BY: Bambang Hudayana
RT (Neighbourhood Association) was firstly introduced by Japanese Colonial government. Then, the New Order regime developed it massively in 1980s in a bid to build corporatism. By means of bureaucracy, the New Order succeeded in mobilizing the establishment of RT and RW (Community Association) in hamlet and village communities. Subsequently, RT became a community group replacing indigenous local institutions. Currently, RT is playing important roles for the people to secure the various forms of valuable community solidarity expressions, such as, helping each other and maintaining good relationship (silaturohmi). RT even has developed into a self governing community to serve citizens’ needs at local scope. In addition, RT is also as a bridge for people to tap public services delivered by the government, like family registration card, citizen identity card, health insurance and staple food aid (Raskin), fuel subsidy (BLT-BBM) and access to get other rights as citizens. Furthermore, RT like other local institutions becomes grassroots movement to reach better expression and autonomy in relation to the expansion of state hegemony in the community level (see also Yoshihara and Dwianto, 2003:2). In this research RT become civil local institution that represent grass roots organisation to access and control public policy and development.
Since it is pivotal for the people’s autonomy, RT has become an arena where stakeholders—ranging from government, politicians, NGOs, local elites to general citizens—to contest. This paper is describing the efforts of citizens to develop their self-reliance and the entry of stakeholders into RT to penetrate their interests during the reform era. This paper is based on the results of a study conducted in Pulungsari village, Imogiri, Bantul district . This village is located about 12 km from Yogyakarta city and has been developing as the semi-urban. In 2007, its population was about 14.250 people. The majority of them are of non-farm worker, especially handicrafts business (batik, leather, bamboo, roof-tile, and ornaments) and small-scaled trade (birds, traditional lamps, and notions). By relying on those secondary and tertiary sectors, villagers have developed various sector associations, such as the associations of traders, craftsmen, and a cooperative in support to broaden their access to markets and social wellbeing. Beyond the sectoral groups, the villagers spreading in 16 hamlets are also joining in 91 RTs, in a bid to improve their social welfare based on community solidarity. Each RT comprises about 30-50 households. An RT also has wing organizations, namely the one organizing all mothers of the neighbourhood named “PKK-RT” (Family Welfare Movement) and youth organization called “Karangtaruna-RT”. The wing organizations are autonomous but as an important element to the work of varied RTs’ activities.
During the New Order, RT denoted a corporative organization used by the regime to keep a tight rein on citizens to be more obedient and responsive in organizing developments and endorsing Golkar’s (Functionary Group) victory in every election. Such tendency was pervasive in its initial formation, the activities of development program and practice of winning Golkar in Pulungsari village. The establishment and chief election of RTs in 1986-87 were organized by a village head Martondo, supported by hamlets’ leaders. He was inclined to elect the heads of RT, the boards of PKK, LKMD (village people's defence council), LMD (village consultative council), from public servants, TNI (Indonesian Military), Polri (Indonesian Police), middle and higher-class constituting village elites. As military cadre cum district Golkar’s board member, Martondo understood indeed that the RT heads were very loyal to the ruling government, experienced in organization, educated and knowing well about development programs. However, such kind of recruitment led to a relatively elitist RT organization. The RT became the agents mobilizing the community resources, be in terms of human force in ‘gotong-royong’ (work duty) and self-supporting financially in carrying out village development. They also became figures posing themselves as “the senior of villagers” who could make any decision without considering the voices of citizens democratically.
Village government, under the control of district government held a kind of village competition in a bid to encourage RT leaders and all corporative organizations to work effectively in organizing developments. Moerwanto was one of Bantul regent (Bupati) (1986-1991) intensively promoting various village competitions, including RT competition. The heads of villages, hamlets and RT were enthusiastic to win the contests and gain compliments from the district administration and higher officials posing as patrons. Therefore, during 1992-95, the Pulungsari village had secured 32 victories of village competition at subdistrict and provincial level, and 4 of them were of RT contests.
