'Cina Benteng' vows to
fight upcoming eviction

The Tangerang municipal administration stands firmly behind its plan to evict low-income households of the Chinese-Indonesian community, locally known as Cina Benteng, living in Mekarsari subdistrict, Neglasari.

Tangerang municipality administration spokesman Amal Herawan said the administration had sent letters to Cina Benteng residents living along the banks of the Cisadane River, notifying them that it would demolish their houses.

“The notification letters … referred to a circular letter that we received from the Public Works Ministry’s directorate for irrigation [and swamps],” he said.

According to Amal, 350 families occupying the river banks from Simpang Tujuh, to Karang Sari, and Karang Tengah villages in Neglasari have received the letters.

“The Cina Benteng residents have to move because sooner or later the administration will demolish all buildings they have illegally erected along the river banks,” he said.

The administration’s demographic data reveals there are about 1,000 squatters (350 families) living on 10 hectares of land stretching along the river banks in the subdistrict of Mekarasri. They are registered as Tangerang residents.

But Tangerang Mayor Wahidin Halim said there were only 108 Cina Benteng residents living in the area, while the rest were migrants from various regions.

Cina Benteng community members said that they would fight tooth and nail against the eviction plan.

“One thousand Cina Benteng community members are ready to fight should the administration insist on the eviction [plan],” community spokesman Edi Lim said Saturday, adding the eviction would also affect schools and a rehabilitation center in the area.

“We will never leave this homeland before the administration provides us with compensation. We are tired of dealing with eviction threats. We just want to live peacefully here because we have been on this land for decades,” he said.

Meanwhile, Yogi Simanulang, coordinator of the Cina Benteng Pelita Jiwa Rehabilitation Center in Mekarsari, said that the demolition of the center would affect dozens of mentally-ill people who were being treated at the center.

“We are already treating 24 people suffering from mental illnesses because of an eviction the administration carried out here last year,” he said, adding the center relied solely on donor funding.

The eviction was originally scheduled for April 13, 2010, but was suspended after a clash erupted between public order officers and locals.

The administration then set April 27, 2010 as the deadline for residents to leave the area voluntarily.

In anticipation of another possible eviction attempt, dozens of housewives held a naked sit-in rally on the road leading to Lebak Wangi in Mekarsari.

Tangerang Council members, after holding discussions with Cina Benteng community representatives, then told the administration to postpone the eviction plan until a win-win solution could be reached. (mtq)

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