A Disputed Track in Mandalika
The project to construct a motorbike racing track at Mandalika has triggered land conflicts. It is not simply a matter of compensation.
LIKE a race, the people of Mandalika have been left behind in last place in the construction of the racetrack in Central Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. They are the lowest priority in the prestigious project of President Joko Widodo’s administration.
Construction of the racetrack in the Mandalika Special Economic Zone began last October and is targeted for completion in June 2021, four months before the MotoGP 2021 race. The managers of the circuit say they have won a contract to host MotoGP and World Superbike races for three seasons.
The French construction company is building a 4.32-kilometer track with 18 corners. Some of the land being used is an enclave where 151 families live. Most of the land that the track is being built on is the subject of ownership disputes. It is easy to guess that the project has triggered conflicts with local people.
People living in Mandalika, who it is claimed will enjoy economic benefits once races are being held, have never been invited for discussions. The state-owned company managing the special economic zone, Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation, evicted them from the land with the help of the security forces. A number of locals reported this incident to the National Commission on Human Rights. They said they had been intimidated during the acquisition of the land. The army and police personnel repeatedly come to their homes to ask them to leave the land where the track is to be built.
It is not right that the military and the police were involved in the eviction of people. What is more, the developer even took legal action against local people who had chosen to stay, accusing them of using land without a permit. The Praya District Court sentenced them to two months in jail suspended for six months. Fortunately, the Mataram High Court quashed their convictions.
Infrastructure projects in Indonesia during the Jokowi era often spark this kind of land conflict. According to the Agrarian Reform Consortium, last year 83 infrastructure projects led to land use conflicts. According to the non-profit organization, these disputes are triggered by an agrarian policy that is still dominated by development-focused thinking that views land as a development asset. Construction of infrastructure projects is accelerated in the interests of businesspeople even if the developments involve the eviction of locals or environmental damage.
In general, in order to meet project deadlines, developers deposit consignment money with the courts. Local people who object, including to the value of compensation, are then forced to leave. This also happened in Mandalika. This type of approach may well solve the problem more quickly, but it is far from the essence of development which should be to improve the standards and the lives of the people.
The government should immediately put right the management of infrastructure projects. Without improvements, the projects that have become the cornerstone of Jokowi’s administration will always lead to agrarian conflicts. According to the Agrarian Reform Consortium, infrastructure projects are the second largest cause of land conflicts. Local people need to be involved from the outset so that they are able to obtain the maximum benefit from projects that are under way.
The misconception that these conflicts are simply the result of inadequate compensation also needs to be put right. Many people object to being uprooted from the places where they have lived since birth. Humane dialogue is the best way, even if it does take a long time. The people in Mandalika should not be sidelined by a motorbike race run once a year.