They also manipulated RTs for winning the Golkar. Such tendency prevailed since Sudarmono was elected as the general leader of Golkar (1984-88). He paved the way for Golkar’s triumph through cadres’ potential. He prepared the cadres to village level, called “Karakterdes, Kader Penggerak Teritorial Desa” and brought in active members to be promoted in legislative and governmental positions (Reeve, 1996:152). As of 2008, the members of Golkar reached 26 million people, 9 million of them were the cadres, and 8 million cadres based in villages (Reeve, 1996:152). Village chief Martondo got involved in realizing the policy of village cadreization. He recruited about 200 people of four elements, namely, village administrations, organizations, ustadz (Islamic teacher) or santri (moslem), civil servants, and RT chiefs. There were 30 people enlisted from village administration, 5 from LMD members, 20 from LKMD, 10 from PKK, 32 from Karangtaruna, 32 from Hansip (civilian defence units often given neighbourhood patrol tasks), 90 from civil servants, 16 from santri, and the majority was from RT heads. Each cadre had to secure five sub-cadres, and every sub-cadre had to take on other five followers. By such cadre mechanism, the total cadres potentially casting their votes for Golkar would be about 6,200 people in Pulungsari alone, comprising of 200 cadres and 1,000 sub-cadres, and 5,000 other followers. In 1987 election, the potential voters were 6,695 people, and Golkar landslidely won the contest, with the distribution of votes, PPP (United Development Party) gained 109 votes (13.46%), Golkar secured 5,203 (77.71%), and PDI (Indonesian Democratic Party-Straggle) 591 (8.82%). The Golkar’s votes in Pulungsari were above the ones in surrounding districts, in about 70%. The landslide win led to Martondo’s wife to be awarded a seat of DPRD (District Legislative) member.
Prior to 1992 election, Martondo and his apparatuses mobilized all cadres, especially the RT chiefs for the sake of Golkar’s triumph. They calculated the potential of all RTs and hamlets, and carried out an activity well-known as tilik warga (visiting villagers). They made efforts to convince citizens to embrace Golkar and make sure their family members (sedapur), and their neighbours sharing the same well (sesumur) to follow suit. When they found villagers who were resistant, thus they would approach them personally (glembuk) to the end that they would be allured to be loyal to Golkar and left PPP and PDI. In 1997 election, Golkar also pulled in the people with aid politics. Sri Roso, like other Bupati of Bantul, often called on villages. He, for instance, visited three RTs of Jatiwangi hamlet, and made a pledge of building a mosque, if their villagers were willing to swing from PDI to Golkar. Nonetheless, the promise was not fulfilled a long with the downfall of Sri Roso through an impeachment by a reform movement in Bantul, 1998.
During the New Order, RT/RW had become the spearhead of the ruler like what had happened in Pulungsari and almost all villages in Bantul district. Thus, when entering reform era, NGOs, particularly Lappera prodded the authority to dissolve RT. This was because the association shaped by the New Order was as its instrument to restrain the citizens. The NGOs’ voice was echoed during discussions in campuses, Yogyakarta State Television, and DPRD of Bantul. Lappera argued that following the downfall of the New Order, RT might not be as a political instrument of the Reform regime, therefore the district administration had to set free the citizens to establish their organizations.
The Bantul district government did not fully met the demand of Lappera as the existence of RT has been part of citizens’ life to build community. Hence, RT that formerly was as corporative organization has been taken over by the citizens as their own. Meanwhile, RT remains important as media of communication between district government and community citizens, so that in 2002, only RW that had been omitted due to being groundless and its existence was indeed lengthening the chain of public services. Whereas, both the heads of RT and Civil servants are not any longer placed as the representative of bureaucracy within community, so that RT has become an organization that increasingly functions to serve villagers instead of the state.
Beyond the pressure of NGO, the citizens actually have moved to develop RT as an autonomous community organization. The measure taken when the village was led by Sujiwo (1996-2004), underpinned by villagers movement against the authoritarian Martondo’s administration. Sujiwo gave freedom to the villagers to regenerate their RT heads without asking for agreement from him. Several RTs subsequently executed successions after their ruling leaders got aged or died. The villagers showed their aspiration by electing new leaders who were more representing their identity of economic-social class. They did not appointed candidates of civil servant, military, police, or official worker any more, but those from traders, and craftsmen who had been economically settled, experienced in organizations, and played roles as bread-winner patron. In general, there are 2-6 people having such qualification in each RT.
