JAKARTA – An Indonesian minister said on Monday the country is committed to turning a resource-rich island of Rempang, south of Batam, into an industrial park, following clashes between villagers and police over a relocation plan.
Investment Minister Bahlil Lahadalia on Monday promised an improved plan to compensate and relocate villagers affected by the project in Rempang, including the possibility of relocating them to an area on the island itself instead of moving them to Galang Island.
Rempang is rich in quartz sand and pure silica, and officials say the industrial park is expected to house, among other things, processing plants to produce raw materials to make photovoltaic solar panels.
The government has cited a planned investment commitment of US$11.6 billion (S$16 billion) in Rempang by China’s Xinyi Glass Holdings, the world’s largest photovoltaic glass maker.
In December 2022, Xinyi officials met with the local government of Rempang and Indonesian tycoon Tomy Winata of the Artha Graha group, which holds an 80-year concession to the area.
In May this year, the partners agreed to jointly develop the island into a multi-million-dollar Rempang Eco-City industrial park.
The first phase will cover 2,300ha, with a total of 7,000ha of non-forest land designated for the project. Approximately 10,000 hectares of the island’s 17,000 hectares are made up of natural forests.
The island’s population of 7,500 will be affected by the relocation, along with farms, shops and schools. Each family was offered 500 square meters of land with a 45 square meter house on Galang Island as compensation.
Some are simply opposed to leaving regardless of any compensation because they make a living there (some have been fishing there for decades, others have had jobs on the island).
But on September 7, villagers – many of whom have lived on the island for generations – clashed with police as officers began preparations for the relocation.
Riots followed on September 11, leading to the arrest of 43 people accused of instigating violence and attacking authorities.
Bahlil held a meeting in Batam on Sunday with Internal Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian, Agrarian Spatial Planning Minister Hadi Tjahjanto and National Police Deputy Chief Commissioner General Gatot Eddy Pramono, and agreed to adopt a softer approach in dealing with protesting Rempang residents.
“If we let this (project) slip away, potential revenue for local governments and job creation would be lost,” Bahlil told reporters Monday, repeating his appeal to residents he had just met.
Unlike a previous offer that would have provided villagers with fixed compensation regardless of the size of their house, authorities have now agreed to offer owners of properties larger than 45 square meters additional compensation based on the size of the building, he added. .
“The residents asked to be relocated to a location within the island. I will discuss this when I return to Jakarta and check the project master plan to see if it is possible,” Bahlil said.