Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesias electorate is looking forward to a very exciting and fierce gubernatorial election campaign in Jakarta as three pairs of prominent candidates joust for the Jakarta governor and deputy governor offices.

The Jakarta regional head election (pilkada) will be organized on February 15, 2017, simultaneously with similar local elections in 100 other regions, including six other provinces, and 76 districts across Indonesia.

The campaign period for the 2017 pilkada will be from October 28 2016 to February 11, 2017.

The Central Government has warned that the campaign must not touch on race, tribe or religion.

But that would not render the campaigning boring. In fact, some observers have predicted that the controversial Jakarta Bay reclamation project would emerge as a hot topic, and the incumbent pair, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) and Djarot Saiful Hidayat, is set to rake it up as they take another shot at the office.

Among the contestants are former education minister Anies Baswedan who has paired with a successful businessman, Sandiaga Uno; and son of former president Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and his pair former mayor Sylviana Murni. They are relatively young, non-political and considered competent.

Indeed, Jakarta Bay reclamation project will be a hot issue for Ahoks rivals during the campaign, Executive Director of Voxpol Center, Pangi Syarwi Chaniago, recently said in Jakarta in response to questions from the media.

Objections against any reclamation project are normal, but the issue becomes complicated when it involves poor and ordinary people like fishermen, he added.

A statement issued by the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, last May regarding plans to resume G Islands reclamation, part of the multi-trillion rupiah Jakarta Bay reclamation project, has again triggered controversy.

The decision to resume the reclamation project was seen as being in conflict with a verdict of the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) on May 31, 2016.

The court had cancelled the permit for the development of G Island because of problems concerning environmental impact assessment of the project.

Minister Pandjaitan has cited three reasons for his decision to resume the G Island reclamation project along the northern Jakarta coast.

First, he claimed that the project was in the national interest and in the interest of Jakarta.

The reclamation, in line with a decree issued by the then President Soeharto, will be continued because the giant sea wall of Jakarta Bay has sunk, he explained. "It has been subsiding by 7.5 cm annually," he stated.

Second, the reclamation is needed for creating water resources by building a dam, according to the minister. Third, the reclamation is needed to prevent sea water flooding.

The decision was also in view of the governments investment policy, he said, adding that the government will take good care of some 12 thousand fishermen on the northern coast of Jakarta who will be affected by the resumption of the reclamation project.

The Jakarta Provincial Government also stated that the fishermen will get flats for shelter, 1,900 boats which are able to sail up to the Natuna Islands and the provision of clean water.

Following the ministers statement, several NGOs have issued a letter of reprimand against Minister Pandjaitan.

The open letter of reprimand was read out by Martin Hadiwinata of the Indonesian Traditional Fishermens Association (KNTI) at the Legal Aid Institute (LBH) office, in Jakarta, on Sept. 16.

The resumption of the G Island reclamation project is against a verdict issued in May 2016 by the State Administrative Court (PTUN) in Jakarta that ordered the revocation of the projects permit issued by the Jakarta governor, and suspension of the project until further notice, he said.

The legal warning was supported by the Peoples Coalition for Fishery Justice (Kiara), the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), the Legal Aid Center of Dompet Dhuafa (KNTI), the Muara Angke Traditional Fishermen Community (KNT Muara Angke), the Womens Solidarity, the Students Executive Board of the University of Indonesia (BEM UI), and the National Students Executive Board.

The coalition of lawyers, students, activists and fishermen have urged the minister to respect the courts verdict and cancel his plans to resume the project.

"We urge Minister Luhut to obey the law and reverse his decision within 72 hours of the letter of reprimand being issued," Bagus Tito Wibisono of the National Students Executive Board said.

They sent copies of the letter to President Joko Widodo and Chairman of the Supreme Court (MA) Hatta Ali.

In the meantime, the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) has urged President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) to respect the court verdict regarding the Jakarta Bay reclamation project.

Walhi Executive Director Nur Hidayati said in a statement recently that the resumption of the project would set a precedent of poor legal enforcement in the country.

Once the Central Government takes a call on the Jakarta Bay reclamation project, it will be emulated by other regions, such as in case of reclamation of Benoa Bay, Makassar coast, Palu Bay, Kendari Bay, Manado coast, Balikpapan coast and North Maluku coast.

"It will also become an example for regional administrations to earmark certain areas to provide land and sand for reclamation materials. Banten, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), East Java, and West Java, can follow suit," the NGO activist remarked.

Destruction of coastal areas, sea and islets will be legitimized once the central government gives a go ahead, she argued.

Besides, the decision by the Coordinating Minister and the Jakarta Administration to resume the project indicated the close ties between the economic and political powers, and underlined the fact that the state is under the influence of capitalists, she commented.

In addition to, Greenpeace Indonesia has expressed concern at the development in Indonesias coastal areas which tends to be misdirected, for instance by having reclamation projects.

The coastal areas development tends to sacrifice its environment, religious, customary and social functions, and the sustainability of the traditional fishermens livelihood, the environmental NGO said in a press statement recently.

It cited the reclamation projects in Benoa Bay in Bali and Jakarta Bay as two bad examples of coastal region development which are not sustainable and only in the interests of private developers.

Greenpeace Indonesia urged the president to issue a policy to completely stop the Jakarta Bay reclamation projects, and to restore the ecological functions of the Jakarta Bay coastal area and waters.

In the meantime, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung had assured earlier that the settlement of problems concerning the G Island reclamation project that was to be resumed, would abide by existing legal regulations,.

"It will continue to be implemented. There is a grand design program. It is heading there, including the settlement of the G Islands problems," Pramono said in his office recently.(*)

Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Heru Purwanto
Copyright © ANTARA 2016