In the article on the proposed Merapi-Merbabu National Park (DTE 55:18), we wrongly reported that the park was officially opened in October 2002. These plans are on hold following community protests. President Megawati attended what was to have been the opening ceremony, but the agenda was changed to celebrating International Mountains Day and Ecotourism Year. Heavy-handed authorities marred this event. A local politician from the ruling PDI-P party had threatened NGOs with violence at an earlier meeting. Two activists from the GERAP group (gerakan anti-penindasan) were arrested after villagers tried to present their views to the president. They were later released when lawyers intervened, but have since fled the area after further threats. It is not clear when or if the Merapi-Merbabu National Park will go ahead. Campaigners seem to have convinced decision-makers that the whole planning process was deeply flawed. The authorities are now saying that they do not have sufficient funds to draw up park plans properly. Regulations require them to identify the potential of the area and any problems, and to circulate draft plans for input from the community as part of the planning process. However, the team from UGM University, Yoyga, originally appointed to draw up the master plan has been holding meetings with villagers within the proposed park area. Local feelings are still running high. Forestry staff – who accused NGOs in the local press of doing nothing to help – quickly extinguished fires on the slopes of Merapi, possibly set by people opposed to the national park. Local NGOs were planning to hold a meeting with communities from the Mount Merapi-Merbabu area in early February to discuss views and further advocacy. A member of local NGO, Yayasan Wana Mandhira, informed DTE that: We have (been part of the) active struggle with local community and some NGOs to reject this project because it was not participatory (and there was) intransparancy and manipulation, plus .the experience of failure of almost all National Parks in Indonesia. She emphasised that they want Merapi-Merbabu to be managed with full community participation.
(Sources: Walhi Jogja email 30/Jan/03; Yayasan Wana Mandhira email 18/Dec/02)