Condition Of Public Sevices in Jakarta

Will the newly passed public service law change anything?

Author : Prodita Sabarini

Poor public services can and have taken a high toll on the lives of
residents of Jakarta and surrounding areas.
From having to pay bribes for a free identification card, maneuvering around dangerous holes in the sidewalk or busway ramps — or falling into them, for the less fortunate — to losing loved ones and homes in a deadly torrent of muddy water due to ignored reports of cracks in a dam, people here have had to put up with a lot due to the low quality of public services. Last week, the House of Representatives passed a new law on public services, in a bid to increase the quality and accountability of public

; however, civil society groups say the law will be useless unless the judiciary stops treating public servants like untouchables. The law is meant to give citizens a better legal standing to sue state and private institutions if the latter fail to provide adequate public

. Article 55 of the law states, “If public service providers fail to perform their duty, and if because of their negligence members of the public are injured or die, they are liable to criminal punishment.” Asfinawati, head of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), said recently the law was welcomed, because “most of the problems in Jakarta are due to a bureaucracy that does not serve the public well”. But she warned it would be powerless unless the judiciary reformed its paradigm on public officials. “There are problems with the judiciary. The court should uphold the rule of law; however, it sometimes still sticks to the paradigm of government supremacy,” she said. “The understanding that the government and public services can be legally challenged is still lacking.” The country’s legal system has since 1997 allowed members of the public to sue the government through a class action lawsuit. The 1997 environmental management law, the 1999 consumer protection law and the 1999 forestry law all accommodate the option to file a suit. Government officials can also be sued through State Administrative Courts. Asfinawati, however, said these courts would likely side with the government. Several cases by the Jakarta public against the administration have been taken to court. The publicsued the administration in 2002 and in 2007, both times for flooding in the capital. The public lost in 2002, and the 2007 case is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling. The public service law stipulates governmental regulations should set standards for public services. Asfinawati said she was worried these regulations would be used as an excuse to impose low standards. “We should keep an eye on that,” she warned. The founder and coordinator of the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC), Wardah Hafidz, said the passage of the public service law was a step in the right direction. “Services, especially for the poor, should get more attention,” she said. However, she still doubted whether the law would help raise the quality of the services. “The law is good, but the problem is with the regional autonomy policy, in which regencies and cities can draw up their own bylaws,” she said. “Bylaws should refer to national laws, but in reality, regional administrations often look past that and force their own agendas.” The UPC has frequently pointed out contradictions between the state’s responsibilities as outlined in the Constitution, and discriminative and repressive bylaws. One example is Jakarta’s 2007 bylaw on public order, which criminalizes beggars, hawkers and becak (pedicab) drivers. The UPC says that under the Constitution, the state must take care of the poor. The Advocacy Team for Situ Gintung, comprising civil society groups like LBH Jakarta, Friends of the Earth Indonesia (Walhi), and the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), hopes it can use the new law to investigate February’s dam burst in Banten, which killed more than a hundred people and destroyed hundreds of homes. Advocacy team member Rino Subagyo, of the ICEL, said that in April the group tried to file a police report against several officials, including Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto, Banten Governor Ratu Atut.

, and Ciliwung–Cisadane River Center head Pitoyo Subandrio, over negligence in the case, after it was reported that calls to fix and maintain the dam’s cracked walls had not been ignored. Asfinawati said because laws in Indonesia were not retroactive, the group could not use the new law for the Situ Gintung incident. “However, we can report the police using the public service law, if they don’t do their job in the investigation,” she said.

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