Sunday, September 10, 2006

Evictions in Jakarta: Avoiding the Poverty Problem

“The Regional Government for the district of Jakarta holds the mandate to create a capital city which is orderly, safe, comfortable, clean, and beautiful, so that Jakarta is representative of a capital city. However, the regional government faces the obstacle of unhindered urbanization and it is mostly the people with social welfare problems who obstruct the [public order laws]. Because of that, the regional government has chosen the means of law enforcement.” ~Governor Sutiyoso

Under the rule of Governor Sutiyoso, the city of Jakarta, Indonesia has been performing brutal evictions of many individuals living in the slums. The governor has waged a campaign against this informal sector of the city since 1999, whose inhabitants include mainly street vendors, sex workers, homeless children, pedicab drivers and beggars. This campaign of eviction is the governor’s solution to “overcrowding”, a problem which began with an increase of economic migrants to Jakarta during Indonesia’s 1997 economic crisis. The governor is also fixated on the “beautification” of the city, something he thinks that he will achieve by demolishing slums. Some of the government’s tactics included house-to-house raids, demanding evidence of jobs and official residence, raids which often end in imprisonment or hefty fines. Government orders are enforced by a group of military police called “public order officials” who, despite their lack of training, are permitted to carry firearms, batons, electric shock devices, and gas pistols.

Interviews with victims describe gruesome accounts involving aggressive actions taking by government officials, and also local gangs that have been linked to the government. A typical eviction is a frightening experience, as described by Eva Sugiharto in a Human Rights Watch document. Government officials have been known to show up at homes in impoverished communities to notify residents of their eviction, only to begin to demolish said residences immediately after the announcement, leaving no time for residents to take their belongings and move out. Homes are bulldozed and set on fire before residents can get their bearings, let alone their belongings. Residents are left with no compensation, due process, or anywhere to go. Many victims describe being beaten and mistreated during the eviction process.

Governor Sutiyoso needs to concentrate less on beautification and more on the flaws in the system that have caused the questionably legal communities to pop up in Jakarta. Destroying homes, mistreating residents and replacing slums with shopping malls still leaves Jakarta with a homeless problem. Bulldozing the slums and leaving residents without homes or compensation is not only a violation of human rights, it perpetuates Jakarta’s poverty situation. Instead of funding an insufficiently trained Public Order Official unit, Sutiyoso should use the money to create a compensation program, or even a job-training program so that impoverished economic migrants can help boost Jakarta’s economy through the means of labor, or other sources of employment. Furthermore, Sutiyoso and the government of Jakarta need to condemn and take action against all gang involvement in the eviction process, which is only furthering the extent to which human rights are being violated. Violence and bulldozers are not going to solve this problem, and the brutal mechanisms used by the government of Jakarta will yield no positive results. The only way Sutiyoso is going to achieve the “beautification” he wants is by examining and fixing his system, which is lacking in respect to protecting its destitute citizens.


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