Sat, 27 Dec 2003

Evictions to carry over into 2004

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

More than 2,500 families will be evicted from their houses along Jl. Tanah Merah, Rawa Badak subdistrict, North Jakarta, and Pinang Ranti subdistrict, East Jakarta, in January.

Taheri Noor, deputy chairman of the monitoring sub-commission at the National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said on Wednesday that prior to the eviction, Komnas HAM and related institutions had had meetings to discuss ways to prevent any gross violations of human rights in the process of the evictions.

"We will have more meetings on Dec. 29 to discuss the eviction plans in both areas," he said.

The land on Jl. Tanah Merah is owned by state oil company PT Pertamina. During the economic crisis that hit the country in mid 1997, Pertamina allowed people in the neighborhood to grow vegetables on the land. With time, the farmland gradually changed into squatter housing.

"We have to discuss the eviction process very carefully because the area, occupied by the squatters, is within Pertamina's Plumpang fuel depot," Taheri said. "Security is of paramount concerns here."

Around 2,400 families will have to leave the land.

Taheri said that Pertamina wanted to clear the land to secure the fuel supply in the capital.

Jakarta receives fuel from Balongan refinery, West Java, through container ships berthed in a special harbor in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta. The fuel is later kept in the Plumpang fuel depot. Any conflict occurring near the depot could cause a halt in the fuel supply throughout the city.

Komnas HAM has invited officials from Pertamina, the Office of the Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs, the Office of the Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare, the National Land Agency (BPN) and the Ministry of Settlement and Regional Infrastructure to attend the Dec. 29 meeting.

The land in Pinang Ranti is said to be owned by the Jakarta Military District Command. A total of 111 families currently occupy the land.

"There is a plan to build a hospital on the land to replace a hospital in Kramat area which has to move," Taheri said.

Komnas HAM has invited the squatters' lawyers, officials from the Jakarta Military District Command and the BPN to a meeting to discuss the eviction.

"Komnas HAM will be mediating in the meeting to help the negotiation between the various parties," he said.

Komnas HAM had held three meetings before on the eviction plan.

The meetings were the result of last month's meeting between Komnas HAM and Governor Sutiyoso to discuss the concept of "more humane evictions".

The city administration has been slammed for its intensive evictions this year, which have left more than 5,000 families homeless.