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Rempang residents continue to resist national strategic project

Jakarta Post - November 2, 2023

Novan, Jakarta – Rempang Island residents in Riau Islands continue to voice their resistance to the creation of the Rempang Eco-City national strategic project (PSN) on the island, according to the National Solidarity Advocacy Team for Rempang.

The advocacy team also criticized claims made by the government that 70 percent of Rempang residents were willing to relocate elsewhere.

Ahmad Fauzi, a representative of the advocacy team, questioned claims made by Investment Minister Bahlil Lahdalia, who frequently cited that approximately 70 percent of Rempang residents were willing to relocate.

Ahmad said the ministry should publish the data and its sources if its claims were legitimate.

"Minister Bahlil has always said that 70 percent of the residents have agreed to relocate. If that is true, then show us the data," said Ahmad on Tuesday in Batam, Riau Islands.

Rebutting 'false data'

Ahmad claimed that Bahlil had repeatedly deceived the public about the situation, as exemplified by the minister's visit to the island on Oct. 6.

"What happened? Residents of Pasir Panjang protested, [Minister Bahlil] was forced to leave by the residents because he presented false data," he said.

Ahmad added that less than 30 of the 139 households in Pasir Panjang village had agreed to relocate, contrary to the minister's claim.

"Up until now, the residents, [including] another 23 villages in Rempang and Galang [Islands] have collectively rejected relocations," Ahmad noted.

The Pekanbaru Legal Aid Institute (LBH), part of the National Solidarity Advocacy Team for Rempang, said most residents who had agreed to relocate from the island were civil servants, staff of Batam Development Authority (BP Batam) and related professionals.

"However, land-owning residents there have refused to be relocated," said Ahmad.

Return to 'normalcy'

Ahmad said Rempang residents continued to suffer intimidation despite claims that the island has assumed a conducive state.

"Residents are worried because the police accompanying land surveyors brandished machetes, and this has happened many times. However, because the residents have become more aware, they immediately block the surveyors," said Ahmad.

Director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Riau chapter, Boy Even Sembiring, said the situation on the island had returned to normalcy, but he demanded the government cancel the Rempang Eco-City PSN.

"If the government says it wants to normalize the economy [of Rempang residents], this is the moment, [which should come with the decision] to cancel the [Eco-City] project," said Boy.

BP Batam claimed on Tuesday that approximately 67 families on Rempang Island had been relocated to temporary residences. This was followed by the relocation of two families from Pasir Merah village on Monday.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/indonesia/2023/11/02/rempang-residents-continue-to-resist-national-strategic-project.htm