The commotion of Jogja’s anniversary seemed not to have subsided, even though two days had passed. Not because it had been such a wild celebration, but because something had happened to stir up Jogja’s street art community. Early on the morning of Wednesday 9th October 2013, an artist was dragged to the municipal guard’s barracks because of painting a mural. Muhammad Arif was arrested for painting the words “Jogja Ora Didol”, meaning ‘Jogja is not for sale’ in the Javanese language.
Actually, this action was happening for the second – or third – time. The mural had first been painted on the actual anniversary of Jogjakarta, two days previously on the 7th October. However, before twenty-four hours had passed, the slogan “Jogja Ora Didol” had already disappeared, painted over by black paint, apparently by the municipal guards. Then the same phrase was painted over the black paint as a response. However Arif’s action ran into trouble when a middle-aged man forced him to stop what he was doing. The man ordered Arif to come down from the wall he was standing on, but Arif didn’t move. In the end Arif gave in as the man was pointing a pistol at him. Arif was brought by the man to the municipal guard’s barracks to be interrogated and file an evidence report.
What Arif was actually doing – in theory – was part of the urban movement ‘Looking for Haryiadi Festival’, which had been conceived by various artists and collectives around Yogyakarta city. The Festival’s Art Director, Agung Kurniawan, said that this movement had been sparked by concerns that city mayor Haryadi had absented himself from the task of reorganising public space, controlling visual pollution such as billboards, and other urban problems. There are also massive plans to build hotels, which mean evictions, and the uncontrolled growth in motor vehicles which causes traffic jams and increasingly takes space away from cyclists and pedestrians. As all these problems pile up around him, Haryadi has just chosen to travel abroad – the mayor’s latest travels have taken him to Spain and the United States, who knows what for. In the end, it means thatYogyakarta is starting to become a less pleasant place to live.
But is it right to direct all the criticism only at Haryadi? Or is there also someone else involved who should also be facing accusations? I want to open up this possibility, that Haryadi is not the only one who should take the blame for the chaos in Yogyakarta’s urban planning. Of course, if we see Haryadi as the administrative head of Yogyakarta City, he’s the one who must be asked to take responsibility for any chaos in urban planning. He is also believed to be allowing visual pollution – such as corporate advertisements – affect buildings in a cultural conservation area. But actually, similar cases are not only happening in Yogyakarta City, but also other places around Yogyakarta Province. In Bantul for example, traders in Parangkusumo are threatened with eviction by a megatourism project which plans to develop the Parangtritis area. In Kulon Progo, coastal farmers are on the point of losing their farmland because of plans to develop an iron-sand mine. Hotel and other tourist development is also taking place in Sleman and Gunung Kidul districts.
Of course, what’s happening within the urban area can’t be seen as insignificant compared to these other cases in other areas. In the end a similarity unites them all, the question of how living space is used. So, as I see it, Yogyakarta’s problems can’t be narrowed down to just those which affect the urban area – within its administrative boundaries – alone, but is also an issue in nearby areas such as those mentioned above. That means we need to talk about Yogyakarta as an entity that is bigger than just a city.
It is not enough to see what is happening in Yogyakarta right now as the effect of an underperforming mayor. It can’t be denied that so far Haryadi has failed to do his job well. But what must not be forgotten is that behind all this is an established system that provides a base for all policy. Urban planning is included in this as there is an obvious and direct correlation with agrarian policy within Yogyakarta Province. Haryadi is only a small part of a bigger system.
