Solidarity for Rempang Island: President Jokowi to Stop the Eviction of Indigenous People of Rempang Island, Indonesia

Solidarity for Rempang Island

National Solidarity for Rempang (Solidaritas Nasional untuk Rempang) and other global organisations expresses our deepest concern and highest solidarity towards the ongoing human rights violations in Rempang Island. The concurrent events circulating in the 17,000 hectare island: 1) Security officers brutality and the excessive use of force; 2) Minimum participation and access to information; 3) Arbitrary Arrest; 4) Violation to the rights of Women and Children; 5) The absence of Rights to feel safe; 6) Business and Human Rights.

In mid-July 2023, several local residents representing Rempang Island Indigenous Peoples visited Jakarta to meet WALHI, YLBHI, and the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to complain the risk of being evicted by the development project handled by PT Makmur Elok Graha (PT MEG). At the end of July 2023, President Joko Widodo and a number of Ministers went to China to meet President Xi Jinping and a number of CEOs of Chinese companies that will invest in Indonesia. Among the companies, Xinyi Group will invest in Rempang Island for USD 11.5 billion in the construction of a glass and solar panel factory on Rempang Island, as part of the Rempang Eco-City concept. This company inoculated funds into PT MEG, which had previously experienced bankruptcy. This was a part of President Jokowi’s National Strategic Program. This National Strategic Program The Chinese government is also responsible for the ongoing violations as they did not do the ethical overseas business investment. 

On September 7, 2023, thousands of indigenous people of Rempang Island spontaneously blocked the officers in charge of the land measuring around Barelang.  The movement was responded to by the Joint Forces consisting of the national army and police institution in a very repressive way without any persuasive approach to the local residents. The excessive use of force proven by the use of tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets. The use of tear gas fired at some schools in Rempang also caused casualties, including women and students. This also includes the criminalization of 44 people and also stipulated 8 people as suspects of provoking the movement.

On September 11, 2023, around 3,500 came to BP Batam. The protesters demanded BP Batam, specifically Muhammad Rudi as the chair of BP Batam, to meet the protesters. There were several demands during the act, which were to release 8 residents detained/arrested at the Barelang Police and to stop the relocation of the Rempang Island. The situation was starting to become unconducive as BP Batam did not fulfil the demand of the protesters to meet Muhammad Rudi. Approximately 950 metres from BP Batam, around the intersection of Kejaksaan Negeri Batam (Batam District Prosecutor’s Office), Engku Puri street, the police were seen continuously firing tear gas at the protesters who were running as they were pushed back by the joint forces. Tear gas was fired in all directions without paying any attention to those non-protesters around the location. The tear gas was also felt by the road user because the main roads were not restricted/closed. The police made the situation even more tense, the protesters were continuously fired with tear gas and ran to the LAM Batam office. However, the Police and Satpol PP were also seen surrounding the LAM Batam Office and fired them with tear gas. The distance between LAM Batam and BP Batam is approximately 1,5 km. 

What happened in Rempang violated international business and human rights conduct which includes police brutality and excessive use of force; lack of participation in the decision making process and the lack of information provided for the local residents; criminalization and arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders and indigenous people of the island; and women & children violation. Both Indonesia and the Chinese government are responsible for the ongoing human rights violation in Rempang Island. 

The National Solidarity for Rempang and the organisations signed here call upon the Government of Indonesia and China to promptly resolve the dispute in Rempang Island. We implore the government to stop and cancel the Rempang Eco-City Project and to ensure all the basic rights of the indigenous people of Rempang Island. We urge the government to dismiss the Joint Task Force, consisting of Indonesia Police Institution and TNI from Barelang and to do a thorough audit of the implementation of human rights principles in development projects and planning. 

National Solidarity for Rempang:

  1. Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI)
  2. The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)
  3. Friend of The Earth Indonesia (WALHI)
  4. Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA)
  5. LBH Pekanbaru
  6. WALHI Riau
  7. Trend Asia
  8. AMAN

List of signatories:

  • PBHI, Indonesia
  • Elsam, Indonesia
  • Migrant Care, Indonesia
  • TURC, Indonesia
  • GAYa Nusantara, Indonesia
  • SKPKC Papua, Indonesia
  • Solidaritas Perempuan, Indonesia
  • Yappika Action-Aid, Indonesia
  • SETARA Institute, Indonesia
  •  Community Resource Centre, Thailand
  • Center for Constitutional Rights, United State
  • Pillkyu Hwang, GongGam Human Rights Law Foundation, South Korea
  • Observatori DESC, Spain
  • Global Network of Movement Lawyers, Global
  • Namati, USA
  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Thailand



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