Infamous Indonesia nightspot razed for green space plan

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Hundreds of evicted residents watch as 50-year-old neon-lit alleyways of bars and shacks bulldozed in Jakarta to comply with government demands for more green space

By Ainur Rohmah

TUBAN, Indonesia – Hundreds of residents of an infamous night-time entertainment area in the Indonesian capital stood watching Monday – some in tears – as the decades-old district was razed by bulldozers.

Around five families in Kalijodo in the Penjaringan sub district on the border of North and West Jakarta continue to refuse to be relocated, with demolition of the 3.5-hectare area housing about 3,000 people expected to last until the evening.

Wati – a resident who like many Indonesians uses only one name – said that all she could do was remain in the house she had occupied for 32 years.

“I was born here [Kalijodo]. It is impossible for me to leave home,” Tribunnews quoted her saying.

“I want to stay here. I do not want to move anywhere,” she stressed.

North Jakarta Mayor Rustam Effendi told Anadolu Agency that some residents had resisted eviction notices, as they claim to have been paying business taxes and are demanding compensation.

“There are [a few]; it is usual [that they ask for compensation],” Effendi said Sunday, claiming that just four people did not want to vacate their houses.

Since the plan to clear the area was first revealed, activists have heavily criticized Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s decision to bulldoze the neon-lit alleyways of beer bars and shacks to make way for parkland.

Purnama aims to comply with the 2007 Spatial Planning Law, which requires provinces to allocate 30 percent of area under their jurisdiction to “green space”.

Kalijodo is a legendary night-time entertainment area, which is nearly half a century old.

Opened in the 1960s, it became the place in the capital to operate bars, cafes, and illicit businesses – an area employing around 3,000 people where practically anything could be bought.

According to the Jakarta Post last week, data from local authorities showed that of the area’s 3,052 residents, 1,405 were employed in jobs related to the area’s nightlife, including 450 prostitutes, 100 security guards and parking wardens and 300 support workers, such as cleaners.

The remainder – around 1,600 residents – called the place home, but were employed elsewhere.

Pardi, a resident who rented out boarding houses, said Monday that he would resist the evictions – during which a joint police and army force around 6,000 strong was also present – by setting up a tent in the flattened area.

“I’m still here. If we need to create a tent tonight, we are ready,” he said, also expressing hope that the governor would negotiate with residents.

Commissioner Muhammad Iqbal, Jakarta police spokesperson said Monday’s eviction went smoothly without significant resistance from residents, only a few of whom remained in their homes.

Detik.com quoted him as saying that police had deployed negotiating teams, who told residents they had two options: “first… do not engage in violence and simply resort to legal measures. Secondly, if they do resort to violence, then we will take firm action.”

The government has been negotiating with residents of Kalijodo, located on state-owned land, since earlier this month, promising assistance in finding them new residence and employment.

Some of those evicted, however, have staged demonstrations and reported the Jakarta government to the National Commission on Human Rights.

On Sunday, Governor Purnama told Metro TV that Kalijodo citizens who did not have Jakarta ID cards would be returned to their hometowns, while those who were natives of the capital would be accommodated in flats and helped to find a new place for business.

He added that 300 families had already been rehoused.

Earlier this week, hundreds of police raided the area, finding weapons, liquor, and arresting a man suspected of trafficking and siphoning off electricity to illuminate his places of business.

Abdul Aziz, also known as Daeng Azis or Big Boss, is alleged to have controlled the various activities at the complex, from the supply of liquor to gambling, and racketeering.

Since the raids, authorities have kept a tight vigil on an area that was previously guarded by dozens of thugs.

A lawyer for those being evicted, Razman Arif Nasution, had called on security forces to go easy on those refusing to leave.

“There are 66 families who will remain and they do not want to move from Kalijodo,” he told Anadolu Agency Sunday, “Will Ahok [the governor] really let them set up tents [to remain in the area]?”

“Green space” currently makes up just 9.8 percent of Jakarta’s total area, far from the government’s target of 30 percent, and is deemed necessary as the city has been crippled by annual flooding for years.

“We’ve got an image [of the green space] and we will build an integrated child-friendly public space that is larger [than in other areas],” Kompas.com quoted Purnama saying Monday.

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