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No charity for Indon beggars

Published: 11:23PM Tuesday September 11, 2007

Authorities in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, have approved a law that bans people from giving money to beggars, buskers and hawkers as part of efforts to clean up the chaotic city of around 10 million people.

The new law, which was approved on Monday, is supposed to give more teeth to an existing 1988 statute.

Critics said it had been pushed through without proper thought for the poor in the sprawling city, which is a magnet for many from rural areas who often end up scraping by and living in squalid conditions.

The law regulates various aspects of public order, from leaving chewing gum on park benches to registering house pets.

It also outlaws busking, begging and street hawking, which was part of the old bylaw but was rarely enforced in a city where busy traffic intersections are often crowded with guitar-strumming youths, street children and hawkers.

The law also bans people from living on river banks and squatting under toll roads. Poor migrants often build make-shift shelters in such areas, sometimes clogging up waterways in the flood-prone city and causing hygiene problems or fire hazards.

Under the new rules, offenders can face detention up to 180 days and fines up to 50 million rupiah ($5,312).

The bylaw will be adopted at the end of this week, Ari Budiman Sudarto, a city government spokesman, said by telephone.

The outgoing Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso urged the public to follow the new rules.

"It is true we're still weak in enforcing the laws. But we need to realise that law enforcement will not succeed if people are not disciplined," Sutiyoso, who will step down next month after August elections, was quoted in the Jakarta Post as saying.

Inggard Joshua, a Jakarta councillor from the Golkar Party, was quoted by the Jakarta Post as telling a plenary session on Monday that Jakarta should follow the example of Singapore, which tightly enforces public order regulations in the manicured city.

But Ari Ujianto, a researcher at the Urban Poor Consortium, a pressure group, said the new bylaw was ill thought out.

"Most of the time the only way for those who work in the office buildings to get cheap food is to buy from street hawkers," Ujianto said.

"This law shows that the (Jakarta) government hasn't really thought about the poor."