Military widow fights for house

Human rights groups protested on Tuesday in front of the Jakarta Military District Command (Kodam Jaya) headquarters in East Jakarta against cases of forced eviction by the military, but saw their protest abruptly ended by officers who said that demonstrating was “not elegant”.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), who led the demonstration, specifically brought up the case of Christina Gurning, the widow of former soldier and freedom fighter TM Gurning, whose family faces expulsion from their house on Jl. Kusuma Atmadja in Menteng, Central Jakarta, which Kodam considered a national asset.

Christina, who has occupied the house for 45 years, said that the military tried to claim ownership of the house in 2009 but without any legal proof. She also pleaded with the military to show more respect to its retirees and their families.

“I ask that Kodam pay attention to the fate of the widows of former soldiers,” said 80-year-old Christina in the demonstration.

Kodam officers on guard at the site pushed the demonstrators away after hearing their initial words.

“We understand that your husband was a soldier, but this [protesting] is not the right way to fight. This is not elegant,” one officer said.

Hosiana Gurning, the daughter of Christina, said that she was disappointed with the military’s reaction. “As the family of a freedom fighter, we love the military. All we ask for is that the military give some attention to its retirees because a lot of them have become homeless,” she said.

Kontras law and human rights advocacy division Chrisbiantoro demanded that Kodam stop abusing their military power.

“We demand that the military stop their use of military force and violence in evacuating houses that they claim belong to the state,” he said. “We hope Kodam will go through legal procedures to evacuate occupants from their houses.”

He explained that the Gurning case was just one of several cases of misuse of military force over land disputes, referring to the Rumpin case in Bogor, where villagers and the Indonesian Air Force disputed over land rights in 2007.

Christina Gurning had brought the case to the East Jakarta District Court to settle it.

Last year, Soetarti Soekarno and Rusmini, two other widows of national heroes, also faced trials at the East Jakarta District Court for allegedly occupying a house owned by state firm Perum Pegadaian. The two were acquitted of their charges.

Earlier last year, following a dispute with Brig. Gen. (ret) Herman Sarens, the Defense Ministry said it would renew the list of all of its assets, including disputed land and possible misappropriations,

Herman was involved in a standoff with military police after refusing to appear before a tribunal on his alleged misappropriation of military-owned land. (awd)