Will a Unified Time Zone Work for Indonesia?

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelagic country, plans to synchronize its three time zones in October 2012. The business sector, especially travel operators, applauded the plan saying that synchronized time with Asia's financial capitals such as Seoul, Hongkong and Singapore would boost business activities and tourism.

However, former Vice President Jusuf Kalla said that the plan is ‘illogical’ while the Indonesian Council of Ullemas (MUI) said that change will confuse religious believers.

According to blogger Rusrian Yuzaf, the time change will influence people's habits including prayer habits of Indonesian Muslims:

Daytime in Bromo Mountain, East Java. Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/rbherdiyanto/">Robertus B. Herdiyanto</a> used with permission under Creative Commons.

Daytime in Bromo Mountain, East Java. Flickr photo by Robertus B. Herdiyanto used with permission under Creative Commons.

Teman-teman muslim yang tinggal di Jayapura misalnya tentu waktu subuhnya menjadi sekitar jam 3 atau jam 4 pagi (GMT +8).  […] Secara geografis kebijakan satu zona waktu ini mungkin tidak cocok untuk di terapkan di Indonesia. Belum lagi sebagian besar penduduk di negara ini beragama Islam. Toh jika nantinya ada lagi kebijakan mengenai jam masuk kantor dan jam istirahat diserahkan kepada masing-masing daerah disesuaikan dengan letak geografis masing-masing ngapain susah-susah merubah zona waktu.

Our fellow Muslims who live in Jayapura Papua for example will have to conduct their  Fajr prayers around 3 or 4  AM  (GMT+8). […] Geographically, unified timezone isn't suitable to be implemented in Indonesia, where most of  its citizens are Muslims. If later on the office and break hours are to be  decided by provincial administrators, then why bother with the time zone adjustment.

Indoflyer is a site for the country's aviation enthusiasts.  On its forum, users are debating the economic benefits of a unified timezone. Indoflyer user afterburner said:

Untuk menjadi sebuah negara yang maju, penyatuan zona waktu bukan satu-satunya jalan. Tapi kalau memang bisa membantu mempercepat kemajuan, mengapa tidak? […]

Saya pribadi sih suka kalo Jakarta jadi GMT+8. Berangkat kantor udara belum panas, pulang kantor langit masih terang, tapi sudah tidak terlalu panas. Hal yang sama berlaku juga untuk kota-kota di zone WIB lainnya. Tapi penyatuan zone waktu ini bisa bermasalah untuk masyarakat yang tinggal di daerah zona WIT. Meraka berangkat kerja ketika matahai sudah tinggi, dan pulang ketika matahari sudah terbenam.

To become a developed nation, time  zones unification isn't the only way. If it helps the development, why not?[…]

I personally like Jakarta to be on GMT+8. The weather won't be too hot on the way to the airport, on the way home it'll still be daytime but temperate.  The same case will apply in other cities in Central Indonesia Time (WIB). But the time zones unification will become a problem to those living in Eastern Indonesia Time (WIT). They'll go to work when the sun is up and come home when the sun is set.

While user fadelart said:

Ane yang tinggal di Kaltim GMT+8 heran pas pertama kali ke Surabaya bangun saur jam setengah 4 udah pada imsyak

Kalau satu-satu cuma itu jalan terbaik buat kepentingan bisnis indonesia ane setuju aja.

I  live in East Kalimantan under  GMT+8, I was  surprised when I visited Surabaya, I had to take my Sahoor (author's note: last meal of the day during Fasting Month, consumed before dawn) before 3:30  AM, because  at that time Imsak (author's note: the beginning of fasting) has started.

If  the unification is the best way for business in Indonesia, I agree (with the plan).

Astronomist Marufin Sudibyo who wrote his assessment at Kompasiana, a citizen journalism division of a local newspaper,  said that the unified timezone may have serious implications:

penerapan WKI membawa sejumlah implikasi serius setidaknya pada dua hal. Pertama, terkait waktu Matahari dan ritme kerja. Waktu Matahari adalah waktu intrinsik yang dimiliki Matahari oleh posisinya akibat rotasi Bumi, yang nampak secara gamblang dalam terbit dan terbenam. Waktu Matahari ini amat berbeda-beda bagi setiap kawasan di Indonesia. Meski waktu Matahari tidak terganggu oleh rekonfigurasi zona waktu di bagian Bumi manapun, namun aplikasi setempatnya dalam waktu sipil akan turut berubah.

The implementation of Unified Indonesia Time (WKI) could bring various implications, at least two of them are  serious. First, regarding the Solar time and work period. Solar time is an intrinsic period of the sun due to the earth rotation, the obvious results of this are sunrise and sunset. In Indonesia, the solar times are different in each regions. Although the solar time won't be disturbed  by time zone  reconfiguration,  the application on civil time will create adjustments.

Should the government move forward with the plan, then it shouldn't rush to implement it and the populace should be thoroughly informed. Sudibyo elaborates:

implementasi WKI sebaiknya mulai berjalan per 1 Januari 2013. Pertimbangannya, selain meminimalkan gejolak publik (meskipun gejolaknya takkan bakal separah resistensi kenaikan harga BBM), tidak terburu-buru dan juga menyediakan rentang waktu lebih lama guna melaksanakan sosialisasi. […]

Kita belum mendapatkan satu gambaran utuh bagaimana Indonesia setelah penerapan WKI, khususnya dari dua kawasan ekstrim : kawasan terbarat dan tertimur Indonesia. Janganlah pembicaraan mengenai WKI hanya datang dari kementerian-kementerian bidang ekonomi tanpa menyertakan Kementerian Agama, padahal WKI memiliki implikasi cukup luas dalam aspek religi (khususnya bagi Umat Islam di Indonesia).

The WKI implementation is planned on January 1,  2013. In consideration, other than minimizing social turmoil (though the turmoil won't be as bad as resistance against fuel price increase), it won't be a rush as well as providing enough time to socialize the plan. […]

We haven't got a clear picture on what would happen if WKI is implemented, especially on two regions in the westernmost and easternmost parts of the country. WKI discussions should not be initiated only by the economic ministry. The Ministry of Religious Affairs should be part of discussions because WKI would  have wide implications in religious aspects (especially for Indonesian Muslims).

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