In reform era, the regeneration of RT leaders prevails quite lively and currently keeps on running upon the initiative of people forum. It is evident that of 91 RTs there are 65 RT, of 11 hamlets, which have recruited new heads and been elected directly. There are even RTs that give right-to-vote to all adult villagers as an RT head is regarded as a community leader, not merely the head of a household. For example, the head election of RT-6 in Singodadi hamlet on 11 June 2007. People forum, under the control of village head, elected Purwito—an military officer—as the RT chief in 1987. He ruled with military command style and the people often slandered such manner. In 1999, When people made an initiative to regenerate their RT leader, forum elected Bashori—a popular village apparatus. In 2006, he wanted to resign because there had been a youngster who could work more actively than him. The villagers could understand the proposal. They decided that the election of new RT head would be held through voting. Those above 17 would have the right to vote. Their obsession was to have a leader who was entengan (assiduous and easy going), ajur ajer (mingling with various characters and social layers of the people) and willing to sacrifice. During a RT meeting, it subsequently emerged three candidates, namely Garjito, Wahidin and Karno. Garjito was a village elite working as businessman. Although he was well-known as a generous figure, many however worried that he would be often absent to organize the RT forum considering his busyness. Eventually the hopefuls they agreed were Wahidin and Karno, both working as satpam (civil security officer). The democratic election was launched without aid politics and campaign, and Wahidin won the election securing 87 votes, leaving Karno with 86 votes.
Since its establishment, RT works as a grassroots organization functioning to fight for social wellbeing at community level. RT members are household heads working as traders, craftsmen, small farmers and non-farming labours. The small part of RT members are originating from civil servants and businessmen, nonetheless they are drown in the current of collective interests to develop a social group relying on communitarian ideology, namely harmony (guyup-rukun) and collective welfare. Such ideology has roots in an idiom: “rukun agawe santoso, crah agawe bubrah”, quite similar with “united we stand, divided we fall”. Such ideology emphasizes on the importance of harmonic relation and strong unity of communities to achieve welfare and peacefulness. Empirically, the ideology is realized through the tradition of reciprocity based on the principle of sharing incomes and bearing life burden together through village arisan (savings fund club), work duty (gotong-royong), swakelola (self-management), swadaya (self sufficiency fund)) and selamatan (a religious meal offered to express gratefulness for granted prayers). The ideology is of the same idea of Patrick Guinness’ thesis (1987) on hierarchy and harmony within village community in Yogyakarta. However, this paper figures out that the middle and upper class like civil servants and businessmen are exactly drowned in the current of grassroots voice in formulating collective interests.
Given collective interests to materialize collective welfare for grassroots, RT is challenged to improve its management and programs to be more optimal amid the limited assistance and social insurance delivered by the government. The management or board of RT is subsequently developed, not only consisting of a chief but also a treasurer and secretary, and all activities are filed for transparency’s sake. They also begin to apply a voting system in making any great decision in a bid to assure all aspirations get accommodated in fair and transparent manner. The system of deliberation is increasingly left, for in daily practice the forum is often controlled by the head or critical villagers at all. Today, there is an indication that the inclination of RT forum to follow the grassroots’ voice. They remind us that although the riches and civil servants play role as donators, the successfulness of development however depends on the gotong-royong force. The construction of RT-5 road in Rangkulon hamlet in 2004 can be as a lesson-learned. In 2005, the development of the road was neglected because the citizens of middle class were often absent in gotong-royong. Thus, Sukri urged a proposal that those are absent in the social activities should be fined. When Haryono, a village apparatus, was absent for three days, the community asked the RT head to punish him by a fine. Hasyim, a rural elite cum hajj, proposed himself to be freed from such fine, because his absence was due to exercising village’s task, nonetheless the forum turned down it.
