Fri, 11 Feb 2000

Restoration team goes home empty handed

JAKARTA (JP): The legal controversy over the construction project on the site of the former Supreme Court building on Jl. Lapangan Banteng Timur in Central Jakarta remained uncertain as the city's team from the restoration council failed to meet the project owner on Thursday.

The team, led by chairman Wisnu Murti Ardjo, visited the site where a four-story building is being constructed, to question the validity of the demolition of the former Supreme Court building and the construction of the multi-story building.

The team had planned to meet directors of the Finance Ministry's Budget Directorate and the project developer PT Pembangunan Perumahan, but a company administration staffer, identified only as Adi, was the only representative there to give an explanation.

The team members, accompanied by activists of a non-government organization (NGO) concerned with city heritage, were left to open a discussion among themselves and inspect the area for nearly two hours before returning to their offices.

"It's not a big deal if they don't want to meet with us. The building is the most important thing, not the owner," Wisnu said.

He remained silent when asked whether the team would recommend legal action against the ministry, which has violated the 1992 Law No. 5 on the Heritage. The law carries a maximum 10 years imprisonment or Rp 100 million (US$14,285.7) penalty.

The team's deputy chairman Noersaijidi M. Koesoemo, however, negated the possibility, saying that they might propose an out-of-court settlement.

"I think we'll only oblige the owner to restore the old building's original shape and its demolished parts," he said.

The construction of the four-story building at the rear of the 172-year-old former Supreme Court building is controversial because not only has the new construction resulted in the demolition of the back part of the heritage building, but the construction also has been carried out without any building construction permit (IMB).

Grace Pamungkas, an activist of the NGO, voiced her disappointment over the team's fruitless visit.

"I didn't see the team members collecting historical data or photos of the building. How can they argue with the owner?" she asked.

Grace said she was pessimistic the team could do anything to save the city heritages from destruction. "I really doubt their concern."

Interviewed separately before the visit, ministry spokesman Wardi admitted that there were damages at the back of the old building, "The (the damages) were not done on purpose, we'll fix them later".

Wardi, however, declined to confirm the demolition act as breaching the law, saying that he did not precisely know the details.

On the absence of the IMB for the new construction, Wardi said it had been common practice here for construction of government buildings to continue despite the absence of an official building permit from the city administration.

The administration itself has declared the construction of the new building as illegal and has instructed the owner to halt the project. But the activity continued as of Thursday.

Adi dismissed the possibility of halting the construction activities, saying that the company would then bear a Rp 4 billion penalty if they did not meet the deadline of March 5.

"The construction is financed by the state budget with a tight schedule," he said, while informing that the project value was Rp 11 billion. (ind)