Thousands Protest in Front of BP Batam Office over Rempang Island Project
TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Thousands of indigenous Malay people from the Riau Islands held a demonstration in front of the office of the Free Trade Zone and Free Port Authority or BP Batam on Monday, September 11, 2023.
The crowd has been gathering since morning. They are not only Malay residents of Batam but also from other regions, voicing objection to the eviction of Rempang Galand Island, calling on the National Police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) to dismantle the post set up in the area and stop intimidating the residents, and demanding President Jokowi cancel the eviction plan.
The masses also urged the President to dismiss Muhammad Rudi from his position as Head of BP Batam. “And we ask for the release of the detained residents of Rempang Galang,” an orator from the Malay Marwah Defenders said.
The protesters also asked Muhammad Rudi to agree to these demands. “We are not negotiating. Please meet us, we don't want to go inside,” he added.
The demonstration was staged in the aftermath of the government’s plan to clear the land that will be developed into Rempang Eco-City. A clash broke out between the security forces and the residents who blocked the access road to their land.
At the end of August, the government included the Rempang Eco-City development project in the list of national strategic projects. The island will be developed into an industrial area, a tourism area, and a residential area by the developer PT Makmur Elok Graha, which is a subsidiary of PT Artha Graha owned by tycoon Tommy Winata.
The indigenous people oppose the relocation because they have lived there since 1934. Nevertheless, the government is pushing ahead with the project.
Last Thursday, the joint officers of the Police, TNI, the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP), and the Batam security unit forced their way into the village, leading to a clash in which tear gas was fired. Residents, students, and toddlers were injured by the tear gas. At least eight residents were also arrested.
YOGI EKA SAHPUTRA
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