They have also improved the organizational performance in the aspect of budget. Commonly, they finance the programs with fund allocated from the obligatory contribution of the members and collected retribution of managing arisan and micro credit. The amount of the obligatory contribution is tiny small, for in accordance with the poor villagers’ capacity or the lowest rate for participation’s sake. The contribution can be in the form of uang ronda (neighbourhood security penny) in about 200 rupiahs or satu jimpit (similar with a tea-spoonful) of raw rice per day or 3 thousand rupiahs per month each Kepala Keluarga (household). With 50 households, in month, each RT can collect such fund in about 150 thousand rupiahs from its members’ contribution, plus additional income from arisan and micro credit in about 10-20 thousand rupiahs. The way of RT to collect fund from the member shows that community not also preserve social harmony (See Perkasa and Hendyantio, 2003:177), but also has empower the grassroots to control the organization.
With such self-supporting capability, RT can also develop into an association delivering services to its citizens with activities complying with the update situation. Table 1 shows the numerous activities of RT and all describe on how important those programs are, to the grassroots who hardly get access to development and public services. When they get, they cannot have them in fair and equal manner. That is why they, for instance, have promoted a special arisan as media of developing venture capital, assistance for the poor and taking over the village administration to organize and distribute raskin (rice for the poor). There are many facts in media showing that the distributions of aid organized by the government officers were in very discriminative and unequal manner.
NGOs and donor agencies have utilized the working of participation in materializing self-reliance through RT association by organizing community development (CD) programs. LP3ES (2000-01) provided a micro credit scheme in a bid to enhance the economy of leather craftsmen in several RTs of Rangasem hamlet. An NGO, IRE Yogyakarta (2000), launched programs of building capacity through group discussions in four hamlets involving noted figures of RTs. In 2007, Subdistrict Development Program of World Bank also targeted women having production activities at RT level.
Since RT has developed into association delivering community welfare, therefore the loyalty of villagers to RT increasingly enhances. They also compete with other RT communities to show their group’s superiority, like having a community savings, programs and community party equipments. The competition does not degrade their solidarity based on hamlet ties. Table 1 also describes numerous collaborations among RTs in a bid to realize togetherness among villagers of the same hamlet. They do understand that cooperation is very much important to increase program effectiveness like administering a TK (kindergarten school). They keep on improving the scale of collaboration, for example, in 2002 they collected resources to build village roads costing tens million rupiahs. The achievement has secured praise from KR, although the village administration quarter claimed it as its achievement. The effort of RT members to improve the public infrastructure and welfare, build cooperation and networking shows that they have internalized modernity (Se also Sullivan, 1992) and have high social capital and good civil society (Putnam, 1993).
The Activities of Neighbourhood Association for Community Interest
No Activity Year of Start Number of RT
1. Providing Health and Funeral Funds
a. Shroud Before 1987 91
b. Staple donation (raw rice) Before 1987 42
c. Money donation 1987 91
d. Committee organizing the funeral ceremony Before 1987 91
e. Seriously illness 2001 24
2. Arisan (savings fund club)
a. Monthly Routine Arisan Silaturohmi Before 1987 90
b. Special Arisan for developing business capital 2001 44
c. Annual Arisan of goat for Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) offering 2001 23
3. Social Aid for Public Welfare
a. Committee for wedding and other parties Before 1987
b. Party equipments (tent, glassware, etc.) Before 1987 42
c. Ronda (patrol, night watch) Before 1987 91
4. Social Insurance
a. Assistance for impoverished families or orphan 2002 33
b. Social service of raskin (rice for the poor) and fuel subsidy 2002 91
c. Aid for natural disasters and people’s demise 2006 90
5. Economic Service
a. Collective electricity bill payment 1987 27
b. The management of micro-credit cooperative 2002 12
6. Pengajian (recitation of the Quran)
a. Routine pengajian 1987 86
b. Tahlilan (repeated recitation of the confession of the faith) for death 1987 91
7. Building Infrastructures
a. Paving the neighbourhood roads and drains 1989 91
b. Constructing houses Before 1987 91
8. Cooperation among RTs
a. Constructing roads 1989 91
b. Building small mosques Before 1987 91
c. Constructing the building of TK (Kinder-garthen ) and Pre-School Child Day Care) 1994 22
d. Organizing community celebrations or parties Before 1987 46
e. Pengajian or ritual ceremony Before 1987 84
f. Incentives for teachers of TK/PAUD 2003 15
g. The commemoration of religious figure death 1994 16
Source: Hudayana (1999:5). The meaning of “before 1987” is that the villager held the activities before the establishment of RT.
