Squatters stage bra protest
Brouhaha: Tanah Merah squatters hung hundreds of bras on the gates of the Home Ministry on Tuesday, protesting the ministry’s denial to register them as legal citizens. The city administration has frequently rejected the residents’ requests for electronic identity cards. JP/Wendra AjistyatamaSquatters living in Tanah Merah, North Jakarta, hung bras outside the Home Ministry on Tuesday, demanding that Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi resolve their conflict with the Jakarta administration over residency permits.
The demonstrators, who placed a host of brassieres on the gate outside the ministry on Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat, said Gamawan failed to enforce his own policy requiring local administrations to issue identity cards to all eligible residents.
Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo previously declined to issue identity cards to the Tanah Merah residents, claiming that they were illegally occupying a vacant lot owned by state oil and gas company Pertamina.
“As the minister, Gamawan is senior to the governor. He should take action against the governor for declining to implement the order,” protest coordinator Aris said.
The Home Ministry issued a decree in June on public access to residential ID cards.
The residents of Tanah Merah have staged several rallies at City Hall and the ministry, demanding that they receive the same treatment as did other city residents.
The squatters have lived in Tanah Merah, a buffer zone for the Plumpang fuel depot set up by Pertamina, for around 20 years.
Pertamina has kept the buffer zone in place, even after a fire broke out in January 2009 at a storage tank containing 2,500 kiloliters of premium gasoline — the equivalent 500 tanker trucks.
The Plumpang depot supplies fuel to Greater Jakarta. Pertamina cleared the land for the buffer zone in 1992, which squatters occupied in 1998 and developed into a densely populated neighborhood.
According to the Central Statistics Agency, more than 7,400 households and 27,000 people live on the 83-hectare plot.
The residents’ lack of legal status has prevented them for applying for birth certificates, family registration cards and ID cards — documents essential to access even the most basic public services.
The residents said that the city government should first recognize their existence by setting up a local neighborhood unit (RT) and community unit (RW), and later by issuing ID cards and birth certificates.
To apply for ID cards and other documents, residents first need a reference from the leader of a community unit, which in Jakarta can only be created by the city’s five municipal governments.
Jakarta officials said that most of the Tanah Merah residents had already acquired ID cards from the East or West Jakarta administrations. Some even had identification issued by nearby Tangerang.
“It is not true that they could not apply for ID cards because of the absence of community units,” North Jakarta Mayor Bambang Sugiyono said.
The protesters said they would return to stage additional protests at the ministry should Gamawan fail to intervene with the Jakarta administration.