Fri, 14 Oct 1994

Benhil homeless to file lawsuit against city

JAKARTA (JP): Homeless squatters of the demolished Bendungan Hilir (Benhil) fire site in Central Jakarta will file a lawsuit with the Jakarta administration following a land dispute over compensation and demolition, a lawyer said.

Luhut Pangaribuan, chairman of the Jakarta chapter of the Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) told The Jakarta Post yesterday that seven squatters had formally appointed lawyers.

"They came here two days ago when their houses had been totally destroyed. Like a disease, it is a very very serious case. It's a very difficult situation," said Pangaribuan.

He said the legal institute, which is well known as an ardent supporter of human rights, however, will try its best and is currently studying the legal aspects of the problem.

A number of squatters in the disputed area also confirmed that they have already conducted meetings to discuss the lawsuit.

"Indeed, we will discuss it thoroughly before filing the lawsuit," said one of the squatters who asked to remain anonymous.

Meanwhile, councilor Ronggo Sutrisno Tahir of the United Development Party (PPP) and councilor Romulus Sihombing of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), questioned the government's efforts to negotiate with the squatters over the compensation and demolition.

Sihombing said a rightful negotiation should be based on a transparent master plan rather than ad hoc decisions.

Ronggo suggested that the government brief squatters before constructing low-cost apartments.

Social activities

Security forces have repeatedly scuffled with stone-throwing squatters following the squatters' refusal to abandon the 1.5- hectare area on Jl. Penjernihan. A major fire razed the slum area on Sept. 9.

The government said 300 of the total 465 families living in the area had already received payment. The squatters, however, denied having received any payment, saying that those who received the money were tenants.

Dozens of housewives said yesterday that social groups and schools had helped the homeless children by donating school uniforms, shoes and even school fees.

The squatters, steadfastly refusing the leave their land, currently live along a railway track a few meters from their area.

They built shacks from plywood, zinc sheeting and plastic.

Maj. Y. Suwono of the Central Jakarta Police Precinct said that officers cannot do anything but obey commands from their superiors.

"Look at my men, they are very friendly towards the squatters," Suwono said, pointing at dozens of cops chatting with squatters who were forlornly watching demolition workers destroy their houses.

The decision to demolish Bendungan Hilir fire site drew criticism from the National Commission on Human Rights which visited the site on Wednesday.

According to Governor Surjadi Soedirdja, low-cost apartments will be built for the squatters in the ex-slum area.

Surjadi said the administration had provided Rp 400,000 (US$190) for each family to rent temporary housing pending the completion of the apartments. (09