Community’s participation increase in management and development is demonstrating that this association has become an essential force for the grassroots in organizing their self-reliance. The self-reliance becomes the main goal of RTs, because their citizens are of grassroots which easily get social insurance by risking their community organizational performance than bureaucratic government that has yet touched social welfare directly. By securing such self-reliance including togetherness, they will negotiate more easily to the government when conducting programs for community.
As the great participation of citizens and credibility of RT institution, hence the majority of village and political elites straggling for power always utilize it. In village political contest, RTs had exactly demonstrated their potential by providing extensive mass to topple carik (village secretary) on 1 June 1998, because he embezzled fund for applying lands certification of the villagers. The victimized villagers reported the carik corruption to the forum of RTs, and their prominent figures reported to opposing elites, subsequently they issued petition to the head village. Since the carik ignored the petition, so they mobilized the villagers to topple him by staging massive demonstration, involving all RTs’ members from the village and even from other surrounding villages.
The people’s victory in the protest made the elites realized to embrace the RT heads and their noted figures in securing votes in village elections. During the reform era, Pulungsari held elections to elect the members of BPD (village house of representatives), secretary, and four hamlet heads. In a bid to assure their hamlet to have a representative in BPD, generally all RT chiefs were in agreement to only select one figure to run for the election. With such consolidation, thus almost every hamlet only had a single hopeful to compete with other candidates of other hamlets. In such situation, the winners were those of hamlets with numerous voters.
In the case of electing kadus (hamlet chief), carik (village secretary), lurah (village head), aid politics (politik bantuan) constitutes a political contract between contestants and RT forum. The candidates usually visit the chiefs and noted figures of RTs to pass on aid for developing their RTs. The people will cast their votes to the hopefuls making such political contract. This way, candidates who provide more assistance will easily secure the seats. For example, the carik election in 2002, participated by three contestants, namely Endah with fund of 80 million rupiahs, Sarkoni 15 million rupiahs and Adi 5 million rupiahs. The winner was Endah, for she could control about 40 RTs by distributing about 1-2 million rupiahs per RT. It turned out that Maruta resorted to the Endah’s way in village head election (2004). There was no candidate except Maruta so hee was competing with kota kosong “empty box”. Maruta was more careful in efforts to avoid violating the law of money politics. He made a pledge of providing 300 thousand rupiahs per RT as assistance if he could win the election.
The aid and money politics truly undermine self-reliance and political participation of RT in determining a village head. Their votes are like bought by the village elites owning fund and broader networks. Nevertheless, the community actually moves to anticipate the excess of money politics to self-reliance and social solidarity. That is why, the villagers turn down money politics distributed individually to the voters, because it will exactly divide the community. By distributing the fund to each group, they can keep the solidity of the organization. Besides, by utilizing the solidarity of citizens, several RTs can prevent the money politics that tends to arbitrarily extort the candidates. It was evident in the case of Giriarum kadus election. Post the election of carik resulting in political dispute, as the success team of Endah was caught red-handed distributing money to people individually. The prominent figures of Giriarum’s RTs issued a rule of conduct on kadus election in their own territory. They agreed that only kadus hopeful winning the contest who would provide aid in about 750 thousand rupiahs per RT evenly. They also emphasized that the candidates would not do money politics to every voter and not serve them with foods in the Election Day.
The great powerful of RT also has forced the political cadres perform a guerrilla from RT to RT to win in the election of the legislative members and bupati. During 1999 election, the RT forum was ignored due to the great euphoria of reformation and people political attitude to elect political parties in line with their ideology (political grouping) and patron at national level. At the time, the people votes were cast votes for PKB (People’s Awakening Party) as the reprehensive of santri (Moslem group), followed by PDIP as the representative of abangan group (those who do not adhere strictly to the precepts of their nominal religion). In 2004 election, PDIP that control Bantul district utilized RTs to mobilize villagers for winning it in Pulungsari. Abdullah, a legislator hopeful from PDIP subsequently approached RTs santri who had yet have electricity (power) installation. He exercised a lobby to district administration to provide cheaper and quickly access for the RTs. The Abdullah work became one of supporting factors in winning PDIP in Pulungsari, replacing PKB.
