The Jakarta Post
From inside her closed house, Wagirah, 40, was reciting prayers in a last-ditch effort to defend her house and land against the development of a new airport in Yogyakarta.
But dozens of police, military and provincial public order personnel did not hear her prayers. Some of them came forward, forced open her door and dragged Wagirah and her son, Yuli, out.
Wearing pink praying attire, she fought off police officers who tried to carry her away from her house. They dropped her to the ground but she fought to stand up, trying to bite the hands that were trying to restrain her.
“I don’t want you demolish my house. You are an oppressor of small people,” she screamed repeatedly on Thursday.
That day, Wagirah’s house in Temon, Kulon Progo regency, was demolished to pave the way for a new, bigger airport for the province, called New Yogyakarta International Airport (NYIA), to replace the overcrowded Adisutjipto International Airport in Sleman regency. The demolition continued until Saturday, when all 10 houses were flattened to the ground.
Wagirah and her neighbors, all of them women, continued to defy the personnel. They threw dust and challenged the officers to a one-on-one fight.
The fight, however, came to a bitter end for the residents. Two excavators quickly destroyed her house.
At the same time, two women, Wagirah’s neighbors, tried to protect their belongings, which were going to be taken away by state-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I.
Also wearing praying attire, they sat on their furniture while reciting prayers. They sometimes interrupted their prayers to express their anger to the people who wanted to take their land.
“Don’t you think about our children? They will come home from school to find they no longer have a house,” a woman yelled.
Ika Rochyanti, a resident, said she was punched in the nose by a policewoman while she was trying to defend her house. She showed a spot of blood on her white praying dress. “They took my Quran and I was dragged out of the house,” she said.
PT Angkasa Pura I, with the support of 700 civilian and military personnel, destroy residents' houses on Thursday in Temon, Kulonprogo regency, to make way for a new airport. Some residents do not want to move because they say the area is good for farming, which for them has been a steady source of income. (JP /Bambang Muryanto)
The defiant 86 families
Wagirah, Ika and the other women are part of 86 families who still refused to sell their land for the airport’s development. From Thursday to Saturday, AP I officials and 700 joint personnel finally demolished the rest of houses except for the village mosque.
Their fight to defend the land that was not just their home but also a source of income from agriculture had continued for years since 2012. The fight escalated last year when the company finished the legal process to buy the land. Some residents accepted the purchase, while others, like Wagirah, refused and claimed the legal process validating the land purchase did not have their consent as land owners.
The 86 families were united under the Association of Residents Rejecting Kulon Progo Forced Eviction. In 2012, there were thousands of members defying the acquisition. But many of them left the fight after they got a price they agreed with.
In April, the 86 families were the only ones left fighting AP I when the company cut the electricity supply and damaged their farmland.
They remained in the village and replanted their fields. “Because planting is fighting,” farmer Tuginah said in April.
The residents refused to agree to the prices offered by AP I because they had earned considerable income planting vegetables and fruits there. They believed they would not be able to find a suitable replacement for their fertile coastal soil.
“For the residents here, after harvesting their chilies, vegetables and fruits, they can easily buy a motorcycle [if they want],” resident Widi Sumarto said, describing the wealth the land had brought them.
The residents have taken several legal avenues to refuse the acquisition. They tried to find help from the Indonesian Ombudsman, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan).
But until now, they could not stop the land acquisition.
The land acquisition followed a procedure stipulated in Law No. 12/2012 on land procurement for public facilities. The law allows the government to procure land and pay compensation via the local court, called a konsiyasi mechanism.
The residents’ lawyer, Teguh Purnomo, argued that the mechanism applied to the Temon residents was not valid.
“There has never been any agreement between the government and the residents under the association to comply with the konsiyasi mechanism. The residents still rightfully own the houses and the land,” he claimed.
Local Islamic figure Ustadz Sofyan, one of the leaders of an association of local residents rejecting eviction in Kulon Progo, delivers a speech to call for state utility firm PLN Yogyakarta to reinstall electricity networks to their houses. (JP/Bambang Muryanto)
However, the leader of the NYIA project, Sujiastono, begged to differ. He said the demolition and the land acquisition were done in compliance with the law.
“It has been decided firmly [by the court] that this land is not for housing anymore but for NYIA development,” he said.
He said the procedure was also done in line with human rights principles. AP I provided free transportation and helped pay the rent of 20 houses for the families under the association.
Mosque as last bastion
Losing her house and her field did not stop Wagirah from fighting.
She and dozens of others remained in their village and refused relocation.
“We’re going to stay here and help each other,” said Sofyan.
He said Al-Hidayah Mosque, a permanent building that is still standing in the demolished village, would be the residents’ “last bastion”.
Sofyan said they would keep fighting because they felt they had the rights to the land. “Our house and land are not for sale,” he said. (evi)