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New capital for all

Jakarta Post Editorial - March 26, 2024

Jakarta – The planned new capital Nusantara has been touted as an inclusive, environmentally friendly and humane city, but the recent news about the planned eviction of members of an indigenous community in the area could shatter this image.

Earlier in March, the Nusantara Capital City (IKN) Authority gave a one-week deadline for at least 200 people living in the neighborhood of Pemaluan to vacate their land, claiming that they had secured no permit to settle in the area and that their homes had to be demolished as they violated the new capital's spatial planning rules.

The irony of the situation is that the planned evictions are taking place as the government takes aggressive steps to offer lucrative land deals to major national and foreign investors.

It was President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo himself who ordered the IKN Authority to allow for the sale of land, especially to investors planning to build landed houses in the area.

This begs the question, why can't the President make the project equally profitable for the poor, indigenous people of Nusantara?

At least 20,000 members of indigenous communities live in and around the site of Nusantara and their livelihoods depend on natural resources available in the forested areas in the region.

These people are de-facto land owners because they have lived there for generations, although they don't have legal documents to prove it. The IKN Authority must respect the rights of these indigenous people, simply because they are Indonesian citizens like the rest of us and they have the same constitutional right to receive the same treatment as their fellow citizens in Java, Sumatra or Papua.

It is saddening to see the police shave the heads of nine protesters who refused to give up their land to the IKN Authority. Despite the community lacking documents regarding their land ownership, the government should respect the indigenous rights of these people.

We are now reminded about what happened to the people of Rempang Island in Riau Islands province, who were forced to leave their homes because a major Chinese company was to occupy their land as the site of a mega project.

The new capital project is important and strategic but it should be implemented in a humane way. The authority needs to take a persuasive approach and ensure evicted residents get proper new housing in the area, allowing them to live close to their land.

After all, the IKN authority had completed 190 projects with a total value of Rp 1,515 billion (US$95.8 billion) until December last year, without significant complaints from the public.

From past experiences, we know that the administration of President Jokowi has managed to complete massive infrastructure project by properly compensating citizens whose land and property were affected by the projects. These people have been given ganti untung (compensation for profit), instead of ganti rugi (compensation for loss).

The massive toll road networks connecting cities in Java and Sumatra are now in place because people were willing to give up their land to the government because of lucrative compensation.

People in the area close to Nusantara should get the same treatment. This project after all is the pride and joy of the President himself.

In fact, the outgoing President had a big plan to accomplish Nusantara for this year.

Jokowi, who is expected to wrap up his second and final term in October, but he has planned to hold a celebration for Indonesia's Independence Day this Aug. 17.

We certainly do not want a situation where as the spotlight falls on Nusantara on Aug. 17, the world instead is focused on injustice befalling members of indigenous people in the area.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2024/03/26/new-capital-for-all.htm