Ahok is Right, But…


Eviction of houses in Kampung Pulo is still getting public attention. The decision from Ahok, the Governor of Jakarta, was without any doubt and the eviction has been already carried out. The clash between the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) and the local residents, which caused casualties, also added more drama in Kampung Pulo. Kampung Pulo residents through a mass organization, Ciliwung Merdeka, are also preparing a lawsuit against the government of Jakarta by giving their proof of land ownership in Kampung Pulo.

Ahok’s action to relocate the residents who have lived for generations on the Ciliwung riverbank was not without reason. Restoration of Ciliwung riverbank and worsening floods in Jakarta became the main reasons for the local government to immediately follow-up this action. The government also felt that the action has been long overdue and they have given time for the Kampung Pulo residents to leave their homes and move into the low-cost apartments (rusunawa) that have been provided by the government.

The efforts for restoration started in 2013, when Jokowi was still acting as the governor. According to the agreement, the residents would like to have the rusunawa not far from their current homes. That is precisely why the government claims to have the Office of Public Works in Jatinegara Barat to meet the demand of residents. More rusunawa provided by the government in Cakung and Cipinang Besar Selatan are already built by the government. This reason also makes Ahok firmly said that there will be no discussions on the issue of compensation and that the eviction will be completed soon.

Ahok’s decision was considered as controversial. He was considered to be violating human rights while continuing the eviction especially after it caused the conflict and some residents became the casualties, and he does not understand the history of the region, which has been inhabited even before 1930. On the other hand, decisive action from Ahok should be appreciated. Ahok did something that a governor should do to address the problems in the region and for public interest.

We are also concerned about what happened to the residents in Kampung Pulo. Eviction and become victims of eviction is definitely not easy, especially to leave a home that has been occupied for three generations. However, what Ahok did was not without a clear process as since 2013 the government has been holding discussions with the residents to restore Ciliwung riverbank. The government also provided rusunawa in an area not far from the current homes based on the resident’s demand.

What became the problem was how the eviction is conducted, where the residents still feel the need for further discussions and that it should be conducted in peaceful manner rather than dealing with bulldozers and Satpol PP and other apparatus known for the brute force approach. The way Ahok communicated which was very outspoken also angered the residents who feel that their leader is insensitive and does not pay attention to the condition of the residents in Kampung Pulo. It should also be a lesson for the government to communicate with the public in carrying out public policy. However, the government’s actions in relocating Kampung Pulo residents must be seen as a long-term plan and for a wider interest.

It’s clear and it must be recognized that to live by the riverbank in Jakarta from day to day is not a condition that is appropriate and safe, as it is not hygienic and Jakarta is very vulnerable to flooding. Kampung Pulo in the period before independence with Ciliwung river width ranging between 20-50 meters are clearly different from Kampung Pulo’s current conditions with a width of 3 meters due to the reclamation of the river by the residents in the vicinity.

It would be unwise for Ahok to let the Kampung Pulo residents remain settled in the riverbank with the existing conditions. It would also be more unwise to evict Kampung Pulo residents without adequate housing if the goal is to relocate the residents from Ciliwung riverbank. Other than that, the provincial government does not intend to relocate the historic tomb of preachers in the region, if that is of concern of Kampung Pulo residents or pilgrims of the preachers.

On the other hand, the efforts of Kampung Pulo residents to file lawsuits should also be appreciated, although the eviction process has been carried out. However this became the real-life practice of civic education and citizen activism in the fight for their rights as citizens, especially fighting for their rights with valid evidence through legal channels. Not though brutal ways such as burning eviction appliance or dealing with the security forces.

Yes, the eviction Kampung Pulo is indeed a dilemma and unfortunate when it caused casualties. On one hand, this bitter thing needs to be done to overcome the classic problem that is getting worse for residents of Jakarta. On the other hand, this action is seen as the arrogance of the authorities against the residents.

Ahok expressly chose the eviction to save Ciliwung river. We should and must be furious if Ahok did the eviction and then ignore the fate of the Kampung Pulo residents and changed the historical area into commercial areas such as shopping centers, apartments, houses, offices, and so on. But we know, Ahok did not do that and the government is also being responsible by relocating Kampung Pulo residents.

From public policy aspect, which is participatory and considers the context and approach (communication) in the execution of policy, Ahok’s action in this case remains to be criticized. Democracy allows citizen activism for this action, including through demonstrations and lawsuits. But that does not mean the provincial government of DKI Jakarta is not at all going through the process. This does not mean that we are permissive of the challenge in public policies implemented by the government.

But once again, it is important for us to see this policy within a larger framework and longer periods of time, as well as a broader public interest. Anyone who serves as the governor of Jakarta and all officers certainly would not say that relocation is easy and fun. Even for the sake of positive interest and that it should be done by the provincial government, such as the restoration of riverbanks to deal with flooding and improve urban planning in Jakarta in accordance with the long-term planning, especially for the residents of Jakarta.