Jakarta – Traditional Melayu (Malay) communities gathered at the Muhammad Musa Soccer Field at the Sembulang village in Galang sub-district, Batam City, in the Riau Islands on Wednesday October 11.
Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) Chairperson Muhammad Isnur said that they gathered to commemorate the riots that occurred at the Batam Free Trade Zone Authority (BP Batam) offices on September 11. Isnur himself attended the event.
The riot at the BP Batam offices occurred when residents were protesting against being relocated to make way for the Rempang Eco City national strategic project (PSN) and the police responded repressively.
"They have been gathering since this morning, at around 8 am. The residents have been arriving in droves using motorbikes, trucks and other four-wheeled vehicles", said Isnur in a written release.
Isnur said that that the friendly gathering, which was opened with a salawat (prayers to invoke God's blessing), was to commemorate the Melayu communities' struggle to support Rempang Island residents.
He said that the hot weather failed to deter the residents who still want to remain on their land, which has been passed down by their ancestors for hundreds of years. Isnur added that they stayed until the event finished at around 10.30 am.
During the commemoration, the residents took turns in dancing and giving speeches declaring their opposition to being evicted and relocated.
The following is some of the poetry read out by the Rempang Island Melayu community at the action:
Hang Tuah the brave admiral
Lived in the age of Malacca
We will not give up this land
Because this is the land of our heritage
We garden oranges on this forest land
There are many Kueni trees
The place where our Temuni are planted
Here we live and die
We want to go to the well
It appears the eagles are flying
What are high building for
When the memories are lost
Isnur said that the YLBHI will continue to support the struggle by the Rempang and Galang island residents, and that their struggle to defend their land is a struggle enshrined in the Indonesian Constitution.
Therefore they are asking residents to remain solid and be vigilant of things that can be used to create disunity in their struggle.
"We from the YLBHI will support the Rempang Island community's struggle. From Aceh to Kalimantan, Makassar to Papua, we will support the Rempang residents' struggle", said Isnur.
Isnur also took the opportunity to emphasis that the solidarity action by the residents can be said to refute claims by Investment Minister Bahlil Lahadalia, who is also head of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), who stated that 70 percent of the residents agree with being relocated.
"During this meeting, residents in fact rejected this and declared their position of continuing to defend their villages", he said.
Representative from the villages who were present at the event also gave short speeches in which they invited people to continue to fight to defend their land which has been inherited from their ancestors.
They also remind each other to maintain unity and solidarity, to fight together to defend their living space.
"We here own the land, we didn't steal the rights of others. But this is the land that was fought for by our parents before us. We will defend it", said one of the residents.
Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) national campaign division head, Puspa Dewi, said that the spirit of the struggle to oppose the eviction plan shown by the Rempang Island community was still very strong and continues to blaze.
According to Dewi, this noble desire will be welcomed by Walhi by participating in the struggle with the Melayu community on Rempang Island.
Earlier, Bahlil Lahadalia said that as many as 400 families on Rempang had agreed to relocate in order to make way for the Eco City project.
"Those that have already (agreed), around 400 families have voluntarily registered to be moved, and out of this 400, 27 families are already in temporary transit housing and the remainder are in process", said Lahadalia after being received by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo at the Presidential Palace complex in Central Jakarta on Tuesday October 10.
"I went village to village, I went to the Panjang Market, to Tanjung Banon, then I saw the location where they will be relocated, I visited them all, so I visited both those who agree and those who don't", he said.
According to Lahadalia, after he visited them many residents finally agreed to be relocated, although some are still determined not to be leave.
The government, said Lahadalia, will continue to establish communication with all Rempang residents in order achieve a mutually beneficial result.
Lahadalia said that the government is currently building permanent dwellings for Rempang Island residents who will be impacted upon by the Eco City project. This, he said, will be guaranteed through a presidential regulation (Perpres). The permanent dwellings, said Lahadalia, will be finished in early 2024. (yla/kid)
[Translated by James Balowski. Some of the poetry was written in Malay dialect and may not have been correctly translated. The original title of the article was "Sebulan Konflik Rempang, Warga Berkumpul Tegaskan Tolak Relokasi".]