Jakarta (ANTARA) - Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Mahfud MD, has urged security forces to proceed with caution in handling the conflict over the development plan for Rempang Island in Riau Islands province.

"I hope that law enforcement officers in the region and security forces will be careful in handling this," Mahfud told reporters at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Monday.

The conflict has stemmed from the residents' opposition to plans to develop the island into a new economic hub, which necessitates the relocation of hundreds of families from their homes.

Last week, a joint team of the military and police clashed with protesting residents who tried to stop security forces from setting up posts and marking boundaries for the new development project.

According to Mahfud, the security forces should have informed the public of the local government's plan to build homes for relocated families, based on an agreement between the local government, developers, the Regional House of Representatives (DPRD), and the community on September 6, 2023.

The government decided to develop tourist destinations on islands not connected with its main islands, including Rempang Island, in 2001–2002, the minister said.

In 2004, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the Batam Free Zone Authority (BP Batam) and the developer for the development of tourist destinations on the island.

Based on the agreement, any licenses issued after the MoU would be abolished by the Ministry of Environment.

"But when we were about to enter (the location), there were already activities there, there were old residents and this (problem) must be resolved," he elaborated.

"Then, there was an order to vacate (the location) because activities agreed upon in 2004 will be started," he added.

On September 6, the local government, the developer, DPRD, and the community held a meeting and agreed to relocate 1,200 families.

The government decided to build homes worth Rp120 million on 500-meter square land plots in the relocation area.

Residents would receive Rp1.034 million in allowance and Rp1 million in house rent while waiting for their house to be completed.

"Well, everything has been agreed. Some 80 percent of residents present at the meeting have agreed. Well, this (agreement) was not informed (to the public), then these people (clashes) occurred. Yes, there were provocateurs too, eight people were arrested," he said.

Translator: Rangga Pandu AJ, Sri Haryati
Editor: Azis Kurmala
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