Update: The number of people arrested have risen to 43.
In recent events, the peaceful island of Rempang, part of the Riau Islands in Indonesia, has become the center of a heated controversy.
A mass demonstration on September 11th turned into a riot involving more than 1,000 people and resulted in the arrest of 27 individuals following a clash between demonstrators and police officers, according to Detik.
This clash not only caused significant injuries to 16 police officers but also stirred up a debate over the relocation of a Malay village on Rempang Island.
The Mass Demonstration
The demonstration that unfolded on September 11th in front of the Badan Pengusahaan (BP) office in Batam City, Riau Island, involved more than 1,000 people, according to Kompas.
Among the protesters were members of the community from Riau Island and residents from West Sumatra and West Kalimantan.
Their collective goal was to express their strong objection to the planned relocation of traditional villages on Rempang Island due to the Rempang Eco City Project.
The Escalation of the Demonstration
Initially, the demonstration on September 11th was peaceful. The Head of BP Batam and Mayor of Batam, Muhammad Rudi, attempted to engage with the crowd, offering to let resident representatives visit Jakarta to express their concerns. However, as the day progressed, tensions escalated.
Around noon, the peaceful demonstration took a violent turn. Protesters began throwing stones and bottles at the BP Batam office, resulting in damage to the building and injuries to several officers. In response, the police deployed water cannons and tear gas to control the situation.
In the end, 27 people were arrested and 16 police officers were sent to the hospital with serious injuries.
The Rempang Eco City Project
The root cause of the controversy lies in the Rempang Eco City Project, a development initiative aimed at transforming Rempang Island into an industrial, service, and tourism hub.
This project carries a hefty price tag, with an estimated investment of up to 381 trillion rupiah (approximately S$33.8 billion) by the year 2080.
While the economic potential of the project is undeniable, it comes at a steep cost. The proposed relocation of the island’s entire population, approximately 7,500 people, has sparked outrage among indigenous communities residing on Rempang Island.
These communities, including the Orang Laut and Orang Darat, have a deep-rooted history on the island, dating back at least to 1834.
The protesters believe that the project could proceed without displacing the indigenous communities, respecting their cultural heritage and historical ties to the island.
Haruskah demo di BP Batam seanarkis ini?? Ckck pic.twitter.com/6UezZeO13O— Warga Wakanda (@plusenamdua_) September 11, 2023
Ini baru namanya kebangkitan dan jiwa Melayu sebenarnya. Solidariti antar kaum dan bangsa. Batam, Riau (kampung Melayu pulau Rempang). pic.twitter.com/7jlwOPruZZ— Amir Yogi / أمير يوغي / Αμίρ Γιόγκι (@amiryogi) September 11, 2023