What started as a toll road inauguration quickly turned into a melodramatic scene when a woman from the crowd barged onto the stage and knelt before President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, apparently pleading for something.
Wearing his signature pressed white shirt, Jokowi was launching the 140-kilometer Bakauheni-Terbanggi Besar road in Lampung, part of the trans-Sumatra toll road project.
“By uttering bismillahirrahmanirrahim [in the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful], I inaugurate Bakaheuni-Terbanggi Besar,” Jokowi said on stage in Lampung on Friday.
Suddenly, a woman clad in a pink hijab and a green ankle-length dress ran through Jokowi’s security and onto the stage, went down on her knees and clasped Jokowi’s right hand.
Jokowi tried to pull her up with both hands, but the woman insisted on kneeling as she continued to murmur her words. Upon seeing her resistance, a few of Jokowi’s aides took hold of the woman’s arms.
Seconds later, the woman flailed her arms as she fell backwards in a faint.
While a few of Jokowi’s aides carried her to the nearest tent, the crowd grew silent. However, the event resumed when Jokowi, after looking toward the woman while tapping his chest in apparent concern, pushed a button to inaugurate the road, boasted to be the longest toll road in the nation, and signed an inscription.
After the event, Jokowi told reporters that the woman, who was later revealed to be a Lampung resident named Nur Halimah, had been lamenting that she had not been paid for land taken from her to build the road.
“Yes, I will check [on her] straight away. It’s usual that a big project like this would stir conflict among one or two [individuals]. The most important thing is for the [toll road] to be quickly finished,” Jokowi said.
After Halimah regained consciousness, Jokowi invited her for a closed-door meeting and they ate lunch together with his aides. Afterwards, Halimah declined to comment except to say she had “told everything” to Jokowi and that “everything has been resolved”.
The following day, Jokowi said the National Land Agency and state-owned enterprises would “immediately” resolve the matter as the “money is already on consignment”, as quoted by Antara.
Apart from Halimah, the 2018 Agrarian Reform Consortium indicated the existence of about 16 agrarian disputes in 2018 related to infrastructure development involving 4,859 hectares of land. In comparison, there had been 94 such cases in 2017 and 100 in 2016.
A researcher at the Center for Law and Policy Studies (PSHK), Muhammad Faiz Aziz, wrote on The Conversation Indonesia that the country’s regulations on land procurement for public facilities had some stipulations to protect the rights of land owners. However, the regulations lacked transparency and often the land owners did not have much choice except to take whatever the government or the developer offered.
Calling it a “take it or leave it” scheme, Faiz said meetings to determine compensation left very little room for land owners to negotiate.