Mataram. It may be home to world-renowned vacation destinations like the Gili Islands and a string of surfer hotspots on the island of Sumbawa, but whether or not West Nusa Tenggara will actually have an operating international airport by March next year is anybody’s guess.
In the past months, demonstrators from the villages of Pujut, Ketara and Tanak Awu in Central Lombok have protested against unpaid wages, unfair or no compensation for their land as well as unjust hiring practices.
The first stone for the construction of a runway may have been laid in January 2008, but to date it does not seem to be in any condition to operate anytime soon. According to Misbach Mulyadi, a commission chairman at West Nusa Tenggara’s Legislative Council, one of the primary obstacles faced today by the state airport management company Angkasa Pura was lack of funding.
“We recently met with the operational director of Angkasa Pura, and going by the audit results by the BPK [Supreme Audit Agency] in regard to the Lombok International Airport project, they are short of something like Rp 116 billion ($12 million). Initially we all were under the impression that they were short of Rp 76 billion. The BPK audit results says otherwise,” Misbach said.
“That funding, according to Angkasa Pura, shall only be disbursed via the 2011 state budget in January. And 5 to 6 months after that we can guess that the airport will be functional by mid-2011.”
He added, however, that he could not say when the airport will actually be operational.
“There are still lots of test runs to be carried out plus [there is] the administrative bureaucracy of handling certification procedures and the operational permit to function as an international-standards airport.” His statement comes two months after the general manager of the Mataram branch of Angkasar Pura said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono would inaugurate the airport in March 2011.
“The president wants to dedicate the airport in March 2011 when all the aviation facilities have been completed and test runs had also been carried out,” Erdi Nuka had initially said.
He had said in October that the construction of the airport was 90 percent complete and would be finished by December, especially since Indonesia has aggressively promoted Lombok and neighboring Sumbawa to compete against Bali as top tourist spots.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has set a target of one million visitors for the two islands by 2012.
Antara had reported that the project had suffered numerous problems, including security issues, theft of construction materials and equipment, land disputes, tensions with villagers and problems with the control tower.
“To my understanding, Angkasa Pura has told us the funds will be disbursed following a RUPS [general shareholders meeting] internally within Angkasa Pura on Friday [today].”
“It is all our [councilors] hope that there will not be a tender process for any further work on the airport once the funds are disbursed, considering the urgent need for an international airport,” Misbach said.
He said the airport was initially scheduled to operate by March this year, before the launch was pushed back to Dec. 17, to coincide with the province’s anniversary. It was then postponed to March 2011.