Fishermen demand an end to land reclamation project
Syamsul Huda M.Suhari, The Jakarta Post,
Manado | Sat, 11/16/2013 7:48 AM | Archipelago
Fishermen in Manado, North Sulawesi, have called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to immediately stop land reclamation to develop a commercial district saying it will threaten their livelihoods.
The protest came in the form of 32 handwritten letters sent by the wives and children of traditional fishermen in Manado’s Malalayang II and Sario Tumpaan beach areas. The letters were addressed to Yudhoyono and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono.
In one of the letters, for instance a fisherman’s wife named Femmi Nikolas urged Ani to observe firsthand the condition of her home in Malalayang II Beach, which is just 5 meters from the sea. Her husband’s access to the sea is also restricted.
The North Sulawesi Traditional Fishermen Association (ANTRA) head Rignolda Djamaluddin said the 32 letters, written in Indonesian and the local dialect, sent in late October, were part of a lack of support from the Manado city and North Sulawesi provincial administrations on the sustainable living of the local coastal communities.
The conflict between traditional fishermen, developers and the city administration started when land reclamation to develop Manado Town Square (Mantos) business and shopping center started in 2009.
Fishermen affiliated with ANTRA put up a legal fight demanding open spaces that are free from reclamation as permanent access to the sea.
An agreement, facilitated by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), was reached on Sept. 4, 2010, between the fishermen, companies holding land reclamation rights — PT Gerbang Nusa Perkasa and PT Kembang Utara — and the city administration.
Both companies are owned and managed by businessman Hengky Wijaya and son Jefry Putra Wijaya.
Fishermen have access to the sea through an open area tucked in the reclamation area. There are also fishermen transit shelters, locally called Daseng, in the open area.
Rignolda emphasized that in the agreement between the three parties, the 40-meter stretch of open space could not be touched by the developers. However, Mantos developers kept demarcating the open space, sparking a dispute due to the lack of a clear borderline.
Land reclamation at Sario Tumpaan Beach is being carried out daily and guarded by the Manguni Brigade, a private militia hired by the company.
A clash between fishermen and Mantos security guards broke out on Oct. 19, triggered by land reclamation carried out by the developers which the fishermen deemed had trespassed the agreed open space.
The Manado city administration has also been dragged into the dispute, currently being mediated by Manado City Council’s Commission A, which has promised to conduct a field observation to verify whether the fishermen’s area has been seized by the developers.
“At this moment, we cannot conclude who is wrong or right. We will conduct a field study beforehand,” said Commission A secretary Marco Tampi.
The Manado municipality has not confirmed the matter. When reached by phone, Deputy Mayor Harley Mangindaan declined to comment.
Separately, Hengky said there actually was no conflict with any party, and claimed what his company was doing was in line with the proper procedures.
“We cannot break the law. If we were wrong, we would have been reprimanded by the government,” he said via text message.