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Cablegate: Gorontalo: Corn, Corruption and the Promise Of

VZCZCXRO1197
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJS #0034/01 0710931
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 110931Z MAR 08
FM AMCONSUL SURABAYA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0177
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0091
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0164
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0182
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0035
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0089
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SURABAYA 000034

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, INR/EAP, EB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ID ECON PGOV
SUBJECT: GORONTALO: CORN, CORRUPTION AND THE PROMISE OF
INDEPENDENCE


SURABAYA 00000034 001.2 OF 002


This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: Consulate General Surabaya Pol/Econ officer
and Pol/Econ Assistant met with Mr. Elnino Husein, activist and
journalist of Tribun Gorontalo, and Mr. Arrusdin Bone, board
member of Gorontalo Golkar Party and director of the NGO, LP2G,
during a recent visit to the province. In contrast to our
meetings with provincial officials, the wide-ranging discussion
suggests that there is more to Gorontalo than corn and progress.
Once part of predominantly Christian North Sulawesi,
Gorontalo's overwhelmingly Muslim population now feels
challenged to make the most of it. However, the euphoria of a
newly independent identity and a competent governor has been
leavened by a realization that Gorontalo faces the same
challenges of corruption and poor planning that face provinces
across Indonesia. End Summary.

An Independent Cultural and Religious Identity
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

2. (SBU) Ninety-seven percent of Gorontalo population is ethnic
Gorontalan and ninety percent of Gorontalans are Muslims. These
factors contribute to a sense of homogeneity and cohesion, but
can also sometimes lead to the exclusion of the remaining 10% of
Christians and Buddhists from the fabric of daily life. Many
but not all of these Christians and Buddhists are
Sino-Indonesians. Gorontalo City's celebrations of the end of
the Chinese New Year festival "Cap Go Meh" were the largest in
recent memory, according to all we spoke with. Despite this
apparent sense of acceptance for religious and ethnic minorities
in this overwhelmingly Muslim province, Elnino said that Muslim
converts to Christianity must leave Gorontalo or face shunning
by the extremely close knit community. Conversions usually take
place as the result of marriage and few families can abide the
scandal of religious intermarriage. Converts generally have to
leave Gorontalo for Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi, or
elsewhere in Indonesia.

3. (SBU) Even while it was part of North Sulawesi, Gorontalo
always had a separate identity, according to Elnino and
Arrusudin. The longstanding sense of separateness tied to
cultural and linguistic differences were key factors leading to
demands for separation. Elnino used one vignette to illustrate
the plight of educated Gorontalans and the consequences of their
former isolation from the North Sulawesi capital. Coveted civil
service jobs would be advertised in Manado, but official word of
the opening would often arrive in Gorontalo days after the
application deadline. In separate conversations, students at
Gorontalo State University told us that work as a civil servant
was still the goal of the vast majority of graduates. They said
that competition for civil service jobs is still fierce.

4. (SBU) Travel to Manado from Gorontalo to conduct official
business perpetually reinforced Gorontalo's outsider status in
North Sulawesi society. Excluded from ready access to a wide
range of public services, Gorontalans' existing sense of
cultural and religious separateness was systematically
reinforced by neglect, according to Elnino and Arrusudin. They
observed that this sense of isolation is being overcome only
with difficulty. While cultural independence has come quickly,
economic independence and development has proven more difficult.

Still Dependant, Despite the Rhetoric
--------------------------------------------- ---

5. (SBU) While there is a lot of talk about development and
business in Gorontalo, the province is still kept afloat by its
regional budget allocation from Jakarta, said Arrusudin. He
added that, despite all of Governor Fadel Muhammed's talk of
strategy, the provincial government still fails to plan
strategically in formulating the budget. This lack of a
long-term strategy means that provincial development lurches
from discrete project to project. These projects are catnip to
politicians and civil servants, but simply means more
corruption, said Arrusudin. This is best seen in the way the
province chooses to develop the agricultural sector. Officials
focus on capital intensive physical facilities and procurement,
high profile line items designed to bring a lot of income to
officials in search of a bribe. Gorontalo's strength as a
cohesive and close-knit community bound by family ties is also
its weakness --nepotism and corruption make easy inroads, and
reform becomes that much more difficult.


SURABAYA 00000034 002.2 OF 002


6. (SBU) In one example of this bloated, project-based
approach to development, Arrusudin told us that the provincial
government allocated Rp. 45 billion (USD 4.9 million) for a
canal project in 2008, while in 2007 it was allocated only Rp.
20 billion (USD 2.2 million) Arrusudin is familiar with both
plans and said that the original estimate of Rp. 20 billion was
more than enough to complete the canal. Without even the
pretense of a detailed feasibility study, the near-doubling of
the budget seemed clearly intended as graft, according to
Arrusudin. In another instance, the province set aside Rp. 1.3
billion (USD 140,000) for research on conserving ecologically
fragile Limboto Lake. Despite the fact that NGOs and academic
institutions have already done a great deal of research on the
subject, the province opted to start studying the issue from
scratch.

7. (SBU) Paradoxically, too close cooperation between NGOs and
the provincial government seems to have become an issue. Some
parts of the NGO community have become co-opted, according to
Elnino and Arrusdin. The project driven nature of Gorontalo
development, coupled with the small population and strong family
ties, means that NGOs often have many informal affiliations with
the government and are unable to navigate the inevitable
conflicts of interest. This has effectively decreased the
number of opinion leaders outside of government, effectively
co-opting NGOs. For example, one woman activist in Gorontalo
who runs an NGO working on women's issues also serves as the
secretary to the Governor.

SIPDIS

Gorontalo Media -- Local Yes, Independent, No
--------------------------------------------- --------------

8. (SBU) While Manado once set the cultural and political
direction for Gorontalo, the province's distinct identity is now
reinforced by new Gorontalo-based newspapers, television and
radio whose focus on local news reinforces a sense of
uniqueness. The Gorontalo Post and Tribun Gorontalo are owned
by the Jawa Pos Group but the policies of local newspapers under
the Jawa Pos are highly dependent on local management. According
to Elnino, Executive Editor at Tribun Gorontalo, the editors of
both Gorontalo Post and Tribun Gorontalo are "pro government
instead of pro public". For example, Elnino said he had once
floated the idea for a special column in Tribun Gorontalo
featuring investigative reports in the public interest. The
idea was quashed by higher management, not because they
disagreed, but because the provincial government had already
paid for the column space, at least according to what Elnino was
told. In 2007, the price of a full page in Gorontalo Post and
Tribun Gorontalo was Rp. 35 million (USD 3,800) annually and Rp.
96 million (USD 10,400) per year, respectively.
MCCLELLAND

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