Four regencies and a mayoralty in Nias Islands have agreed to go ahead with their aspiration to set up an autonomous province separated from North Sumatra mainland.

The five are Nias regency, South Nias, North Nias, West Nias and Gunung Sitoli mayoralty.

North Sumatra provincial secretary R.E. Nainggolan said the provincial administration had yet to receive a notice letter on the planned formation of Nias province.

He said the plan should be thoroughly studied and in accordance with the law. “We will send a team to study whether Nias can stand on its own as an autonomous province,” he said Friday.

Rasali Zalukhu, petitioner, said the idea to separate from North Sumatra had been on the agenda for a year and it would be realized by firstly setting up a Nias province preparatory committee.

“I will head the committee. The mandate comes directly from the Nias community who wish to immediately set up a Nias province,” Rasali told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

He said they had consolidated the preparation with the legislative office at a meeting that was attended by Nias regent Binahati Baeha and South Nias regent Fahuhusa Laiya.

The committee is scheduled to meet Governor Syamsul Arifin, and provincial legislative council members, followed by a consultation meeting with commission II members of the House of Representatives and the Home Minister.

Rasali added that he was aware that forming a new province was not easy and expected to meet obstacles.

The North Sumatra province has also been jolted by a movement to form Tapanuli province. Last year’s rally to press ahead turned ugly claiming a legislator’s life.

The central government said it hoped the formation of new provinces, regencies and municipalities will be completed this year. Between 1999 and 2009, 205 new regions, comprising of 7 provinces, 164 regencies and 34 municipalities, have been formed to make 33 provinces, 398 regencies and 93 municipalities.

Asked whether the petition was driven by the Tapanuli movement by some other regencies, Rasali said their own was based on the local community’s wish to improve their welfare.

Nias regent Binahati Baeha said the aspiration to form the Nias province was sparked by the bad experience, where local people said they had compromised their interests for areas outside Nias.

Binahati added that the planned establishment of Nias province would ignite controversy within the community, including community figures, because they were not aware about the merit of forming the new province.

“Nias province needs to be formed to move forward. However, it may take up to 10 years so people should start working toward this now,” he said.

North Sumatra legislative vice speaker Chaidir Rotonga said he agreed with the autonomy petition if the project was well planned. (The Jakarta Post, 21 February 2010)

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