National

Following protests, govt
moves to save historic
Majapahit capital

Local administrations in East Java are expected to revoke a building permit issued to a private firm that plans to build a steel mill in the vicinity of what was once the ancient capital of the Majapahit Kingdom, Trowulan, following weeks of protests from preservation societies and archeologists.

East Java Governor Soekarwo said that the local administration in Mojokerto would press ahead with its move to revoke the permit, despite a protest from the steel company, PT Manunggal Sentral Baja.

“They have the right to file a lawsuit, but the local government has to prioritize public interest,” Soekarwo said as quoted by tempo.co. “A final decision has already been made to cancel the permit,” he said.

Mojokerto Regent Mustofa Kemal Pasha also confirmed the intended cancellation of the building permit.

As reported previously, the Mojokerto administration issued a permit to PT Manunggal Sentral Baja to construct a steel plant in June, claiming that the provincial heritage conservation agency also supported the project.

Executive director of the Indonesian Heritage Preservation Agency (BPPI), Adrian Perkasa, said the East Java governor and Mojokerto regent should support the preservation agency’s campaign, because the area was undergoing an administrative process to be named a national heritage site.

“Even though Trowulan has not yet been listed as a heritage site, no construction permit near the historic location, which could harm the site, will be allowed until the process is finished,” Adrian said.

As previously reported, a national heritage expert team is currently applying to add Trowulan to the heritage list, a process that should be completed by the end of this year.

Adrian, who launched a petition on the online petition website, change.org, in August to save Trowulan, said that Soekarwo had promised that no new permit would be issued for the steel mill.

“The company has only secured the principal permit, and it needs several more permits, including an HO [disturbance permit] and an Amdal [government approval of the environmental impact assessment] before constructing the mill,” Adrian told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday. “The governor has promised not to issue another permit to the company [...] while our job is to ensure that the administration fulfills its promise,” he continued.

More than 10,300 people have signed the change.org petition to prevent the construction of the steel mill.

Media outlets reported that PT Manunggal Sentral Baja’s president director, Sundoro Sasongko, secured the permit to allow for the plant’s construction after receiving a recommendation from the local administration to launch construction on a 36.7-square-kilometer plot of land in Trowulan.

In 2012, the company bought the land from PT Pembangkit Ekonomi Desa, a grain mill and warehouse operator, which had owned the land since 1971.

Sundoro claimed he had no idea that the recommended site sat on what was once the Majapahit capital city.

He also claimed that the East Java heritage conservation agency had also issued a recommendation supporting the project.

East Java and the Mojokerto administration said they would determine a new location for the steel mill.

The administrations also plan to relocate other industrial firms, including local brick makers, which reportedly excavated the protected Trowulan site.

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