A nonprofit legal aid foundation that offers advice and representation to impoverished and marginalized city residents is itself seeking financial support after suffering a setback in funding.
Nurkholis Hidayat, director of the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta), told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday that the nongovernmental group had Rp 27 million ($3,200) in the bank, not enough to cover one month’s operational costs.
“We are looking for public donations to support us because we are not going to stop handling the legal cases that we are currently dealing with,” he said.
Nurkholis said the funding shortfall happened after some key donors withdrew support on the belief that the government should be funding the group.
He said LBH Jakarta hoped to gain more individual donors aside from the local and international groups that have traditionally supported the organization.
Such a move would allow the foundation to be more independent, he said.
According to LBH Jakarta data, on average the foundation handles about 1,000 cases every year without charge on a volunteer basis. The foundation also provides legal education to disadvantaged communities and individuals.
LBH Jakarta also proposes bills to be discussed in the House of Representatives, such as a bill on domestic workers rights and one on religious freedom. Both are currently being deliberated by the legislature.
So far this year, LBH Jakarta has received 447 cases, according to its data.
Nurkholis said the foundation required minimum funding of Rp 70 million per month, Rp 40 million of which went to paying the salaries of its 17 staffers.
He added that this was not the first time the foundation had experienced financial difficulties. In 2003, the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, of which LBH Jakarta is a regional branch, lost several donors, causing the 15 regional offices to fend for themselves in securing funding.
“Between 2003 to 2005, half of our advocacy staff had to resign. However, we got funded again from some donors, including the Jakarta provincial administration,” he said.
According to Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo, that financial aid was stopped in 2008. However, the foundation is still housed in a Central Jakarta building provided by the city.
When asked to comment about the foundation’s bleak financial prospects, the governor said he was greatly concerned about its ability to continue its mission. He added that the foundation “will find a solution to the situation.”
Raydonnyzar Moenek, a spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs, said as much as it would like to help, the government had to be selective in which groups it funded.
“Providing the social funding is not the government’s obligation. Therefore, it is given in a limited period of time,” he said.
Victoria Coakley, the democratic governance counselor for Australian Aid for International Development (AusAID), told the Jakarta Globe that her group would continue to show its support for LBH Jakarta.
“I can confirm that there has been no delay in dispersing the funds. They should receive the funding soon,” she said when asked about the foundation.