The Padang municipality implemented Bylaw No. 11/2011 on public service fees to regulate funeral service fees at public cemeteries.
Padang ethnic Chinese figure and West Sumatran provincial councilor Albert Hendra Lukman said the Chinese-Indonesian community had repeatedly protested the regulation, but to no avail.
“I was a Padang municipal councilor when the bylaw was deliberated and passed, but we lost votes during voting. We have met the Padang mayor to appeal for a revision. Hopefully he will be moved to submit a revision,” Lukman, an Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction member, told The Jakarta Post recently.
In essence, said Lukman, the bylaw decided the standard size of any grave using standards applied to Muslim graves, in reference to the predominant Muslim population in Padang, which measure one-by-two meters in size.
Whereas in fact, according to the culture of the ethnic Chinese community, which has existed in the city since the 17th century, a husband and wife couple are always placed side by side in a tomb, with an individual casket measuring two-by-three meters, so the size of a couple’s tomb must be at least four-by-three meters.
Consequently, he added, a grave measuring 4-by-3 meters, or 12 square meters, in a type A location is charged at a standard fee of Rp 125,000.
“Meaning, once in two years the family must pay the fee for the tomb of a couple in the amount of Rp 2,250,000 (US$173) which is far more expensive compared to the land and building tax. This is irrational,” he said.
Lukman added that consequently, most members of the ethnic Chinese community in Padang are opting for cremation.
“Since the enactment of the regulation, a majority of the ethnic Chinese residents choose to cremate their relatives for fear of being burdened by the fees and the risk of tombs being dismantled.
Many of the tombs that existed before the regulation was implemented were dismantled and many remains cremated. This is the impact of the regulation,” he said, adding that in general the ethnic Chinese in Padang preferred to be buried.
Lukman also lamented the opinion by government officials who regarded the ethnic Chinese community was rich enough to pay for grave plots and fail to seriously pay attention to them.
Tjinta Teman Society leader in Padang Feryanto Gani claimed to receive a lot of complaints from the ethnic Chinese community on the costly grave fees, so he requested the Padang municipality review the fee for the additional land.
Padang Mayor Mahyeldi Ansharullah claimed he had met ethnic Chinese community figures who asked that the ordinance be revised.
“We will continue to study whether or not it should be revised. We also must consider whether or not it would be approved by the municipal council, as it is within their authority. So, we suggest the ethnic Chinese leaders also express their opinions to the municipal council,” said Mahyeldi.