Indonesia: Slum dwellers protest against eviction order

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[See "The Peoples Democratic Party and Indonesia's poor majority" for background to this story.]

By Peter Boyle, photos by Ulfa Ilyas

March 19, 2010 -- Hundreds residents of the urban slum village of Kampung Guji Baru in West Jakarta besieged office of Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo from early in the morning on March 18 to reject the planned their eviction of their settlement. The residents demanded that the governor immediately stop the eviction plans which would rob the poor residents of their rights of occupancy and ownership.

The leader of the demonstration, Iswadi Gomblo (a Guji Baru resident and urban poor rights activist), said that according to laws passed in 1960 people who have occupied wild land for 20 consecutive years without legal counterclaims by other parties have the right to be issued with letters of land ownership. The residents of Guji Baru have been on what was a former swamp for more than 30 years, without legal challenge.

As the surrounding land was developed into offices, shopping malls and a university campus Kampung Guji Baru was targeted for seizure by the land mafia, Iswadi explained.

First, they tried to drive out the residents through intimidation and by setting fire to the houses of about 1000 people in the settlement. Last year, the land mafia resorted to the notoriously corrupt judicial system to get their way using forged documents and false testimonies.

"We will fight until death to defend this land. There are 3000 people who live in our kampung, and all of us are ready to die to defend our village", one villager said at the protest.

By noon on March 18, hundreds of members if the Poor Peoples Union of Indonesia (Serikat Rakyat Miskin, SRMI) had come to show their solidarity and support for Guji Baru people's struggle. Solidarity messages were also delivered from student activists from the National Student League for Democracy (LMND), through national chairperson, Hilman Afriandi.

The protest also highlighted recent killings of poor "children of the street" by police carrying out sweeps to disperse poor street hawkers in Jakarta. They carried mock bloodstain bodies to symbolise these killings.

Pictures and story based on reports by Ulfa Ilyas in Berdikari Online at