Thu, 28 Aug 2003

Evicted residents seek new homes

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Leaning on the door of a cupboard placed in the shade beneath a tree, Haryati, 37, sits on a low stool and holds her 12-day-old son, Riko. Her oldest son, Riki, 4, sleeps beside the cupboard.

"Since last night, we have lived out here in the open. I'm looking for a place to rent. I was offered a four-square-meter room but I couldn't afford the rent. I'll look again tomorrow," she told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Haryati, her husband Rajin, 38, a street vendor, and their five children were among the 10,000 people evicted on Tuesday from their makeshift houses in Jembatan Besi, Tambora, West Jakarta.

After moving to Jakarta from Klaten, Central Java, last year, the family joined other street vendors who rented makeshift houses in Jembatan Besi for Rp 80,000 (US$9.30) a month, much less than the average charge of Rp 150,000 to rent a room.

Most of the vendors are now living in a soccer field near their old houses. Others are staying in a field outside a small nearby mosque and in a shelter for workers from the City Public Works Agency.

West Jakarta Public Order Agency officials, backed by police officers and soldiers, bulldozed on Wednesday morning at least 1,720 makeshift houses that had been built on 5.5 hectares of land owned by PT Cakra Wira Bumi Mandala.

Several brick houses were left standing, said agency official A. Suhaimi Gaos, who supervised the operation. The mosque built by residents was also left untouched.

Later on Wednesday, residents dug through the rubble of their homes to salvage what they could, including wood and the tin roofs of their destroyed houses.

The company began to clear the land in preparation for a commercial development in 1997, but abandoned the project after the financial crisis struck. By the middle of 1998, hundreds of families had illegally occupied the land.

One of the evicted residents, Edi Junaedi, said the company had offered to pay for the moving costs of the families to vacate the land. Occupants of semipermanent buildings were offered Rp 500,000, while owners of permanent buildings were offered Rp 1 million.

"We had our last meeting with the company early this year. We know we had no legal right to the land, but at least we should have been given a deadline to vacate the land. Without any money and no place to go, we hope the company give us the money it promised us earlier," Edi told the Post, adding that most of the evictees had Jakarta ID cards.

Suhaimi said the Public Order Agency would not provide shelters for the evicted residents.

"We don't know where they went after yesterday," he told the Post, adding that the administration would only provide medical assistance and food for the evictees.

The eviction on Wednesday morning turned violent when about 2,000 laborers, allegedly hired by the land owner, tried to tear down the houses.