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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        18  April 2011

New Indo land may end land disputes

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Government officials and investors hope the upcoming land acquisition law will provide a strong legal standing to help them acquire private land for infrastructure projects.

Some landowners reject the idea of giving up their land for public interests, though, as they see it as more than an investment.

Mustofa, a warteg owner who lives in Manggarai, is in danger of being evicted as the government plans to build a railway from Manggarai to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. He used his house to set up his business, which brings in up to Rp 15 million (US$1,700) per month, and said on Friday that he refuses to leave.

“For me, this house and this land are more than just an asset. They are my livelihood, and I will pass them on to my children. I am not going to sell it just because the government is trying to build a railway over my land,” he said.

The 33-kilometer, $700 million project is part of the government’s push to upgrade Indonesia’s infrastructure. It has earmarked about $200 billion for upgrades.

Another Manggarai resident, Yoyok, said he did not mind giving up his land but wanted to be paid fairly for his trouble.

“I am thinking of moving outside of Jakarta because it’s too crowded here. The price for my land should be a fair deal, though. If the government offers me a low bid, I would rather sell it to someone else who may be unwilling to give up this land,” he said.

Yoyok also said he used a land broker to find the highest bidder. “The guy gets 5 percent from whatever the highest bid would be. The government should make the highest bid if they really want it so bad,” he said on Friday.

Attempts to clear land for public works have turned violent in the past. A clash between residents and 1,750 public order agency (Satpol PP) officers over a planned access road to Tanjung Priok port last May left three officers dead. The government also had to reroute the Cikampek-Palimanan toll road as much as 400 meters because an Islamic school stood in its proposed path.

For the government, land acquisition is a nagging issue that has hampered development and discouraged potential investors.

Hatta Rajasa, the coordinating minister for the economy, said last week that the law would be passed this year.

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