Residents challenge mayor
over church permit

Residents of Jatisampurna subdistrict, Jatisampurna district, have filed a lawsuit against Bekasi Mayor Rahmat Effendi for issuing a building permit for the construction of the St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic church in the Kranggan area.

The lawsuit was read by presiding judge Edi Firmansyah in a court hearing at the Bandung State Administrative Court on Thursday.

The plaintiffs urged the judges to suspend the church’s construction as the permit was still being processed in court. They also urged the panel of judges to order the mayor to revoke the permit.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Achmad Ardiansyah from the Indonesian Muslim Legal Aid Institute, expressed hope the judges would grant the petition.

“There was a manipulation in the license-issuing procedure,” he said after the hearing.

The residents, added Ardiansyah, protested against the church project as the construction committee had never asked for permission and had not consulted with local residents. They also alleged the construction committee had misused the ID cards and signatures of residents.

They said the church construction committee had held a social activity distributing food and cash to residents in Jatisampurna, in which, residents were asked for their signatures and copies of their ID cards.

The complainants claimed their signatures had been misused as proof of their approval of the planned house of worship.

“The committee used the ID cards of the residents without having the right to do so,” said Ardiansyah.

The regulation on the construction of houses of worship in Indonesia is regulated by joint religious
and home ministerial decrees No. 8/2006 and No. 9/2006. In Article 14 (2), the regulations stipulate the construction of a house of worship should meet a special requirement of endorsement from the local community of at least 60 residents and is legalized by the subdistrict or village head.

Therefore, the plaintiffs alleged the mayor had not been prudent in issuing the building license for the church.

The Bekasi mayor’s lawyer, Sugiarto, said his client had gone through the entire procedure before issuing the permit and the church authorities had obtained the endorsement of 60 residents living around the church and of 90 church members.

“We have even conducted field verifications to ensure the residents’ approval. We called them one by one,” said Sugiarto.

Separately, church construction committee head Binar Sunu said the committee had gone through the proper procedures to obtain the building license.

“We complied with Mayoral Regulation No. 16/2006 on houses of worship construction. We’ve tried to obtain the building permit since 2009 and it was granted in 2012,” said Sunu. He added the church was located on a 4,958-square-meter plot of land.

The land, bought by the Jakarta Archdiocese, has been handed over to the Santo Servatius parish to prepare the church’s construction in Kranggan, which is located one hour from the Bekasi city center.

Currently, the number of church members is estimated at 450 families, or around 2,000 people.

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