Friday, July 19

East Kalimantan villagers fight military land grab


BALIKPAPAN, EAST KALIMANTAN: A land dispute in East Kalimantan saw hundreds of families gather outside the local government office in South Balikpapan on Tuesday to protest plans to turn their land over to the Air Force, Jakarta Globe reported.

About 500 households from Damai in South Balikpapan rallied in front of the Provincial Representatives Council (DPD) building to demand the city government issue them a permit to use the land, which they say they have lived on for 40 years.

“We’ve been living on the land since 1972. The land is owned by the state, so we are asking the city administration to issue the [permit],” said Suroso, a representative of the group.

Children and housewives took part in the demonstration, banging pots and pans together in a noisy display meant to bring attention to their cause.

The Air Force claims the land as an asset given to it under the Suharto regime despite not producing proof of ownership.

Suroso said the community had sought help from the city and the DPD since 2010. Three hearings have been held with regional legislators regarding the disputed land, but so far no solution has been reached.

The city, Suroso said, should not hesitate in its efforts to settle the dispute because the National Land Agency (BPN) had previously said the 30-hectare area belonged to the state, meaning anyone had the right to apply for a permit.

“What the people are up against is the military, which is playing the political game instead of focusing on the rule of law,” he said. “Land rights is the BPN’s domain and the BPN has said the land is owned by the state. Now, if it’s state land, anyone can apply for [a permit]and that includes the citizens, military or whoever. The decision lies in the hands of the city administration and the BPN to decide whom to give the [permit]to.”

Zulkifli, a Balikpapan city official, said the administration had tried to solve the conflict with the military, but it was difficult reaching an agreement. The case, he continued, had been referred to the Defense Ministry and Finance Ministry.

The two ministries “advised us to hold a mediation session to trace the origin of the land or to take legal action,” Zulkifli said.

Balikpapan provincial legislative council chairman Andi Burhanuddin Solong said he hoped the case would be settled by the end of the year.