Jakarta, IO – Clashes broke out between residents of Rempang, Batam and the Riau Islands with officers from the TNI, Polri, and the Batam Business Agency (BP) Directorate General on Thursday, September 7, 2023, as a result of a land dispute over Rempang Eco City development plans.
According to Komnas HAM findings, two schools, 22 JHS Batam and 027 Public Primary School Galang, were struck by tear gas during the riots, with traumatized students being exposed to tear gas. Not only students, but infants, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers were also affected.
Indigenous Peoples Initiation (IMA) institutions encouraged the people affected to speak out, after observing the conflict between Rempang residents and the government. Nukila Evanty, Chair of the Indigenous Community Initiative, profoundly regretted the incident, as the violent acts involved women and children.
“The tear gas explosions demonstrate the force of violence. This act is not instructive for this nation’s youth and future generations. Moreover, the Child Protection Law explains in detail that women and children’s rights are to be protected,” Nukila explained to the Independent Observer on September 19, 2023.
“We also regret the opinions of a number of public figures who disregard the indigenous origins of the Rempang people. The Rempang Malay indigenous people have resided for generations on Rempang Island, preserving the values and traditions of their ancestors to this day,” Nukila continued.
According to Nukila, the Rempang Malay indigenous community was only a few of the world’s indigenous communities that continue to face the same issue: inadequate protection of their rights, including identity recognition, way of life, and rights to customary land, forests, water, and natural resources. “Their rights are consistently disregarded and violated,” Nukila stated.
She continued to say that the residents of the 16 old villages on Rempang Island are inheritors and perpetrators of a unique culture in how they relate to society and the environment, as recognized by the international community and stated by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). They maintain distinct social, cultural, economic, and political characteristics, distinct from the hegemonic society next to which they reside.