Mon, 12 May 2003

Ciracas street vendors play tag with fate

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

About 120 street vendors evicted from Jl. Raya Ciracas in East Jakarta earlier this month have reopened their stalls, defying the mayoralty's public order officers, who promised to relocate them.

Yasirah, in her 60s, said she got to Ciracas early in the morning and sold spices for about an hour before the public order officers showed at 6:30 a.m. to evict the vendors and seize their merchandise.

"I just bring a small amount of spices so I can pack fast when the officers come," she told The Jakarta Post on Saturday morning after packing up her goods. "I am not able to sell a lot because no one wants to buy spices from me at that early hour."

She said she had lost most of her customers and had made very little money over the last seven days. She displays her plastic baskets of spices in front of an electronics shop, the owner of which she said often berated her.

On May 2, dozens of public order officers raided the vendors along Jl. Ciracas, most of whom sell fruits, cigarettes and food along both sides of the street. The raid took place from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.

According to the vendors, the public order officers had told them last year that they would be allowed to operate along the street until a new location was made available for them. The vendors also said they had to pay the officers Rp 2,000 (about 23 US cents) per day to display their goods.

Yasirah and others sell their goods between Ciracas market, which is operated by city-owned PD Pasar Jaya, and a textile factory.

Dozens of large flowerpots have now been placed along the street to discourage the vendors from coming back.

"Half of the vendors have stopped selling goods because they were afraid. But I cannot stop. I have a family to feed ... my children are still in school. What we do now is play tag, the cat runs when the dog comes," Susi, a fruit vendor, told the Post.

Sarwoto, a vegetables vendor, said he was shutting down his business for the time being because he was losing money. "I wasted Rp 300,000 (about US$35) worth of vegetables a day the first three days (after the raid). I'd rather wait and see what solution the administration offers us."

According to the vendors, the Ciracas subdistrict administration said they could display their goods in a parking lot belong to PD Pasar Jaya. But it is far from the main road and not spacious enough to accommodate all of the vendors. The location is also right behind the Ciracas market and is used as a garbage dump, and the shop owners also park in the lot.

"Relocating us there is the same as killing us," Yesi, another fruit vendor, said.

The head of the Ciracas subdistrict, Tabrani, invited the vendors to attend a meeting on Wednesday to discuss their relocation. It was partly this invitation that moved the vendors to cancel a planned rally at the mayoralty office last Friday.

"Some of us were intimidated by a public order officer from the subdistrict office. He said any vendor who took part in the rally would not be given space in our new location," said Frans Junjungan, a vendor who works on the nearby Jl. Raya Bogor, adding that street vendors along that road believed they were the next targets for eviction.

"We have been promised a place at the Munjul market, but it has yet to be constructed. If the administration evicts us now, what would happen to us?

"Why don't they give us permission to run our businesses here without the fear of eviction, because we don't mind spending extra to build well-spaced kiosks that won't disturb traffic or the environment," Frans said.

He also questioned the city's decision to budget only Rp 850 million to add 200 kiosks to Munjul market, compared to the Rp 2 billion allocated for eviction in the city, the Rp 3.5 billion to build the Ciracas subdistrict office and the Rp 4 billion to renovate the fence around the East Jakarta mayoralty building.

Meanwhile, the head of East Jakarta's public order office, Muhamad Wasad, said the mayoralty had yet to find a new location for the street vendors, saying there was no room available.

"We have not heard what the street vendors want from us. According to the law, we have to maintain order in the city," he told the Post.

He was referring to Bylaw No. 11/1988 on public order, which human rights activists said should be revised because it puts people working in the informal sector at a disadvantage.