Lombok, Indonesia – As the boat approaches Indonesia’s Gili Sunut island, the captain shuts down the engines, letting it drift the final few metres towards the shore. A strange quiet hangs in the air, punctuated by the water slopping against the hull.
Once home to 109 families, this tiny island now lies deserted. Skeletal concrete structures dot the landscape, their door frames and windows removed. Only the roof of the mosque has been left out of respect for Allah, but that too will be razed when a “six-star resort” is constructed here over the coming years.
“The government came to Sunut, to the mosque, and held a meeting with the local people to talk about the development,” says Mustiadi, a fisherman, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.”We refused the idea of relocation, but after more consultations they told us that we didn’t have any choice.”
The People’s Coalition for Fisheries Justice Indonesia (KIARA), a sea and land rights advocacy group, says the fate of Mustiadi and his community will become more common under a new government programme to promote investment in islands and coastal areas. KIARA says many more islands will effectively be sold to foreign buyers, trampling the rights of fishermen and threatening traditional livelihoods.
After their eviction in June, the former residents of Gili Sunut were relocated to a new settlement on the other side of the bay. The Singaporean developer, Ocean Blue Resorts, has provided each family with a new bungalow and between 3m and 5m rupiah ($246 to $411) in compensation. But Mustiadi says it’s not enough.
“They gave us a bungalow, but the roof leaked and it was very poor quality. I decided to rebuild mine, but not everyone could afford to do that. They still haven’t paid us for our ruined houses on Gili Sunut,” he said.”Now life is harder because we live further from our fishing waters. In our new village there is no school, and still we have no road and no running water.It feels like the government hasn’t taken care of us.”
Tourism is booming on the island of Lombok. In September, the land division of Indonesian media conglomerate MNC reportedly set aside 700bn ($57.4m) rupiah to invest in an “integrated tourist resort” in Kuta on the island’s south coast. The completion of a sealed coast road and the opening of an international airport in 2011 are rapidly boosting the number of visitors.
The locals take what they’re given and they don’t know how to fight the government. Often the police and the army are used to push people out.
– Selamet Daroyni, KIARA coordinator for education
Indonesia relocates families to build resorts