Also on the day of Yogyakarta’s anniversary, the 7th October, a Special Region Regulation (Perdais) was ratified including eight clauses about land tenure. The Perdais on land tenure is a follow-up to the agrarian provisions of the recent national Law on the Specialness of Yogyakarta which made clear that the feudal land titles of Sultanaat Grond (SG) and Pakualamanaat Grond (PAG) would come back into force. In other words, all land across the province of Yogyakarta becomes the absolute property of the Yogyakarta Palace, and the citizens who occupy that land now only have the status of tenants. An implication of this is that land ownership certificates issued by the National Land Agency are no longer valid, despite the fact that the legal basis for the National Land Agency is the 1960 Basic Agrarian Law [a major pillar of Indonesian law, seen as almost as important as the 1945 constitution -tr]. As a matter of information, Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX [the present sultan’s more principled father -tr] had already cancelled the SG and PAG through a local regulation (number 31) in 1984, which meant bringing land ownership and tenure in Yogyakarta back into line with the 1960 Basic Agrarian Law.
With this new law the Sultan is free to do whatever he wants anywhere in Yogyakarta province. For example, land for the iron mining project on the south coast of Kulon Progo is claimed as part of the Pakualaman estate. This is despite the fact that it is an agricultural area which has been cultivated by farmers for many decades. When Pakualaman claims this land, the farmers are requested to return the land in question although they possess land title certificates issued by the National Land Agency. Maybe the name of Mbah Manto is also familiar to us – he camped outside the Yogyakarta Provincial Legislative Council building for several weeks. Mbah Manto and friends took action to demand that land in Surowijiayan which they had been using since the 1970s should be returned to them. The land is actually claimed as land leased from the state, on which the occupier is only allowed to rent the land when they have a letter of permission from the Sultan’s palace. What was most frustrating for him is that although he has lived on the land for decades and filled in the request for such a letter on several occasions, he has never received the letter. He only later found out that someone else, an entrepreneur, had obtained the permission letter for the land in question sometime around the middle of the decade 2000-2010. Mbah Manto and his neighbours have become victims of the palace’s authority to regulate land tenure.
These two cases are just a few of many examples of evictions and land grabbing resulting from the Sultan and Pakualaman’s claim. Another case has come to light in Gunung Kidul district, where the Palace has unilaterally decided to change the status of about 150 land ownership certificates, turning the owners into tenants. Tracing back to the root of the problem, it appears there is a petroleum company owned by the government that has been exploring for oil in this area. Can we guess where this is heading? That’s right, with their status as tenants, the local inhabitants do not have any rights whatsoever to the land they live on. Which means that if oil exploration ever moved on to become oil exploitation, the provincial government could force people to leave without any compensation money, whenever the Sultan requests it.
Academic George Junus Aditjondro (GJA) wrote an analysis of the future of SG and PAG when the Law on the Specialness of Yogyakarta was still at the planning stage. In his writing, GJA made it clear that the recent revival of the issue of what makes Yogyakarta special was not merely about whether leaders should be elected or imposed. Instead he believed that there were major economic interests behind the planned law, ie the land issue. GJA described the clauses about land as a stowaway on the planned law on the Specialness of Yogyakarta.
So, is it right to just blame Haryadi for the chaos in land use and agrarian planning in Yogyakarta? The answer is of course no. First of all, the same chaos is also occurring in the other parts of Yogyakarta province – Sleman, Gunung Kidul, Kulon Progo and Bantul, places where Haryadi has no authority. Secondly, the criminalisation experienced by M. Arif has also been faced by two other people, Tujiko (a farmer from the Kulon Progo coastal area) an George Junus Aditjondro (academic). All three of these cases have occurred for one reason: the people have prodded the royal family’s power or interests. Tukijo was considered to be an obstacle to the iron sand mining project. GJA was accused of slandering the Palace’s good name and taking actions unpleasing to the Palace, because of his article ‘the Law on the Specialness of Yogyakarta’s hidden stowaway’. Most recently, M. Arif, because of the “Jogja Ora Didol” mural he painted, was considered to be propagating hatred.
What has befallen M. Arif, Tukijo and GJA could happen to anyone. Tyrants are indiscriminate, they don’t care who or what you are. Academics, farmers, artists or whoever else, if they dare to challenge their power, they can be imprisoned, or even disappeared.
So, is it still just a case of looking for Haryadi?