Residents lose court battle
over Jatigede dam project


The Jakarta Post, Bandung

The Bandung District Court on Wednesday ruled against hundreds of families seeking additional compensation for land lost more than 20 years ago to the construction of Jatigede Dam.

About 500 residents attended the court session to hear the verdict in a case that began in September 2006.

The court's verdict was greeted by silence and tears from residents.

A total of 1,055 families in two villages affected by the project sued the central government, the West Java provincial administration and the Sumedang regency administration.

The residents of Cisurat village in Wado district and Jatibungur village in Darmaraja district, both in Sumedang, were demanding an additional Rp 397.34 billion in compensation from the government.

They claimed the compensation they received in 1985-1986 for their land was below market value, but that they were pressured by the authorities into accepting the money.

At the time, each resident received Rp 462 (less than 10 US cents) per square meter of affected land and Rp 600 per square meter of affected rice field.

Presiding judge Yance Bombing said the court had doubts over residents' claims of abuse and threats by military soldiers, pointing out the alleged abuse took place in March 1987, or after the compensation had been accepted and paid.

""The abuse took place a year after the compensation (was paid) so the panel of judges is in doubt over the truth (of the allegation the residents were pressured into accepting the compensation),"" the judge said.

Layer Ali Nurdin, who represented the residents, said he would appeal the decision.

""Several considerations made by the panel of judge were irrelevant, and they failed to take into account the process used to determine the amount of compensation, which was done by the government without involving the residents.

""The judges did not see the abuse as an integral part of the case, even though it was conducted against residents who were demanding fair compensation,"" he said.

He said the court had failed to deliver justice, and he and the residents would continue their campaign for justice.

Mamat Rahmat, 70, a resident of Cisurat village, criticized the verdict.

He said he was hit and kicked by soldiers, and that he and 14 other villagers were called in and told to accept the government's compensation offer.

""I don't know if justice exists here, but we're only trying, that's it,"" he said.

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