Six regencies in Lampung have announced plans to form a new province, despite the government’s moratorium on the creation of new regions.
The regencies – North Lampung, West Lampung, Way Kanan, Tulangbawang, West Tulangbawang and Mesuji – were under the sole jurisdiction of North Lampung regency before 1998.
Despite escalating land disputes between local residents plantation and mining companies, local administrations have done little to resolve the disputes, leading to forcible evictions that have resulted in violence deaths.
Four of the six regents were on hand for the announcement on Monday: North Lampung Regent Zaenal Abidin, Way Kanan Regent Bustami Zainuddin, West Lampung Regent Mukhlis Basri and West Tulangbawang Regent Bachtiar Basri.
Zaenal spoke for his fellow regents. “We have endorsed the establishment of a new province. The six regencies that will merge as a new province were part of North Lampung regency from the Dutch era through the New Order government. They were located in the northern part of Lampung province.”
He said a new province was needed due to unequal development in Lampung and the vast area spanned by the regencies.
“The six regencies that we will propose as a new province are regarded as disadvantaged regions in Lampung. Their total population is around 1.7 million people,” Zaenal said.
It would be difficult for any governor in Lampung to lead the province given its current borders due to its size and unresolved land disputes and social issues, he added.
“It takes seven hours to travel from Bandar Lampung to North Lampung. That’s because of inferior roads. Way Kanan also faces the same condition. Besides poor road conditions, a majority of the villages in West Lampung and Way Kanan regencies are not connected to the power grid. So, the autonomy status is also aimed at speeding up development in rural areas,” Zaenal said.
Zaenal acknowledged that it would not be easy to create a new province given the temporary moratorium on regional autonomy enacted by the central government.
“We really understand the moratorium, but we want the central government to understand our situation,” he said.
West Lampung Regent Mukhlis Basri said the experience of other new regions indicated that autonomy would accelerate development in the six regencies.
“Some of the new provinces have shown a rapid pace in development, such as Riau Islands and West Sulawesi. Lampung has met the requirements for expansion, which is very urgently needd,” Mukhlis said.
Lampung Governor Sjachroedin Z.P., who previously backed increasing the province’s borders, said that the regents’ plan needed further consideration.
“They should take into account the risks, because there are risks in the division of a regency, let alone a province, such as the arrangement of personnel,” Sjachroedin said.
“It would be easier if the regencies that wish to form a new province were already rich. If they are still poor, like now, it will be more difficult, as they would add to the burden of the central government and the provincial administration,” Sjachroedin added.
Lampung Legislative Council vice speaker Hantoni Hasan said the creation of a new province would not guarantee an improvement of the people’s welfare.
“If the purpose of the division is just for the sake of the political elite, what’s the use, as a power struggle will ensue later, while the people’s welfare will be ignored,” Hantoni, a politician from the Justice and Prosperity Party said.
Syarief Makhya, a political observer from Lampung University, echoed Hantoni’s comments, saying that the drive for new regions was strong due to the interests of the political elite.
“Based on facts, most of the newly expanded areas have not developed as of now, as more than 70 percent of their budgets are spent on civil servants’ payroll. This will place a further burden on the central government,” Syarief said.