Thu, 13 Oct 1994

Military chief, rights commission visit Benhil area

JAKARTA (JP): The Jakarta Military Commander Maj. Gen. A.M. Hendropriyono and members of the National Commission on Human Rights visited the fire site at Bendungan Hilir area, Central Jakarta, yesterday, following a dispute over compensation and demolition.

Hendropriyono met with the 165 families, who still refuse to accept compensation, and took them to see existing low-cost apartments all around Jakarta in an effort to convince them to move.

"So they are willing to live in that kind of housing," he told reporters, after a meeting with other government officials in an office next door to the fire site.

Three rights commission members, M. Soegiri, Clementino dos Reis Amaral and Asmara Nababan, also attended the meeting.

"We will compare their statements of facts with the government's. Also we are very concerned about the violence. We heard reports that violence occurred here," Amaral said, adding that the squatters are welcome to report to the commission.

The homeless squatters watched yesterday as demolition workers continued to destroy all the buildings in the area except the mosque.

Dozens of police and army officers, in riot gear, guarded the 1.5-hectare disputed area, which was swept by fire on Sept. 9, and asked residents to stay away from the site.

"Please, go home," a sergeant with a loudspeaker said repeatedly, while the homeless squatters booed and asked him where their houses were.

The squatters currently live along a railway track a few meters from the fire site, building temporary shacks made of plywood, zinc sheeting and plastic.


Earlier reports said the officers clashed with squatters on Tuesday when they moved onto the site to demolish the remaining houses and shacks, leaving more than 20 people from both sides injured and one bulldozer burned.

Hendropriyono said squatters who had already accepted the rent money allocated for them will be taken to court if they continue to demand that the mayoralty pay them.

Ujang Suryana, the de facto leader of the squatters, told The Jakarta Post yesterday evening there are 298 families who have accepted the rent money.

He said 109 received Rp 400,000 each, while 189 received Rp 150,000 each. "But they are not permanent residents, they are here without Jakarta ID-cards. They just rent rooms."

Mora Tua Simamora, the Central Jakarta deputy mayor, earlier denied the report, saying he had conducted the payment himself.

Simamora said yesterday that the government had handled the situation and will start the construction of the apartments next month, after putting up fences around the site and clearing away the rubble.

The residents were told to leave their houses to make way for the construction of the apartments. The mayoralty has offered Rp 400,000 ($190) to each family to help them rent houses pending the completion of their apartments.

"We give the owner of the house Rp 400,000, while tenants will receive Rp 150,000," said Simamora.

The squatters and the city administration have yet to settle a dispute over the compensation rate for the squatters' houses. The government is only offering Rp 235,000 ($107) per square meter, while the squatters, who had occupied the site for over 35 years, are demanding Rp 1 million.

Simamora explained that the compensation rate was set at Rp 235,000 per square meter based on three factors: the price of the land, the value of taxable property and the cost of the land that had been bought around the area.

Yesterday, the squatters put up dozens of posters in front of their houses which say: "Goodbye my birthplace." (yns/09)