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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Indonesia. Protests against the displacement of 7,500 residents of Rempang Island

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Seven and a half thousand residents of the Indonesian island of Rempang have until the end of the month to move out of their homes to free up land for the construction of a Chinese glass factory and “Eco City”, the Al-Jazeera television website reported on Thursday. Last week, there were clashes between protesting residents and the police.

Residents of the Indonesian island of Rempang have been protesting for weeks against forced relocation from the area where the Indonesian government plans to build a multi-billion-dollar Chinese glass factory, the main part of a planned “Eco City”. Rempang is one of the three main islands that make up Indonesia’s Riau province, home to at least 7,500 people, many of them descended from the indigenous Malay population. The island is rich in quartz sand, essential in the production of glass.

A controversial Chinese investment

The investment is being carried out in cooperation with the Chinese company Xinyi Glass – the world’s largest manufacturer of glass and solar panels. Jakarta obtained a declaration of investment of USD 11.5 billion from the Chinese side for the construction of a factory during the president’s visit Indonesia Joko Widodo v China in July. According to Indonesian government officials, the factory will create approx. 35,000 jobs. jobs. In turn, the “Eco City” investment has been classified by the government as a project of “strategic national importance”, which means that, in accordance with national regulations, its implementers are entitled to take over the land. The authorities gave residents until September 28 to leave their homes. As compensation, legally displaced families can count on 500 square meters of land or a move to government-built houses approximately 60 km inland. However, organizations defending human rights they argue that Rempang residents are still protected from eviction under other laws.

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Protest by residents of the Indonesian island of Rempang.EPA/MAST IRHAM Supplier: PAP/EPA.

Critics of the government’s decision say the financial offer is insufficient and the residents, many of whom make their living from the sea by selling locally caught fish, crabs, shrimp and other seafood, refuse to move out. – Communities are at risk of losing their homes, culture and livelihoods. Relocation and compensation have only economic value and cannot replace the villagers’ collective memory and identity as indigenous people, said Arifin Jaynal Ylbhi, spokesman for the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI).

Protesters fight with the police

The protests began on September 11, when, after an initially peaceful demonstration, nearly a thousand demonstrators clashed with the police and army in many places in the province. Police, who used water cannons and tear gas, were accused of using excessive force. Dozens of people were arrested, AFP reported. As Al-Jazeera writes, residents are desperate to stay. It is unclear what will happen if they do not leave their homes of their own accord by the end of the month. One resident named Hendra said he refuses to move out of his family home at any cost. – I am ready to die if I have to – he confesses in an interview with Al-Jazeera.

Main photo source: EPA/MAST IRHAM Supplier: PAP/EPA.

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