Sat, 03 Apr 2004

Medan land conflict continues

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Disturbances involving hundreds of residents continued in Medan, North Sumatra, on Friday, with four trailer trucks belonging to a housing developer being set on fire.

No casualties were reported in the incident, which occurred just three days ahead of the national legislative elections on Monday.

The truck drivers escaped uninjured as they fled when the enraged crowd launched the attack at the upmarket Citra Garden housing complex on Jl. Jamin Ginting, Antara reported.

The gas tanks of the four burning trucks exploded, panicking people living near the University of North Sumatra.

The unrest eased after dozens of police reinforcements arrived in the Jl. Jamin Ginting area and managed to disperse the crowd.

But the angry residents stayed in the vicinity until evening, causing a major traffic jam.

On Thursday, the residents set ablaze an office building and destroyed a truck, three tractors and road-paving equipment belonging to the developer.

The violence began after the developer bulldozed a resident's home on Thursday. The house was located on land formerly occupied by the Indonesian Military (TNI)'s 6th Cavalry Attack Battalion.

The owner of the house, Yatimin, said that a group of masked men had threatened him and his family the night before the bulldozing of their home, which is located adjacent to a wall surrounding the plush Citra Garden housing complex.

Yatimin reportedly refused to accept the Rp 30,000 (US$3.50) per meter for his land that had been offered by the developer.

The developer said that the disturbances had cost it billions of rupiah.

Medan Police chief Sr. Comr. Bagus Kurniawan visited the scene, saying his officers were questioning at least five witnesses over the incident.