Mon, 10 Oct 1994

Feisal denies forced was used in fire site demolition

JAKARTA (JP): The Armed Forces Commander, Gen. Feisal Tandjung, said on Saturday that there was no forcible demolition done in Bendungan Hilir, Central Jakarta.

"The authorities did not use force in the demolition in the area razed by fire recently", Feisal told newsmen before a cabinet coordination meeting at the Bina Graha Presidential Office started.

Feisal said that the authorities had followed the proper procedures before resorting to the demolition.

The demolition on Friday at 4:30 a.m. was carried out by hundreds of workers and members of the civil defense corps, backed by military and police officers.

City Police Chief Maj. Gen. Mochamad Hindarto said on Saturday that one area resident was formally put under arrest by the police after intensive questioning.

Newly-installed Central Jakarta Police Chief Lt. Col. Murawi Effendi, said the suspect, identified as Anton, was detained when he tried to attack police officers with a large knife.

Antara news agency quoted a police officer as saying that police had to use teargas to disperse the residents, who scuffled with the police and military officers on Tuesday when they tried to demolish the houses.

The city administration has repeatedly warned the area residents not to rebuild their homes in the 1.5-hectare area, which was ravaged by fire on Sept. 9, on the grounds that it will be used for the development of low-cost apartments for them.

The city administration has agreed to give Rp 400,000 (US$190), over and above the compensation payments for their property, to each of the families to help them rent housing pending the completion of the apartments.

The squatters, however, opposed the government plan to build apartments and refused the amount offered in compensation for their homes, asking instead that it be increased from Rp 235,000 to Rp 1 million per square meter.

The residents say they would prefer to use the compensation money to buy other houses in Jakarta suburbs or to move to the provinces.

Besides the strong protests of the Bendungan Hilir residents, the chairman of the Institute for the Defense of Human Rights H.J.C. Princen has also raised strong objections over the demolition.

Princen condemned the forcible demolition, saying that the officials had ignored the governor's instructions to postpone the demolition.


Meanwhile, City Councilors have voiced concern over the decision of the city administration to use force in the demolition at Bendungan Hilir.

"I support the city's plan to build a low-cost apartment for them but I disagree with the way the authorities demolished the houses at 4:30 a.m.," councilor Mohammad Banang of the United Development Party faction said on Saturday.

Councilor Edi Sukiswantari Probo of the ruling Golkar faction said that the authorities should have not used teargas in the demolition process, while councilor Abdoelhamid Notowidagdo of the Indonesian Democratic Party faction, said the authorities overacted.

And Councilor H. Sumekar Kartawijaya of the Armed Forces faction said that the city should use persuasive tactics rather than force in dealing with the residents.

"The city officials should be able to convince them that the plan to build low-cost apartments is for their own good," Sumekar said.

However, none of the councilors blamed Governor Surjadi Soedirdja for the incident.

Sumekar said that the conflict must have been caused by Governor Surjadi Soedirdja's subordinates who misunderstood their leader's orders.

"I was his subordinate in the Jakarta Military Command and I am sure that the demolition's timing was not his idea," Sumekar said.

Sumekar said that residents facing demolition of their homes for the construction of better housing should keep their emotions in check and try to understand that the scarcity of land space in Jakarta has forced the city to expand vertically.

"They have to learn that the concept of vertical housing is a must for Jakarta," he said.

Councilor Edi said that PT Kuningan Persada, a private property firm owned by tycoon Sudwikatmono, has allocated more than Rp 10 billion to finance the construction of low-cost apartments at the site. (mas/bsr)