Thu, 11 May 2000

Court cancels land seizure over technicality

JAKARTA (JP): Karawang District Court canceled on Wednesday its plan to seize a 237.5 hectare plot of land currently occupied by national car producer PT Timor Putra Nasional (TPN) in Cikampek, some 90 kilometers east of here, over a legal technicality.

A team of court employees and Budi Prakoso, the owner of agribusiness company PT Saprotan, which is the lawful owner of the land as ruled in a December 1998 ruling of the Supreme Court, returned home empty handed having been driven off the land by hundreds of PT Timor supporters.

The company is owned by Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, the youngest son of former president Soeharto.

The supporters, some dressed in white and others armed with sticks, also threw stones at a truck displaying billboards proclaiming the legal status of the land ownership.

A court official said the Karawang District Court would, however, seize the land in the future.

"The seizure of the land will be held some time in the future," secretary of Karawang District Court Nana Sudjana said.

Meanwhile, Budi Prakoso regretted the supporters' actions, which prevented court officials seizing the land even though they had the legal authority to do so as stipulated in the Supreme Court ruling.

"The seizure of the land is a final and binding ruling of the Supreme Court. How could it (TPN) ignore it?" Budi told reporters.

Budi, however, said he had yet to think of taking further action as he was still willing to settle the problem in a reasonable manner.

"I've not decided on my next move after today's failure to seize the land," he said, citing he had approached PT Timor a couple of times over the planned execution, but the company had not responded.

Earlier, Budi tried to persuade the TPN supporters to leave the land.

"The Supreme Court ruling says this is our (PT Saprotan's) land.

"After all, we will give you jobs if all of you leave this place," he told the supporters.

They rejected the offer, saying: "We do not accept a single cent from you."

The seizure, however, was opposed by TPN's lawyers -- Masiga Bugis and Anton -- who said the disputed land was now under the government's supervision.

"This land now belongs to the government and is under the supervision of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA)," Masiga said.

PT Timor will hold a media conference explaining Wednesday's incident at its main office on Jl. Medan Merdeka Timur No. 17, Central Jakarta, on Thursday.

The Soeharto administration appointed PT Timor in 1996 to develop a national car and provided special privileges to run the project, including tax breaks.

But the car project was halted when the country was at the height of the economic crisis in 1998 amid pressure from the World Trade Organization (WTO).

PT Timor owed several state banks some Rp 3 trillion (US$380 million) in debts, which have since been taken over by IBRA. Timor is also controlled by the agency.

Separately, Budi Prakoso's older brother Setiawan Djodi told The Jakarta Post that someday he would establish a car plant on the land, if PT Timor voluntarily vacated it.

"We are now in negotiations with a giant U.S. car manufacturer to set up a car plant on the land, along with two other plants in China," Djodi said, but declined to mention which U.S. car firm.

"As soon as the land is free, we can start the construction of the car plant and begin production next year."

"In the meantime, we may start the construction of two plants in China," he added, while stressing that the car plant would be export-oriented.(imn)