Governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo met with representatives of residents of Pluit Dam in Muara Baru, North Jakarta, over lunch on Tuesday at City Hall, and listened to their grievances regarding their evictions, which are due to the city administration's water catchment restoration project.
'I met with the neighborhood and community leaders to listen to their aspirations. I think I still have to listen to them even though I have met with various groups of residents more than 20 times now,' Jokowi told reporters after the meeting, adding that 'being down to earth is important, although we won't be able to accommodate all interests'.
Jokowi'popular for his soft approach when dealing with people'managed to relocate street vendors without clashes in his hometown of Surakarta while he was the mayor.
During the Tuesday meeting, Jokowi managed to cool the tension, assuring the residents that the city administration had enforced evictions on all residents regardless of their financial background.
'Yesterday [Monday] I supervised the demolition of a futsal facility and the residents accepted that because they finally understood [the evictions] were enforced on everybody,' he said.
In the meeting, the representatives also demanded that the governor reduce the number of public order officers ( Satpol PP ) and police officers deployed to the area.
'[The deployment] of many Satpol PP and police officers created tension in the area,' one of the representatives said.
Jokowi promised that he would withdraw the security officers when possible.
The governor emphasized once again that the city administration would continue its efforts to clear the 20-hectare site'part of the 80-hectare Pluit Dam, which has suffered from sedimentation'and is currently occupied by thousands of people.
'They are willing to be relocated and managed so long as we provide solutions. They want me to explain our plan for the area, including the green space design and so on,' he said. 'The public works agency will explain it to them.'
Jokowi promised that the city administration will build 680 new affordable apartments for Muara Baru residents.
'We are working day and night to implement this plan,' Jokowi pointed out.
The construction of new affordable apartments has been started in Marunda, Muara Baru, Luar Batang in North Jakarta; Daan Mogot in West Jakarta and Cakung in East Jakarta.
The governor said that more heavy equipment would be added to dredge the dam.
'We have set aside Rp 20 billion [US$2.04 million] this year to dredge the Pluit Dam,' Jokowi said.
The city recorded that at least 6,000 houses built from cement and plywood had stood there for years, with some built over the water. The squatters totaled around 12,000.
To date, more than 400 families have been relocated from the site to low-cost apartments in Marunda, Muara Angke and Muara Baru in North Jakarta, where they pay rent ranging from Rp 150,000 to Rp 250,000 per month. But the apartments cannot accommodate all of them as most units are still under repair and lack utilities.
Many of the squatters who rejected being relocated filed complaints with the National Commission on Human Rights ( Komnas HAM ) over an alleged use of 'armed personnel' to remove them. Jokowi met with Komnas HAM commissioners last week and agreed to work together with them on the matter.
According to Deputy Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama, up to 80 percent of Pluit Dam dwellers were tenants.
The city administration has stated that it would not provide compensation to squatters and would continue work on the projects that prompted the evictions ' normalizing the Pluit Dam and building a waste management installation ' as scheduled.