The Jakarta Post
If only Jakarta Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama had been eager to listen to a proposal on the kampung susun (elevated village) development in Kampung Pulo, violence would not have marred the relocation of residents of the East Jakarta area on Thursday and he could have emerged as the next Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, his popular former boss.
There are a number of reasons behind Jokowi's rise from small town Surakarta to the cover of TIME magazine: most prominently his success in resettling almost 1,000 secondhand goods sellers from Banjarsari Park to a remote area that later became a bustling flea market. The relocation was peaceful, thanks to Jokowi's 'dining room diplomacy', in which the then Surakarta mayor agreed to all 14 points proposed by the traders.
If only Ahok had the patience, he could have built a brand new image as a pro-poor leader on top of his publicly known clean track record.
The kampung susun is a multistory settlement near the banks of the Ciliwung River, which is also designed to accommodate informal economic activities of Kampung Pulo residents. Different to Ahok's rusunawa (low-cost apartments) template, Kampung Susun involves participation of several renowned architects who work as volunteers at Ciliwung Merdeka, an advocacy organization led by urban poor activist Sandyawan Sumardi. The Ciliwung riverbank residents also received support from lawyers, community organizers, several prominent researchers and urban planners in their bid to develop their housing.
In November 2012, then Jakarta governor Jokowi agreed to waive spatial planning regulations to pave the way for the kampung susun project. The result would be an area that was 'roomy enough to build a road to allow fire trucks to pass 4 meters from the riverbank, plus a 2-meter settlement demarcation that can be used as green space'.
Only last month, Ahok expressed his support for the proposal, prompting the residents to hold marathon meetings among themselves to draft the relocation agreement.
Ahok said the elevated village would be built near the river and residents who held valid land and building ownership documents would be entitled to a unit that could be inherited by their offspring and sold back only to the city administration. The kampung susun replicates Yogyakarta's Code riverbank settlement project by the late Catholic priest-architect YB Mangunwijaya and the Stren Kali (Jogokali) project in Surabaya, in which the administration allowed the community to live on the riverbank as long as they maintained the cleanliness of the river.
In the Kampung Pulo case, however, Ahok suddenly changed his mind, considering the participatory resettlement project time-consuming and costly. His turnaround pushed the negotiation between the city administration and the local residents back to square one. Worse, now the residents view Ahok as their enemy in the flood mitigation project as evident in the clash that marked Thursday's eviction.
It's never too late to reinstate the kampung susun, a model of river normalization that supports poverty eradication in Jakarta and beyond. It only needs patience and perseverance.
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