In 2004 election, tens of RTs were actually hoping the aid politics of a legislative candidate as what had happened during village chief election. The candidate however did not respond the wish. This was because the hopeful did not have sufficient fund and only distributed it to kyai (Islamic clerics), satgas (Task Force of political parties) and political cadres that did not directly trickle down to RTs. Besides, RTs with pluralistic citizens exactly agreed to not present the legislative candidate to their hamlet, for the sake of keeping their social relation in harmony. Even that policy was enhanced with the refusal of displaying the political party’s symbol and the usage of the hamlet or RTs during the campaign time. The resistance was actually also in the light of declining confidence of villagers and noted figures in the performance of political parties, often elaborated on Medias concerning corruptions and neglected constituents.Rural Development Participation
Like civil society organization, during the reform era RT emerges as agent that influences government policy form elitist to be more populist (See also Tandon and Mahonty, 2002: 8). The RT movement has changed the approach and targets of village development. In the past time under the New Order, RT, village chief Martondo (1983-95) organized development in top-down manner, and also by applying the approach of mobilization and participation, and burdening villagers with massive gotong-royong and money. The development projects, of course, located in hamlets or RTs, like building school, rehabing houses, building MCK (public water resource and toilets), mosque, garud ronda (night watch), monument, and boarders between hamlets. The projects however, in the long term, burdened the community, and the village government took huge financial advantage due to lacking of transparency in terms of reporting the spending of fund received from village and district administration.
Village chief Sujiwo (1996-2004) as the representation of community movement then reformed the scheme of development. He began to issue policy on assistance for hamlets that could be evenly distributed or by turns to every RT. The fund was taken from village real revenues amounting 500 thousand rupiahs per hamlet. With such transparent way, the RT community could by turns developed infrastructures, especially paving their hamlet roads. Village head Maruta (2004 to date) has made a policy more siding to RTs. By utilizing budget allocation from the state (ADD) and village treasury, he makes sure that as long as he is in power, every RT will get 500 thousand rupiahs by turns. Besides, he also provides additional fund for social activities in about 100-200 thousand rupiahs per activity, in a bid to show that village administration pays serious concern to community development.
The positive response of village to RTs did not yet satisfy villagers. Not only did they demand the availability of routine fund provided by village, but also access to manage projects the village had authority to administer, at least got involved in providing construction labours. This fact was apparent when the village, for instance, intended to renovate an out-of-order drinking water installation (PAM). The plant is located in Jatiwangi hamlet. Initially the community was not engaged in the installation project, because the Dinas Pekerjaan Uumum (Public Works Agency) along with its contractor handled it. However, when it was broken the community demanded a renovation and wanted to administer it by themselves. The villagers welcomed positively the Maruta’s good idea and proved that the quality of PAM they built was better and cheaper compared with the one handled by any contractor. If they could not organize the construction process, the RT heads had interest to supply either construction materials or labours from their hamlet. It was apparently evident when they built a gazebo of batik craftswomen supported financially by Australian Indonesian Partnership in 2007. As a project administrator, IRE Yogyakarta met the demand of RT chiefs in a bid to avoid their resistance.
In a bid to improve his credibility, the regent of Bantul responded positively the villagers’ increasing spirit of promoting self reliant community developments. When leading the district for a year, the regent did not have an arena to show his populist development. Accommodating the suggestion of hamlet association chairperson and legislative members, subsequently he promoted a program on providing stimulant fund for building community’s self-reliance. District administration granted the fund directly to community groups in RT unit or unification between RTs and hamlet, by-passing the bureaucracy of village, subdistrict and agency. Idham, the Bantul Bupati, utilized the working of participatory community development for improving his credibility. Each package of project was amounting of 1-40 million rupiahs, depending on the budget they proposed. During 2001-2004, the public responded positively upon the program (Sekretariat Kabupaten Bantul, 2005). Hundreds of RTs and the union of RT proposed the hamlets’ infrastructures restoration. Several RTs of Pulungsari also submitted a proposal even though they had to provide a large contribution and extensive gotong-royong.
