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Victims Refuse to Sell Muddy Land to Lapindo

Some 69 families in the East Java villages of Jatirejo, Siring and Renokenongo are standing their ground, refusing to sell their land as part of the compensation plan proposed by the energy company being held responsible for the mudflow disaster.

“If we accept the proposal the company is offering, it will amount to turning our land into cash, but in principle that’s not what we want to do,” Ipung, a spokesperson for the villagers, told The Jakarta Post.

Some 69 families in the East Java villages of Jatirejo, Siring and Renokenongo are standing their ground, refusing to sell their land as part of the compensation plan proposed by the energy company being held responsible for the mudflow disaster.

“If we accept the proposal the company is offering, it will amount to turning our land into cash, but in principle that’s not what we want to do,” Ipung, a spokesperson for the villagers, told The Jakarta Post.

Lapindo Brantas Ltd., a giant energy company belonging to the Bakrie family, has proposed compensation for the residents.

“This land belonged to our ancestors and our ancestors entrusted it to us,” said Ipung, who was born in the village of Jatirejo.

Jatirejo, Siring, and Renokenongo are three of seven villages affected by the Lapindo mudflow disaster which began when mud gushing from a mining site in Porong district, Sidoarjo regency, May 29, 2006.

Initially, the four villages of West Siring, Jatirejo, Mindi, and Renokenongo were inundated. In February this year, three more villages, Besuki, Kedungcangkring and Pejarakan were likewise buried in hot mud that sprang out of new, adjacent leaks.

In a matter of days, the Porong district villages, near the East Java capital of Surabaya, were wiped from the map. Since then, disaster victims have organized themselves into several forums to advocate for their rights.

Ipung said his group of 69 families still refused to take any compensation offered by Lapindo.

“They tried to first intimidate us then bribe us so we would take the compensation and sell our land.”

He said further he was once visited by a stranger armed with a pistol and offered a bribe to stop encouraging other residents to decline Lapindo’s compensation offer. Despite his efforts, most disaster victims have accepted the initial compensation from the company, including some Jatirejo villagers.

According to the two-phased offer, Lapindo paid out 20 percent of the full compensation in advance to all residents. Those with deeds were supposed to receive the remaining 80 percent in cash by June 2008; those without, should have received an offer of housing.

However, Lapindo switched the second cash disbursement for titled victims with a new offer of existing housing in the Kahuripan Nirvana Village housing complex located in the Surabaya outskirts.

Lapindo was supposed to pay the 80 percent in the form of land and housing only to people without land deeds.

Some victims have rejected the offer because they feel living in a housing complex would disrupt their culture and traditions. “A housing complex doesn’t suit us because we used to live in the village far from the city and we depend on vast areas of land for our farming,” said Pitanto, a leader of the Renokenongo mudflow-victim group.

The villagers have instead demanded Lapindo compensate them with land and housing of the same value that they lost, not with cash.

“We ended up accepting the worst possible compensation scheme because of the pressure of trying to make ends meet,” Pitanto said.

The compensation process is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Most of the mudflow victims hope either Lapindo or the government will pay the compensation soon so they can use it to buy land, rebuild their villages and start all over again.

Faisal Maliki Baskoro, The Jakarta Post

Sumber: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2008/10/13/victims-refuse-sell-muddy-land-lapindo.html

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