Indonesian officials seem to want to do anything to rob the nation and its very own people of their livelihood, resources and basic rights just to serve those with money and enrich themselves in the process even if it means they have to burning down the house, committing a suicide by destroying their own country and its future.
In a senseless move that invites suspicion on the real motives behind it, the government raises the fee of entering the Komodo Islands almost 20 times from Rp 200,000 (US$13.5) to Rp 3,750,000, starting August 1, sparking nationwide outrage and protests, and strike by hundreds of local farmers, fishermen and tourism workers negatively affected by the dramatic hike.
Located in East Nusa Tenggara province, one of the country’s poorest areas, the Komodo National Park – consisting of tens of islands – is home to home to around 3,300 rare Komodo dragons, the world’s largest lizard with razor-sharp teeth and a venomous bite. They can grow to a three-meter length and can only be found in the islands. But the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has recently classified them as endangered species. The park has become a UN world Heritage Site since 1991 because of its biodiversity, beauty and uniqueness.
While the anger of local people is easily understood because such a spectacular fee spike will practically drive tourists away and as a consequence drying up their income, begging questions why it is increased that high, what the government has been stating as a reason behind it has made us more furious because we know it’s just a lie.
Sandiaga Uno, Indonesia’s tourism and creative industry minister, proudly said that such a fee spike was to limit visitor numbers and protect the endangered lizards from overexposure to humans, all the while hiding the fact that the government is cutting trees and wipe out Rinca Island, one of islands within Komodo National Park that also home to hundreds of Komodo dragon, to create luxurious resort dubbed as Indonesia’s Jurassic Park.
Also, there have been many companies that have been given permits to invest, explore and develop resorts in a number of islands within the Komodo Islands Park, a situation that will surely bring much more damages to the islands than merely some tourists taking picture of the animals.
According Tim Jessop, an expert on Komodo Dragon from Australia, for instance, says that the tourists’ impact on the Komodos themselves is limited because around 90 of the tourists only come to two areas where the Komodos live. These two areas only make up just 3 to 4 percent of the land area of the whole Komodo national park.
So, if the government wants to protect the Komodo, concentrating on the fee and limiting number of visitors as well as enforcing such a fee hike by torturing and arresting local people who are against it are not only counterproductive, they are inhumane and violating people’s basic rights.
Beside we all know that government’s reason of limiting number of visitors is just not true. The ABC, for instance, reported late last year that during a UNESCO meeting it was unveiled that the government expected that visitors after the Jurassic Park was completed would jump to 500,000 wealthy tourists from the current total of nearly 200,000 per year.
The fee spike has never been aimed at limiting the number of visitors, let alone protecting the komodos and their habitat, but to close the gap with fees and other expenses to be charged in those luxurious resorts visited by the high-income visitors, and getting more income for local and central official while give huge returns for the companies operating within the park at the expense of local people.
By any standards, developing a tourist site must always take into account the economic benefit of local people and how to protect the environment. In Komodo case, the government just kills both of local people’s economy and the environment – and later the komodos – with one stone without even blinking.
By hiking the fee and continuing the development of the Jurassic Park, which was officiated by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo last month and will cost the government Rp 114 billion, the questions are why taking decision to serve the interests of the big businesses at the expense of people? Have officials and politicians already received fees out of the whole projects?
This is not the first time such an inexplicable and senseless plan was floated by Jokowi’s government. Earlier this year, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan shocked the public with an announcement that the government will raise the fee to enter Borobudur to Rp1.4 million for foreigners and Rp750,000 for locals from Rp 350,000 and Rp 50,000 respectively.
Only after a national outcry that the plan was cancelled.
Now, we urge President Jokowi to review all the decisions, including the cancellation of fee hike, halting of all developments of the luxurious resorts and withdrawal of permits given to the companies operating within the islands. This is the only way that komodo islands will be kept intact and the komodo will be preserved. What’s needed now is a better management of the whole Komodo National Park, especially putting quota on the number of visitors and monitor them and enforce the law to prevent them from damaging the sites.