Governor Anies Baswedan’s administration still carries out forced evictions: Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation

Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan speaks during an interview at his home in Jakarta, Indonesia February 21, 2017.  REUTERS/Fatima El-Kareem
Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan speaks during an interview at his home in Jakarta, Indonesia February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Fatima El-Kareem

One of the main criticisms against former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama by human rights activists was his forced evictions of slum dwellers — who illegally lived on government-owned land, mostly near the capital’s rivers — which his administration argued was necessary to clear river banks and prevent flooding during rainy season. During the gubernatorial campaign, Ahok’s eventual successor Governor Anies Baswedan promised to put an end to forced evictions in place of more “humane” solutions to zoning disorder.

But the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta) says that Anies hasn’t been keeping to his promise. In a press conference yesterday, LBH said they found that Anies’ administration carried out 12 evictions in 2017 and 79 more in 2018, many of which were forced.

“In 2017, 80 percent settlement evictions were carried after a one-sided [decision by the administration]. While in 2018, January to September, 81 percent of evictions were carried out by [the administration], without prior discussions or solutions for the citizens who were affected,” LBH Jakarta Public Advocate Charlie Al Bajili told reporters at the conference, as quoted by Detik.

Nelson Nikodemus Simamora, head of the Metropolitan and Urban Citizenry department in LBH Jakarta, added that the Jakarta administration was not the only party to carry out forced evictions during the period — others being the military, police, and corporations — but it failed to uphold its promise and protect citizens nonetheless.

“There was the political promise that there would be no more evictions. So [the administration] must ensure that they don’t evict people and ensure that nobody else evicts its citizens,” he said.

Anies has not responded to LBH Jakarta’s findings, but his political backers the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) used semantics to defend the governor, arguing that his administration has been “organizing” the city and not evicting residents.

During Ahok’s governance, LBH Jakarta estimated that 8,000 families were forced out of the capital’s slums in 2015, but they were relocated to government-built low-cost apartments. However, several construction projects for low-cost apartments has been cancelled this year under Anies’ administration due to financial and administrative constraints.

Meanwhile, an official from the Public Works Ministry recently warned that 129, or almost half, of Jakarta’s 269 subdistricts are at risk of flooding when the rainy season comes in November as the city administration has not carried out “normalization” projects on the capital’s rivers (which involves cleaning waterways and clearing them of any blockage to ensure normal water flow), which were regularly undertaken by Ahok’s administration.

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