Fri, 05 Mar 1999

Bekasi farmers seek proper compensation for their land

BEKASI (JP): A group of some 100 people went to the office of the Bekasi Regency on Thursday morning to demand compensation for 200 hectares of land which they say was appropriated by the regency in 1983.

Carrying banners and posters, the protesters, farmers from Teluk Pucung village, arrived at the regency office at 9 a.m.

They demanded the land be returned to them immediately unless the administration was willing to pay Rp 200,000 per square meter in compensation for the land.

"We've struggled for 15 years for our land. We now demand the regency pay compensation for our property based on the current market price," Otong Sasmita, the spokesman for the group, said.

According to Otong, the land, which had been cultivated by the villagers since the Dutch colonial era, was appropriated in 1983 by the regency, who paid the villagers Rp 15 per square meter for the land.

He said 70 percent of the villagers at that time had no choice but accept the offer because of intimidation by military personnel and village officials.

The regency then sold the plot of land to private developer PT Karsindo Utama at Rp 2,000 per square meter, Otong said.

The developer later sold off the land to different parties, including members of the Armed Forces, regency employees and the public, for Rp 40,000 per square meter, he added.

"Now only 10 hectares of the land remains unsold and it is being neglected," Otong said.

He said the villagers were also demanding the regency revoke the certificate of ownership on the remaining 10 hectares of land and allow the villagers to cultivate the land.

"The villagers badly need the land," he said.

According to Otong, the villagers sent letters detailing their demands to several officials, including President B.J. Habibie, but they had not received satisfactory responses.

The farmers also visited the House of Representatives and the National Commission on Human Right to seek support, he said.

A regency official who met with the farmers, Edy Nurali, promised to convey their demands to Bekasi Regent Wikanda Darmawijaya.

Edy and the farmers agreed to meet next week for further discussions. (jun)