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East Sulawesi to Become a New Province?

While Central Sulawesi Governor Bandjela Paliudju supports the creation of East Sulawesi — a new province — a dispute over where to locate the capital has prevented further progress. The new province would comprise the Banggai, Banggai Islands, Tojo Unauna, Morowali and Poso regencies; but Luwuk and Poso both hope to become the capital city.

As Ruslan Sangadji explains Central Sulawesi Legislative Council member Faisal Mahmud said a survey conducted by Tompotika University — in Luwuk — was seen as biased. He said the survey sample should be broad-based and representative and “we will continue providing input to the East Sulawesi autonomy team to enable it resolve this problems as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, the governor said “I fully support East Sulawesi’s initiative to become an autonomous province, so as to accelerate development and improve public services.”

The dispute has been taken seriously because of a similar one that occurred in February, albeit on a smaller scale.

When Banggai Islands regency tried to move its administrative capital from Banggai City to Salakan, a group of Banggai residents attacked administration and police offices and an ensuing riot claimed four lives. Banggai remains the regency’s capital.

While the creation of the new province may be inevitable, the solution to the tug-of-war is not seen yet.

Poso has threatened to remain with Central Sulawesi if Luwuk is selected as the new capital, Faisal said last Wednesday. “People have insisted that Luwuk be established as the capital city of the new province, but others are equally determined (to make it) Poso.”

Paliudju’s response to the situation was: “All these issues must be resolved first. I will only sign the recommendation letter (for the creation of the new province) if the problems in Banggai Islands and other existing problems have been settled.”

The dispute regarding the provincial seat has hindered discussion on how to speed up development and access to public services in the region.

Eastern Sulawesi public figure Aslamuddin Lasawedy said the dispute was linked to unfair treatment in the Central Sulawesi administration and other institutions of professionals originally from the eastern part of Sulawesi.

“Many capable figures who come from the eastern part of Central Sulawesi were denied the opportunity to lead state institutions.”
He said those living in the area hoped the formation of a new province would bring economic, infrastructure and public service improvements.

“Currently, residents from Banggai must travel around 650 kilometers to Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi, to take care of administrative matters, thus wasting a lot of time due to poor road conditions,” he said.

Despite the obstacles, another public figure, Basir Nursin, said he was convinced East Sulawesi would become a reality.

“Like a pregnancy, its already nine months old and due to be delivered, and no one can stop it.”