The stimulant program proved to be increasing Idham Samawi’s credibility and assisting PDIP in rising up its votes in legislative general election 2004, and bupati election (Pilkada) 2005. Nonetheless, Pulungsari hamlet was not automatically satisfied with the program. When the regent made a visit to Pulungsari prior to Pilkada 2005, Agus, a villager of certain RT in Kayumanis conveyed a critics that there was a discrimination in distributing the aid. He witnessed that RTs which easily received the fund were those of PDIP’s constituents, not of PKB. The regent got angry about the Agus’ statement, nevertheless he made a pledge that all RTs which submitted their proposals would be positively responded.
Participation in Dealing with Natural Disaster
The performance of addressing the tectonic disaster on May 27th, 2006 in Yogyakarta and Central Java, in particular Bantul district that claimed 5,000 death tolls, ravaging tens thousand houses, has revealed the weakness and strength of community in utilizing RTs as media of struggling their rights and aid from the central government, district administration, civil society organizations, NGOs and donor agencies. Pulungsari denoted one of villages hit seriously by the temblor. In this village alone, there were 66 people dead, 1,775 houses were either collapsed or seriously damaged, and the rest was left with minor damages. During the emergency phase, the people were not holding peace. They quickly organized themselves through RTs to relief the victims and collecting aid from outside. When the flowing assistance organized by posko at district to village level did not operate smoothly, they established a posko (Post of Command for disaster response) at hamlet level. Such community efforts took place in Bantul district level, so that generally NGOs and CSOs distributed their aid directly to villagers through the hamlet posko. Subsequently, the programs from donor agencies also directed to hamlet units instead of villages, thus they often ignored the roles of village as the formal institution at local.
Villagers also used RT forum to organize the aid of reconstruction fund from the government. They entrusted the task to RT chiefs to help high officials in organizing data. Two months following the disaster, the government issued data on the future-receivers of the assistance. Nevertheless, there were so many citizens of Bantul left unregistered. The community did not blame on the RT heads but the hamlet chiefs, village leaders and higher officials. In Pulungsari there were 166 people who got furious in the light of excluding from the list to receive the assistance. The RT forum filed complaint upon the problem. As a result, there were two hamlet leaders demanded by the villagers to be in responsible over the matter, because they were proven to not involving the RT chiefs.
Almost all victims of the disaster got infuriated to the government, when the vice president nullified the list of people who would receive the aid and made a revision on the amount assistance from 36 into 15 million rupiahs, because of having insufficient budget. The government urged the revision due to the indication of data mark-up, and many minor damaged houses included in the list. Then, the community supported by village apparatuses and NGOs staged a mass protest to refuse the policy. The scheme however kept on going. Regent forced the heads of hamlet and village to cut down the number of victims to receive the reconstruction fund, by carrying out a data reassessment. Consequently, there were 175 villagers of Pulungsari removed from the list, because their houses were deemed to suffer mild damages. The district administration issued a regulation that the community might stage a protest, but it must be in a written statement and individually, without involving RT. Once the government officers made a crosscheck and came across with inaccurate evidence, the villager would be prosecuted before the court. With the regulation, there were only few victims who conveyed their protest as they were afraid of the serious sanction.
The disbursement of the reconstruction fund also caused political tension in village as involving the practice of corruption, extortion, and lengthy bureaucracy. According to regulation, the government disbursed the fund in group (collectively), not individually. The government demanded each group to form a committee and compose a proposal, and distributed the aid to their members by turns. The government also provided private consultants to facilitate any group in building their houses, in accordance with complicated standards issued by the government. The position of the groups was very weak to comply the regulation. They were contingent on village officials and facilitators in order to organize the task in correct manner and on time. Consequently, they had to spend extra money for holding a meeting, photocopy, preparing report and serving the facilitators and village officials with extra foods. Then, the villagers’ weakness was abused by the village officials and district administration to commit corruption and extortion. They asked the villagers to uphold a tradition what so called local wisdom, namely providing a sort of prize to the officials, because of having received a valuable reconstruction fund. The villagers were encouraged, thus they spent additional 300-600 thousand rupiahs. However, there ware greedy officials who requested more than the figure. That was why the community staged a protest. They deemed it as extortion. Based on a report conveyed by the chairperson of hamlet head association, in Bantul, there were 99 hamlet chiefs protested or reported to police by community, due to perpetrating extortion practice. Furthermore, there was a hamlet chief put in jail. The community actually has local wisdoms. They have tolerance or solidarity to those receiving no reconstruction fund. Generally, in RT meeting, every villager securing the reconstruction aid, gave 300 thousand rupiahs for members receiving no reconstruction fund, for RT head and put aside as RT development fund.
