Mon, 12 Jun 2000

8 arrested in plantation fray

BOGOR (JP): Police caught eight men on Friday from among some 200 armed locals who were vandalizing the 3,000-square-meter Gunung Mas tea plantation in Blok Panjang at Cibereum village, Cisarua district.

Bogor Regional Police detective chief Capt. Budi Prasetya identified the eight as Dede, Kusmawan, Pepen, Abdul Latif, Jimi, Lobi, Odang and Munawar.

"They are allegedly the instigators and were paid by a land broker named Basir. Basir has reportedly fled to Malaysia," Budi said, adding that each man acknowledged to having been paid Rp 1,000 per square meter to vandalize the tea plantation, run by state-owned PT Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN VIII).

Land brokers have tried to evict tea farmers in order to occupy the land by cultivating it with banana or cassava before selling the property to interested parties who wish to turn the plantations into villas or other buildings.

"Based on our investigation, the land buyers are none other than high-ranking officials in the West Java administration and a minister," Budi said.

According to official data, some 402 hectares of a 2,500- hectare plantation run by PTPN VIII were destroyed, causing Rp 9.7 billion in losses.

Gunung Mas houses a total of 1,700 hectares of tea plantations located in eight villages, namely Tugu Selatan, Kopo, Citeko, Cikupa, Sukamanah, Sukagalih, Sukaresti and Sukalaya. (21/edt)