Sri Wahyumi Maria Manalip has been credited for developing natural resources and improving people’s quality of life in Talaud. She works with traders in traditional markets, fishing villages and poor communities where underprivileged residents need attention. By Elsid Arendra
Sri Wahyumi Maria Manalip, the first female regent of Talaud, North Sulawesi, faced a major challenge to improve the living standard of the people of the far-flung region when she received the leadership baton in 2014.
Separated as an independent regency from the Sangihe Talaud island chain on the far north of Indonesia, just across from the southern Philippines, only 12% of Talaud’s villages are classified as developed. Levels of education are poor and infrastructure, including sanitation, is of low quality.
As one of the 199 disadvantaged regions of Indonesia, this northernmost district of the country is isolated due to limited basic infrastructure, a low-level economy and social structure. Communications, telecommunications and defense are poorly developed.
Recently, the threat of terrorism has become more prominent, with fighting still dragging on in the Mindanao city of Marawi and the risk of Talaud becoming a conduit for movements of terrorists, arms and explosives. Improving the local economy is a critical element in long-term security.
SWM, as she’s known to everyone in the regency, remains upbeat and has plenty of results to show for her hard work so far. Only months after taking office, she won the Indonesian Woman of the Year 2014 Award for implementing changes and making breakthroughs for the prosperity of the people of the regency.
She has also been credited for developing natural resources and improving people’s quality of life. She works with traders in traditional markets, fishing villages and poor communities where underprivileged residents need attention.
In 2015 she won the Health Insurance Award from the Ministry of Health and the Indonesia Good Governance Award 2015 (IGGA) from Nirwana Indonesia Foundation for her achievements in changing the health and sanitation infrastructure of the Talaud community.
Other awards followed, although some critics claim some are merely self-promotion She was honored by the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection at the Women’s Icons Summit & Awards 2017 held last August.
SWM is known for her style. Apparently coy about her age, she is definitely under 40 and has an active following on Instagram, where she features in costumes ranging from official uniform to leather bike gear, complete with full-face helmet.
The wife of a senior judge at the Balikpapan District Court is the first to turn up to deal with natural disasters. She’s keen to develop tourism and says the door is wide open for investors.
A native of the islands, Sri Wahyumi enjoys diving and motocross. She tours the archipelago on a trail bike, meeting with local people in remote areas, and spends plenty of time wearing a hard hat monitoring infrastructure development. At one time, she was lost at sea when traveling to a remote island. She was found near Siau Island after her speedboat went off course and lost contact for 24 hours.
The remarkable marine environment of the Talaud Islands creates great opportunity for high-end tourism and is attracting not only domestic tourists but also foreign visitors. She has made tourism one of the main focuses of the local government’s development agenda. This is evident from the hard work of the government in improving tourism sector infrastructure with the aim to attract tourists to the ‘Paradise Islands’.
Like much of North Sulawesi, Talaud is a mostly Christian community and a Monument of Blessed Jesus Statue is being completed to express the area’s long Christian culture. “The statue is gorgeous. It is the identity of the Talaud people. Every visitor to Talaud can immediately recognize this Christian-majority area without having to be told,” Sri Wahyumi is quoted as saying.
The regent says the tourism sector has good prospects to sustain growth in the region. While GlobeAsia’s attempts to contact her went unanswered, she is on record as praising the commitment of North Sulawesi Governor Olly Dondokambey and Vice Governor Steven Kandouw to boosting tourism.
In Talaud the development of tourism has to go hand-in-hand with the construction of infrastructure facilities, she has noted. “We are now maximizing the development of our tourism sector and infrastructure, and the local government will continue to build synergy with the legislature and stakeholders to build a better Talaud regency. At the same time we will always maintain coordination and consultation with the North Sulawesi provincial government,” she’s quoted as saying.