The unevenly distribution of reconstruction aid by the government became the World Bank reason to inflow its assistance for citizens having yet secured in the same amount of 20 million rupiahs per house unit for rebuilding them. District administration also handed in reconstruction fund for mild-damaged houses, so that almost all victims got assistance. The village political contest however had yet been over. Since the emergency to reconstruction phase, the credibility of district officials and village apparatuses declined before the public eyes. On the contrary, the credibility of donors, NGOs and CSOs mounted. By the end of 2007, the high officials and legislative members visited the villages for socializing the plan of developing Bantul post disaster. Nonetheless, the villagers did not simply believe it, because there was no program accessible directly at village level. The citizens appreciated more to NGOs and donor agencies, which could work more responsively by getting down to RTs or hamlets and self-reliant groups like handicraft groups. By way of utilizing social network, community demonstrated a self-reliance by approaching NGOs to carry out their programs in the area. The community of Rangtalun approached NGO Bina Swadaya to promote disaster-preparedness communities, and the Rangkulon people invited Dompet Dhuafa (the name of charity scheme) to help them build a Batik showroom.
Since the high responsiveness of community to embrace donors and NGOs, the village officials also did so, in support of improving their credibility as community patrons. Village chief Maruta made extra efforts in lobbying several NGOs in favour of bringing about programs on recovery into his village, in particular to several hamlets and RTs yet receiving assistance from outside quarters. His work was successful. He could convince governor to support leather craftsmen, and facilitate NGO IRE Yogyakarta underpinned by AIP (Indonesian Australian Partnership) to empower batik craftswomen. He also provided a plot of village treasury land for facilitating a village tourism site.
In a bid to restore the harmony and peace, the district administration also issued programs that could improve the confidence of citizens and village officials. Initially, the district administration provided aid of one million rupiah per RT to build hamlet infrastructure. It also provided fund for village chiefs to make a tour to Bali and hold a ritual of performing Javanese puppets show in Pulungsari. At village level, the village head also performed reconciliation by setting budget for RT chiefs’ honorarium, 100 thousand rupiah per year, as the village administration mediator to community.
The description about RT development in Pulungsari Bantul elaborated above, has revealed that the local institution constitutes a pivotal instrument for the grassroots to develop self-reliance. However, it also becomes an important arena for the state to penetrate its power into community. Under the New Order regime, local indigenous organization were formatted to be corporatist local institution, but the grassroots remained making efforts to develop their self-sufficiency in a bid to increase their social wellbeing. Then, following the downfall of the New Order regime, under the Reformation regime, subsequently the grassroots utilize the freedom of expression by strengthening social capital for materializing what so called civil local institution, having more effective function to promote self-reliance and contest with elites to fight for local resources.
Civil local institution denotes the grassroots movement in efforts to realize welfare community instead of welfare state. The welfare state never emerges within the life of small people. Under the regime of New Order and Reformation, the state also denotes an institution having distance or separated from the community, and has failed to give optimal protection to the people by providing aid and rights as citizens proportionally. Therefore, through the civil local institution, the state is mandated not to control the community but to facilitate and fulfil the rights of community to administer their own household, so that it can develop into a self governing community.
The movement of RTs in Pulungsari has explained the concept of civil local institution. Their efforts of materializing welfare community are underway, through the reinforcement of social capital, citing what Putnam has mentioned ‘bonding’ and ‘bridging’ that can result in self-sufficiency, a program that increases the access of community to social insurance. Furthermore, they are enhancing their capacity to negotiate and exercise advocacy to the village and district government which are less responsive in implementing development for the sake of citizens’ wellbeing at community level.
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