Thu, 12 Feb 2004

Pluit apartment tenants prepare to oppose eviction

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Hundreds of tenants at city-owned, low-cost rental apartments in Pluit, North Jakarta, waited anxiously on Wednesday afternoon for their planned eviction by apartment operator PT Jakarta Propertindo.

They had gathered in front of their apartment buildings since morning, gearing up for the arrival of security guards and public order officers who might arrive at any time.

"We are ready to face them. We won't give up and shall fight all the way because we have a legal basis to do so," said Suhirman, the community chief.

He produced a letter from the City Council and the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) asking the operator to delay the eviction until it had discussed the rent hike with the tenants.

The tenants went to the council and Komnas HAM on Tuesday to seek legal protection following the operator's plan to evict them if they refused to pay the planned rent hike of 72 percent.

One of the tenants, Natal, said that he had evacuated his family members to a safer place because he was worried that his eight-month-old baby would come to harm while the eviction was being carried out.

"We have been unable to go to work for several days because of this. We have also been living under stress for a year due to the intimidation. I haven't been able to sleep well at night lately," he said.

At least 20 security guards and dozens of public order officers from the North Jakarta municipality patrolled the site, standing and gazing at the tenants without taking any action.

"No order has come from our superiors to take action yet. We are just keeping an eye on the tenants to prevent them from destroying the operator's property," said Tatang, one of the guards.

In the afternoon, the tenants started to march around the apartment buildings, demanding the operator turn the water supply back on. A few months ago, PT Jakarta Propertindo removed the city water company meters and pipes that connected 50 apartment units to the water supply.

"At least 50 families have been living without an adequate water supply for several months. They have to buy water at a cost of Rp 35,000 (US$4.17) per day, but that is only enough for drinking. Some of them have babies, which boosts the demand for water," said another tenant, Alay.

As there was no response to their demands, the residents reinstalled the water pipes by themselves in order to gain access to the water main.

Lawyer David Sitorus, from the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), said that the tenants did not object to the rent hike outright but demanded a discussion on it before a final decision was made.

The dispute started at the end of 2002 when the operator announced a 72 percent hike in rent at the apartment for 2003. Some 480 families refused to pay the increase. Since then, the company has frequently cut the tenants' water and electricity supplies.