Fri, 12 May 2000

KTM may send dispute to RI, Korean Presidents

JAKARTA (JP): While claiming to be a legitimate owner of a portion of a disputed plot in Cikampek, a foreign partner of "national car" producer PT Timor Putra Nasional (TPN) hinted on Thursday the possibility of taking the matter to government-to- government arbitration.

"We may file reports with both the Indonesian President and the South Korean President if the Karawang District Court continues with its plan to seize our land in Cikampek," Anton Dedi Hermanto, a lawyer representing PT Kia Timor Motor (KTM), a joint-venture car assembly plant, told a media conference at TPN's main office on Jl. Medan Merdeka Timur in Central Jakarta.

"We're now discussing the possibility of going through a government-to-government dispute resolution," he said.

He said the government-to-government approach was needed to ensure that his client's investment in Indonesia remained intact.

"Our client has invested a huge amount of money here. We just want to make sure that his investment is safe and protected by the Indonesian government," the lawyer said.

Anton claimed that his client, KTM president Chul Koo Lee, had three legitimate land ownership certificates (HGB) to a 73- hectare plot in Cikampek, some 90 kilometers east of here. "The certificates were issued by the Karawang office of the National Land Agency."

He said he was opposed to the planned seizure of his client's land on Wednesday as the court had failed to provide evidence that the 73-hectare plot was affected by the court order.

"Our client's land was not included in the 237.5-hectare plot to be seized by the Karawang District Court.

"I asked the court's secretary (Nana Sudjana) to show which part of our client's land would be seized. He was unable to answer," he said.

"Moreover, there was a May 4, 2000 ruling by the West Java High Court which endorsed our client's request that the seizure be suspended until the ongoing trial of our suit at the Karawang District Court ends," he said, while pointing out that the ongoing trial was discussing a 1998 Supreme Court ruling on the disputed land's ownership.

A team of Karawang District Court employees and Budi Prakoso, the owner of agribusiness company PT Saprotan, which was declared the rightful owner of the 237.5-hectare plot in the 1998 Supreme Court ruling, arrived at KTM's plot on Wednesday morning to seize the land.

The 237.5-hectare plot, the ownership of which is also being disputed by other parties, reportedly includes the 73-hectare plot owned by KTM.

The court employees, however, were prevented from their job by "supporters" of TPN who drove them off the land and threw stones at a truck carrying signboards proclaiming the legal status of the land ownership.

"They (Karawang District Court officials) can seize other parts of the 237.5 plot, but not our 73-hectare plot," Anton said.

A lawyer representing TPN, Masiga Bugis, similarly challenged the Karawang court's authority to seize the land.

"PT Timor Putra Nasional also has two legitimate certificates of land ownership, which annul the Karawang court's claim that our client is not the rightful owner of the land," Masiga, who spoke at the same media conference as Anton, said.

"The court also cannot seize our client's land as it is now under the supervision of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA)," he added.

Masiga dismissed the allegations that the TPN supporters who drove the court officials off the land were hired hoodlums.

"They were TPN employees who acted spontaneously against the Karawang court officials' plan to seize our client's plot," he said.

TPN, which is owned by former president Soeharto's youngest son Hutomo Mandala Putra, was appointed to develop a national car in 1996. It enjoyed special privileges to run the project, including tax breaks.

The project, however, was halted in 1998 as the country was at the height of economic crisis and amid pressure form the World Trade Organization. (imn)