Evi Mariani and Nana Rukmana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Cirebon
The cool breeze on Thursday afternoon could not cool the anger of hundreds of evicted fishermen along the banks of Muara Angke river in North Jakarta, when a bulldozer demolished the last remaining building in the area, a musholla (a muslim prayer room).
It was a similar scene when city public order officers demolished their stilt houses on Oct. 2.
On Thursday, about 800 officers not only demolished the prayer room, but also destroyed and burned down the fishermen's makeshift tents.
""Please, don't demolish the musholla. It's where our children sleep when the rain pours down,"" begged a number of fishermen to the officers.
The arrival of the head of the North Jakarta Public Order Agency, Tonni Boediono, prompted the officers to quickly mow down the fishermen's final outposts.
""I don't care if it's a musholla. If it's a sin or not a sin, let God decide,"" Tonni grumbled as the fishermen immediately took refuge in their boats.
The fishermen then sailed to the middle of the river to avoid the officers. Women and children cried onboard the boats as they watched in horror as their local musholla was unceremoniously destroyed.
Many of these same fishermen had been evicted from their family's stilt homes from a riverbank in Ancol, North Jakarta, around 30 years ago. They then moved to Muara Baru but were evicted in 1977 and started to settle down in Muara Angke before the public order officers sent them packing on Thursday.
Tonni claimed that the eviction was an important move to help Jakarta ease its flooding problems.
""We did it for all Jakartans. This small number of people won't stop us from doing this. Besides, they are outlaws,"" he said, referring to their lack of legal land title.
Tonni ignored pleas from the fishermen to postpone the eviction until they get proper housing in Indramayu regency, West Java, as promised by the Ministry of Resettlement and Infrastructure earlier. The housing is scheduled to be completed in March.
In Cirebon, Indramayu Regent Irianto M.S. Syafiuddin said that his administration had allocated a four-hectare plot of land at Song Beach to house around 220 fishermen families evicted from Jakarta.
The regency and West Java administrations and the central government have also allocated Rp 30 billion (US$3.5 million) to build the low-cost houses.
The Jakarta administration had turned down the ministry's proposal to join hands in providing low-cost housing for the poor, saying that the high price of land in the capital would be better for commercial purposes.
The regency also plans to build a port for fishing ships and a site for auctions for the fishermen.
Irianto called on the Jakarta administration to postpone the eviction of the small-scale fishermen until the houses were ready.
The evicted fishermen can no longer sail because the boats now serve as their shelters while the rainy season is coming.
""We started fishing after the Idul Fitri holiday and we could earn money,"" said Cemplon, the spokesman of the Traditional Fishermen Union (SNT). ""Now, the boats are our only shelter from the storms and therefore we must stop fishing again.