The Batam city administration in Riau Islands has urged the Home Ministry to immediately determine the management rights of Rempang, Galang and other surrounding islands.
The current power vacuum in the management of the islands, which is contested by the Batam Industrial Development Authority (BIDA) and the administration over the past decade, has seen residents arbitrarily dominate plots of land.
Batam Mayor Ahmad Dahlan, told The Jakarta Post recently that both the BIDA and the municipality had no right to allocate land on the islands to anyone, including investors.
The conflict will not be resolved until the central government decides whether the BIDA or the Batam municipality has the authority to manage them.
“All investment projects are pending. The status of Rempang and Galang remains unchanged. The islands are still technically controlled by the central government,” said Dahlan.
He said that many investors had expressed interest in building resorts and hotels and other businesses in Rempang and Galang.
However, since the BIDA and the administration are not currently allowed to manage the islands, foreign and domestic investors have shelved their plans, he added.
“The infrastructure being built on Rempang and Galang, such as roads and bridges, is left to no use,” Dahlan said.
“So, it’s up to the central government to decide what it should do with the islands.”
Rempang, covering an area of 16,583 hectares, is located 2.5 kilometers southeast of Batam, while the smaller Galang, is located 350 meters southeast of Rempang.
The islands can be reached overland from Batam as they are connected with a bridge and smooth asphalt road. Currently, land along the road is dominated by residents and different businesses, including mango and dragon fruit plantations and livestock.
A legal practitioner in Batam, Bambang Yulianto, said the government’s indecisive stance on the management of the islands could trigger bigger problems in the future.
“Whoever manages Rempang and Galang Islands serves as extended hand of the central government.
“So there is no need for the government to be confused about the decision,” Bambang said.
BIDA spokesman Dwi Djoko Wiwoho, said the dispute between the BIDA and Batam municipality over management of the islands followed the issuance of the 1999 Batam City Law, which stipulates that Rempang and Galang fall under the jurisdiction of the Batam municipality.
However, based on a 1992 presidential decree on the extension of the Batam industrial area, Rempang and Galang islands are included in the BIDA working area.
The BIDA was also appointed as the body authorized to allocate land and licenses.
“Neither of the islands comes under the authority of the BIDA or the Batam administration,” Djoko said.
“Every business activity carried out on both islands is illegal.
“We [BIDA] urge the central government to resolve the issue for the benefit of the people.”
The islands can be reached overland from Batam as they are connected with a bridge and smooth asphalt road.