Thu, 20 Mar 2003

Dispute over Pluit apartments turns ugly

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Security forces, including members of the Army, intervened on behalf of property company PT Jakarta Propertindo in a dispute involving 480 families living in low-cost homes on Wednesday.

The ugly incident follows outrage over thuggery in Indonesia and revelations companies pay the Indonesian Military (TNI) protection money.

The mid- to low-income tenants from Pluit, North Jakarta were demonstrating against Jakarta Propertindo's decision to increase rent by 71 percent from Rp 270,000 (US$30) to Rp 470,000 per month.

The company, which manages the units on behalf of the city administration, has refused to hold negotiations with tenants.

Residents, who have refused to pay, gathered on Wednesday to prevent security guards, including members of the North Jakarta military command, city public order officers and civilian police assistants, from turning off power to eight units owned by the protest organizers.

They tenants failed and a man was nearly struck with a bayonet during the resistance. Only state-owned electricity company PLN can legally connect or disconnect power supplies.

Jakarta Propertindo has also refused to meet the tenants' lawyer from the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), saying the decision was final. They are also threatening to cut off water supplies.

"The flat is a social facility, not a commercial one. And, by law, it is owned by the city administration. So we want to know why PT Jakarta has to increase the fee," Renhard Parapat from PBHI told The Jakarta Post.

He said the tenants had immediately written to PLN to ask whether PT Jakarta had the authority to disconnect electricity, and he himself would ask the city council to mediate in the dispute.