Thu, 18 Sep 2003

Violence marks forced eviction in Cengkareng

Bambang Nurbianto and Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

At least 25 people were injured in violent clashes on Wednesday between police and public order officers and residents of Kampung Baru, Cengkareng Timur subdistrict, West Jakarta.

The violence occurred when residents resisted attempts by the officers to evict them for their houses, which stand on land belonging to state-owned housing company Perum Perumnas.

Some 3,000 police and public order officers were deployed to protect the workers sent in to bulldoze the houses.

The residents threw stones at officers, who picked up the stones and hurled them back at the residents.

Police officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd, and used water canons to break up the protest.

Some 23 residents and two officers who were injured during the violence were treated at the nearby Cengkareng Hospital.

The head of the City Public Order Agency, Soebagyo, defended the actions of his officers, saying they were defending themselves from the residents.

Soebagyo said his agency was merely enforcing the law by evicting the residents, who were illegally occupying the land.

Didin Sutadi, the head of Perum Perumnas, said the problem began in 1998 when the West Jakarta mayoralty allowed unemployed people to farm on the neglected 55-hectare plot of land belonging to Perum Perumnas. These farmers, Didin said, eventually built houses and sold the land to other residents.

However, Ahmad, a resident of Kampung Baru, told The Jakarta Post they had a legal right to the land, and had asked the mayoralty and the City Council to delay the eviction.

He said residents bought the land from three heirs of the original owner of the land, M. Yasin, beginning in 1998. The residents received copies of the land titles, which were supposedly certified by the National Land Agency in 2002.

"We need more time to obtain the original documents so we can show the mayoralty and the management of state-run development company Perum Perumnas Bumi Cengkareng Indah that the land is ours," Ahmad, a street vendor, said.

He said all of the residents had valid Jakarta IDs and the area itself had been integrated into the Cengkareng Timur subdistrict.

The clash on Wednesday follows a similar incident when security officers evicted some 10,000 residents of Jembatan Besi, Tambora, West Jakarta, from a plot of land owned by PT Cakra Wira Bumi Mandala.

Commenting on the evictions, Jakarta Residents Forum chairman Azas Tigor Nainggolan slammed the police and the administration for causing suffering to thousands of people, including women and children.

Tigor demanded the National Commission on Human Rights investigate the evictions, which he said violated international conventions on economic, social and cultural rights.

Governor Sutiyoso said his administration would continue to evict people living illegally on land that was not theirs as part of the effort to maintain security and public order.

The governor said these squatters were not Jakarta residents, therefore they should be given two choices: return to their hometowns or join the transmigration program.

He said the central government should be responsible for resolving this problem.

"This problem is actually the affair of the central government because they are not Jakarta residents. They are not my people," he said.