Tue, 25 Jan 2000

Tea plantations wrecked by mobs

BOGOR (JP): Hundreds of hectares of tea plantations in Puncak Mas here have been destroyed by mobs, causing total losses of Rp 8.2 billion (US$1.14 million), an official alleged on Monday.

Hidayat Atmadibrata, chief of the Bogor plantation agency, said the mobs were hired by land brokers, who are abundant in the area.

"If the destruction continues, over 1,200 tea farmers will likely lose their jobs," he told reporters.

The 1,700-hectares of tea plantations are located in eight villages, namely Tugu Selatan, Kopo, Citeko, Cikupa, Sukamanah, Sukagalih, Sukaresti and Sukalaya. The villages are part of Bogor's Megamendung and Cisarua districts.

It is alleged the mobs have vandalized the plantations to evict the farmers and later occupy the land.

"The land is then sold by the brokers to interested parties," Hidayat said.

He said the brokers spread rumors that the rights to commercial operations on the land (HGU) have expired and that it is free to be occupied.

The brokers usually sell the land to property businesspeople and developers, who then develop the land into villas or other recreational spots, violating the area's green belt status.

Hidayat said the mobs worked at night, chopping down the tea bushes and replacing them with banana trees.

"It's such a sick act and we will take legal action over the case," Hidayat said, adding that the mobs were paid between Rp 200,000 to Rp 3 million for vandalizing the plantations.

"We will not hesitate to take firm action against those vigilantes, as they have seriously disturbed the people and ruined government property," Hidayat said. (21/edt)