Mon, 08 Aug 1994

Supreme Court grants `stay of compensation' for government

JAKARTA (JP): The Supreme Court has granted a stay of implementation in its ruling compelling the government to pay hefty compensations to villagers who have been displaced by the huge Kedungombo reservoir in Central Java.

The letter approving the delay in the implementation reached the Central Java District Court on Saturday, only five hours after the 34 villagers' lawyers submitted their petition with the court asking that the Supreme Court order the government to pay up immediately, the Antara news agency reported.

Monang Siringo Ringo, chief of the district court, said his office would study the villagers' petition and pass it on to the Supreme Court, in spite of the granting of the stay of implementation.

The Supreme Court had earlier said that a stay of implementation could only be granted under exceptional circumstances. The Antara report did not state the grounds for the court's decision.

The villagers have given power of attorney to the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) in Jakarta and the Legal Aid Foundation office in Semarang, Central Java, to pursue the matter with the Supreme Court.

Their lawyers, including Haryono Tjitro Subono and Amartiwi Saleh, have filed the petition for an immediate ruling in a letter on Aug. 4.

They beat the Central Java provincial government which has announced its intention of petitioning for a review of the case in the litigation over the amount of compensation it should pay to the displaced villagers.

Controversial decision

The Supreme Court in a controversial decision reversed the rulings of two lower courts which supported the government and set the compensation rate at amounts higher than the government was willing to offer, and even higher than the villagers had sought.

The decision angered the government who is particularly concerned that the ruling could prompt some 60,000 other villagers, who were displaced by the Kedungombo dam but had accepted the compensation, to rethink their position.

The Supreme Court set the compensation at Rp 50,000 per square meter, compared to Rp 4,000 offered by the government and Rp 10,000 sought by the farmers. The Court also ordered the government to pay Rp 2 billion ($952,000) in "non-material" losses to the farmers.

The government has responded that it cannot immediately pay up because it has to account for every cent it pays out before the House of Representatives which scrutinizes its spending.

President Soeharto early this month urged Chief Justice Purwoto Gandasubrata to pass the fairest judgment possible on the case, taking into account the interest of the people.

The lawyers, in their petition for immediate implementation, said their clients on July 21 tried to meet with the Governor of Central Java to discuss "peacefully" the issue and asked that the government "voluntarily" pay up.

The request for a meeting had not been answered and in view of this, the lawyers urged the Supreme Court to compel the government to pay.

The Supreme Court ruling, dated on July 28, 1993, only became public last month, after LBH office in Semarang, which had represented the farmers, came across the copy. (emb)