up after they are no longer current
* Drivers shall not wait for, pick up or drop off passengers or goods/services in designated locations
* Using a jockey when entering a 3-in-1 zone
* Unauthorized collection of money on public transport
* Collecting parking fees in the street or public places without a permit from the governor
* Organizing parking facilities without a permit from the governor
* Living on green strips, parks and in public places
* Utilizing river and lake water for business activities without a permit
* Working as a ticket scalper for entertainment, public vehicles or other activities
* Employing a motorized/non-motorized vehicle as public transport that are not part of the public transport system
* Instructing a person to become a beggar, busker, street peddler or car wiper
* Working as a provider of and using commercial sex services
* Conducting traditional medical practices, mysticism
* Establishing a building on an area where there is a road, river, park or green strip except for official purposes


* Vehicles with two wheels or more that enter the busway lane
* Utilizing open space under a bridge or overpass
* Damaging fences, green strips and felling trees and plants on the street or a green strip
* Constructing a habitat on the side of and under an overpass, under a toll bridge, on a green strip, park and public place
* Providing and or using a building as a place for immoral activities

Tempo Magazine, No. 03/VIII/September 18-24, 2007


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