Nunukan, East Kalimantan. “We’re tired of hearing the government’s promises,” says Yagung Bangau, head of the Krayan Adat indigenous group in Nunukan district.
“We’ve foamed at the mouth pleading for attention for our area. We’re Indonesian citizens, too. We should get attention from the government.”
Yagung is one of thousands of residents of Krayan subdistrict in Nunukan who for years have struggled to eke out a living in their isolated, largely undeveloped region.
The only road from the subdistrict on the border with Malaysia to the district capital, he says, can only be traversed during the dry season. In the rainy season, it remains flooded for months.
The terrain is more forgiving on the 15-kilometer road to the border, meaning that 90 percent of the goods coming into Krayan are from Malaysia, Yagung says.
“We depend heavily on Malaysia. Everything we need comes from there. The Indonesian government has never tried to address our predicament,” he says.
There have been dozens of visits to the area by officials from the provincial capital and from Jakarta, he says, but little has been done to improve access or develop it.
Damus Singa, a district legislator representing Krayan, says what makes the neglect particularly egregious is its impact on the local education system.
“A lot of the schools are still teaching the kids based on books from the 1984 curriculum,” he says.
Even then, there are not enough textbooks to go around, so the students spend most of their time in class copying down the content of the books and not actually studying, he says.
“You would never see this happening in other regions,” he says. “If this keeps up, I can’t see how our education system could ever catch up to the rest of the nation.”
Hasan Basri, a spokesman for the Nunukan administration, previously said a proper road from Krayan to the nearest town would cut through Krayan Mentarang National Park and thus required the permission of the central government.
Now, he says, funds to clear the path for the 10-kilometer road have been allocated in this year’s budget, but it will not be completed for at least two years.
In the meantime, he says, the district administration will subsidize the thrice-weekly flights from the district capital to Krayan, capping ticket prices at Rp 250,000 ($27) per passenger.