Fri, 05 Jun 2009
From: The Jakarta Post
By Fadli, The Jakarta Post, Batam
A council tasked with taking care of special economic zone affairs in Batam, Bintan and Karimun will take over plots of abandoned land that belong to companies affiliated with former president Soeharto.

The council plans to take over more than 19,000 hectares of land as allowed under the 1960 Law on Agraria, with plans to offer those areas to potential investors due to their strategic locations, council secretary Jhon Arizal said Tuesday.

He said the law stipulates that a person, or an institution, who owns a large area of land but does not manage it, must return it to the state.

He did not elaborate on the minimum area of land in question, or how long it might take for the state to assume control.

"We have asked companies controlling *large areas of land* to immediately return *part of* it to the government because they aren't managing it," Jhon, who is also head of the Riau Islands provincial administration's industry and trade agency, told The Jakarta Post.

According to the council's data, a company owned by a tycoon closely affiliated to Soeharto controls the greatest part of the abandoned land on Batam, Bintan and Karimun Islands. Owners of 23,000 hectares of land in Lagoi manage only 4,000 hectares of it and of 300 hectares in the Lobam industrial zone, only 30 hectares has been developed.

Jhon said companies operating in Lagoi were owned by the tycoon and one of Soeharto's children.

The data also says the tycoon's company has been controlling Karimun Anak, Kepala Jeri and Pulau Sagui Islands since 1980, but has abandoned them, while it only manages 10 hectares of a 100 hectare area in Bulan Island it acquired in the same year.

Head of the Kepulauan Riau Promotion and Investment Agency Said Muhammad Taufik said many investors lost interests in the islands upon learning the locations they were eyeing are controlled by a monopoly.

"We have to turn down interests of many *investors* who have been eyeing Karimun Anak Island, because the island has long been controlled by a company," he said.

Jhon said those companies were able to acquire large areas of land from locals easily between 1970 and 1990 at prices of between Rp 100 (less than 1 US cent) and Rp 300 per meter, below tax-based land prices at that time, as the repressive New Order allowed them to do so.

He said the Kepulauan Riau administration would pay for the abandoned lands.

The reference for the payment would be deliberated between the administration and the Kepulauan Riau provincial Council, he said.

Jhon said Governor Ismeth Abdullah would invite Kepulauan Riau provincial councilors to support policies the government would pursue the abandoned lands.



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