Sat, 08 Oct 1994

Authorities force squatters from Benhil area

JAKARTA (JP): Hundreds of workers and members of the civil defense corps, backed by military and police officers, demolished houses at the Bendungan Hilir fire site, Central Jakarta, after negotiations over land compensation collapsed.

The officers, equipped with rattan sticks, riot shields, tear gas and automatic riffles, were on alert in areas surrounding the fire site when workers and members of the civil defense corps demolished the houses.

Police also blocked roads to and from the area, causing heavy traffic jams on other main streets as far as Jl. Sudirman, Jl. M.H. Thamrin and the Semanggi cloverleaf, all in Central Jakarta. The congestion lasted until 3 p.m.

"Hundreds of officers came to the location early in the morning and threw teargas at the residents," Prasman, the chief of the RT 04 community unit, said as quoted by Antara.

Prasman and Muhammad Zen, another area resident, said some of the residents initially tried to prevent the demolition by throwing stones at the workers and officers, but they left the area when the officers released teargas.

Antara quoted a police officer as saying that police had to use teargas in order to control the residents, who scuffled with police and military officers on Tuesday when they tried to demolish the houses.

"This is total brutality," cried 24-year-old Mrs. Zubaidah, another area resident, shedding tears as she transported her belongings to a safer place.

Zubaidah said that most of the residents, who were categorized by the government as squatters, were still preparing for the morning prayer or were sleeping at 4:30 a.m. when the workers began to pull down the walls, shatter windows and expel the occupants from their dwellings.

Some of the children, awakened by the noise, cried and called out for their parents, who were hastily moving sofas, mattresses, cupboards, electronic goods and documents from their homes.

The city administration has repeatedly warned the area residents not to rebuild houses in the 1.5-hectare area, which was ravaged by fire on Sept. 9, on the grounds that it will be used for the development of low-cost apartments for them.

The city administration has agreed to provide a Rp 400,000 (US$190) allowance per family to help the residents to rent temporary housing pending the completion of the apartments.

The squatters, however, opposed the government plan to build apartments and refused the amount offered in compensation for their homes, asking instead that the amount be increased from Rp 235,000 to Rp 1 million per square meter.

Sutaryo, the squatter's leader, has said that the residents prefer to use the compensation to buy other houses in Jakarta suburbs or to move to the provinces.


Mohammad Zen said yesterday that two infants were treated in a public hospital for respiratory problems allegedly caused by inhaling teargas.

Capt. Syaiful, the chief of the Operation Unit of the On the Alert City Police Squad told The Jakarta Post that one of the police officers, who was identified as First Sergeant Muchlis, was also injured.

"He was hit by stones thrown by unidentified people at the site and had at least three stitches to his head," Syaiful said.

In protest of the demolition, around 150 of the area residents, mostly housewives, teenagers and children, marched to the House of Representatives (DPR) in the Senayan area yesterday, waving national flags and banging on expensive cars they encountered on the way.

"Our houses were demolished, our houses were demolished," cried the protesters.

Four representatives of the residents were received by legislator Syamsul Mu'arif from the Golkar faction.

The residents demanded that the House condemn the demolition, saying that the government could pay the Rp 1 million per meter compensation they are requesting.

Syamsul promised that Golkar would pass on their complaints to the city administration, which is handling the case.

Police said that more than 10 squatters had been questioned in connection with the demolition problems. (09/bsr/yns/has)