[Another] Urban Riot
On Wednesday, Marie Pangestu, the Minister of Trade campaigned “invest now or miss the boat” to foreign investors at Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club. She highly praised Indonesian financial miracle at 4.5% economic growth last year. The government was striving to implement reforms that would improve the performance of business activities in which government logistic blueprints for the development of roads, ports, and transportation facilities took place.
On the same day, a helter-skelter riot broke exactly in front of Koja Container Port.
The newly appointed Pelindo II Director, RJ Lino, is one instrument of that blue prints. Speaking calmly a day after that at the press conference regarding the Priok riot, he clearly stated that he is new to this business and has no intention to evict the religious site of Mbah Priok. He even described furthermore the intention of Pelindo II to construct an underground tunnel which connect the port with the main road, creating an international class cultural tourism site.
In light of this matter, the most difficult part of this case lies in the nature of eviction. North Jakarta, as the locus of the largest slum settlement of Indonesia, has been proven to be the theater of power which include the triad of community, private company, and local government. Take an example of massive eviction of paralegal under toll road community in 2007. Under the disposition of the elevated toll road operator, the Public Work Ministry deployed eviction plan which scattered around 2100 families into two options: relocation or remuneration. Arguably, there have been no successful evictions without the intervention of police or public order officers, often involving abusive approach. At least two or three notification letters have to be sent to the community as a reminder prior to the eviction. When the eviction occurred, the community guarded their home with full force, hoping that re-negotiation would be available soon to them.
Riot in eviction is the tip of urban iceberg, a culmination of chronicle problems of Jakarta city. While the urbanites reside in so-called safe and sound malls, slum dwellers crawl under extreme poverty. A survey in one Kelurahan of North Jakarta revealed that the slum dwellers lived around IDR 400.000 debt in average per month. Therefore, the eviction should not distracts and obscures the attention of government from tackling real issues at the field. Water scarcity, for example, has forced the urban poor in North Jakarta coastal area to spend 17% of their minuscule income to acquire water supply-at 50 times higher price and lower quality-compared to affluent residents.
What is the best practice to prevent chaotic eviction? The most feasible response to answer this question is participatory methodology in which different stakeholders discuss the issue at the same level of understanding. The result of the discussion might not only resulting in eviction as an inevitable single option towards law and order enforcement. The participatory method calls for a binding agreement that should give equal benefit to each party. Technical innovation, in this case refurbishment of Priok site, should be communicated step-by-step between Pelindo II and the community, and local government as mediator, so that it would reach a fair MoU. Accordingly, the same method is applicable as well to resolve poverty as one root of the problem.
One of the triggers that lured eviction into an urban warfare is (mis)communication. On one hand, I praise the initiative of North Jakarta government in swiftly dealing with the Priok eviction after the riot has been broken. On the other hand, I believe that with participatory communication, before the incident happened, it is possible to prevent the man-made disaster in form of brutal eviction.
Update 8/18/2011 This post reminds me of London Riot which was happening for the last weeks. In this post, I mentioned about the importance of poverty reduction as the basic reason of such urban riots. Although slum settlements are not visible in London, the urban poor who constitute the volatile population--particularly the youth--remains to be a ticking time bomb.