All eyes on Kalimantan after Jokowi scouts new capital sites

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Indonesian president Joko Widodo went on a two-day visit to Kalimantan this week to survey locations for the new capital. ST FOREIGN DESK VIA TWITTER

All eyes are now on Kalimantan island as Indonesian President Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, has fallen in love with two hills there – Bukit Soeharto (Soeharto Hill) and Gunung Mas (Golden Hill) – as he seeks the best place to relocate the capital from Jakarta.

“From the width of the area, this is the best place. Some 300ha is ready. If we need more, it can be expanded,” Jokowi said when inspecting the location in Gunung Mas regency, in Central Kalimantan province, on Wednesday.

In the province, Jokowi visited three locations – provincial capital Palangkaraya, Katingan regency and Gunung Mas regency.

The president’s two-day visit to the island was to see several places that had been recommended for the new capital.

On Tuesday, Jokowi visited Bukit Soeharto in East Kalimantan province. He said Bukit Soeharto, a 61,850 hectare forest located in two regencies - Panajam Paser Utara and Kutai Kartanegara - was a suitable place for a capital in terms of infrastructure.

He also highlighted Bukit Soeharto’s location, which is in between East Kalimantan’s provincial capital of Samarinda and the neighbouring city of Balikpapan – both of which are the two largest cities in the province that have airports.

National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro previously said the government was considering locations in four provinces – Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and West Sulawesi – for the new capital.

Jokowi highlighted that founding president Sukarno had cited Palangkaraya as a future capital city. “It is impossible that such a decision was made without strong arguments based on the right data and facts,” Jokowi was quoted as saying by Indonesian news agency Antara.

Joko also cited that Kalimantan was the only location that was safe from earthquakes. If a location is selected, the infrastructure should be developed from the beginning, he added.

He said his two-day visit to Kalimantan was to study the locations that had been recommended.

“My field trips only have one goal, to get a feel [for the locations]. After I get a feel, the [budget] calculation will be easier. It will also be easier to make a decision,” Jokowi said during the visit to Gunung Mas.

The president was accompanied by Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono, National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, Agrarian and Spatial Planning Minister Sofyan Djalil, Central Kalimantan Governor Sugianto Sabran and Gunung Mas Regent Arton Dohong. THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK