Volunteer’s Enthusiasm and the Challenge of the Red Tape


VIRAL: Swiss volunteer works tirelessly to build bridges in remote areas of Indonesia, but is held back by bureaucracy*

While those of us in Jakarta complain about the capital’s lack of transportation infrastructure, most of us can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for some people living in remote parts of the archipelago, such as children who have to traverse raging rivers by climbing across perilous rope bridges every single day just to get to school.

Images like that one are what led Swiss man Toni Ruttiman to Indonesia three years ago. Saddened by the thought of people having to rely on such bridges, he took it upon himself to come to our country as a volunteer to help rural communities build new or safer bridges.

Over the course of those three years, Ruttiman and his supporters have successfully built 61 suspension bridges in various areas including Banten, West Java, Central Java, East Java, and even in Sulawesi, North Maluku and NTT.

Ruttiman’s exemplary work was recently detailed in a Facebook post by Universitas Indonesia sociology professor Imam B Prasodjo that has gone viral and been shared over 1,700 times.

However, Imam’s post is not just about praising Ruttiman’s good work, but also his upset over the Indonesian government bureaucracy that is preventing him from doing more. In the post Imam shares a letter from Ruttiman’s assistant, Suntana, who wrote to him detailing the problems and huge fines they were facing caused by a shipment of speciality wire ropes for bridge making that Ruttiman had shipped to Indonesia from Switzerland.

Because the wires were donated, they had to receive special clearance from various ministries before they could be offloaded from Tanjung Priok Port. But the wire ropes have been stuck there for 2 months, and the cargo has racked up Rp 195 million in demurrage (overstaying) fees as of Sept 26.

Imam also shared Ruttiman’s response to this news:

Dear Imam,
I’m not surprised by this news. The shipping business is strict about demurrage charges, and I know that since many years. We had a formal green light from the Public Works Ministry before embarking the three containers in Switzerland.

We can help pay for part or all of theses charges, and finally get Reviews These containers out of the port before racking up more charges, the which now already cost 3x more than the actual shipping from Switzerland.

But after this last batch of cables and pipes I will want to stop working in Indonesia. We have been bothering you more than enough already, and without your permanent and Selfless help over All These years we would not have made it very far.

With Reviews These cables we will reach 100 bridges in your country, and for 800’000 people this is better than nothing.

Please let me know and we’ll transfer the money to get this done.

Thank you very much,

Imam notes in his post how embarrassed he is that Ruttiman would have to face such problems and fines in the course of doing humanitarian work here and said he hopes that the government will take notice, waive the fees, and hopefully convince Ruttiman to continue his good works in our country. We hope so too.

*The article from Coconuts Jakarta. We uploaded the article with permission from Imam B. Prasodjo, Lecturer of Sociology at the University of Indonesia. This article was published on 29 September 2016 from  http://jakarta.coconuts.co/2016/09/29/viral-swiss-volunteer-works-tirelessly-build-bridges-remote-areas-indonesia-held-back.