Rempang Island, a serene Malay warrior-descendant haven of 50,000, faces potential upheaval from a massive Chinese investment project in its strategic waters. #kbanews
REMPANG Island in Batam is a tranquil oasis, home to 50,000, mostly farmers and fishermen. This Malay warrior-descendant region, surrounded by clear seas and white sands, is a hidden paradise.
Yet, peace shattered when plans emerged to turn a 16,500-hectare area, linking the Malacca Strait to the South China Sea, into a Chinese investment project. This move sparks concerns of oligarchic dominance and sidelined justice.
This hidden paradise and natural beauty, reminiscent of paradise, is further enhanced by its rich natural resources. Reportedly, based on research,
Rempang possesses a plethora of natural assets including clear waters bordered by white sand, making it very attractive for marine tourism development. Its fertile land is suitable for agriculture and plantations, with various crops such as rice, corn, vegetables, and fruits.
In addition, Rempang Island also hosts relatively preserved forests. These forests around Rempang have potential for eco-tourism development. According to research, Rempang Island has mineral potential including coal, sand, and limestone. The island’s marine riches comprise fish like skipjack tuna, mackerel, grouper, seaweed, mangrove, among others.
Its terrestrial regions, mostly used for agriculture and forests, contain plants like rice, corn, vegetables, fruits, mangrove trees, coconut trees, Nypa palm, and Meranti trees. Rempang’s natural resources have the potential to boost its economy and tourism. However, any development must be sustainable, ensuring environmental conservation and the welfare of the local community.
Disaster struck this peaceful community, affecting even the children. On September 7, 2023, the atmosphere in Rempang drastically changed. Scores of security personnel from TNI, Polri, the Security Directorate of Batam Management Agency (BP), and Satpol PP came to Rempang to measure land for the Rempang Eco City project.
Their arrival was met with strong resistance from the locals who refused to be evicted from their land. This opposition escalated into a clash between the residents and security personnel, leaving several from both sides injured. This incident caused widespread panic, with residents fearing the loss of their land and homes.
According to data from the Riau Islands District Education and Culture Office, in 2023, about 30,000 children live on Rempang Island, Batam. Of these, around 22,000 are school-going, spread across various educational levels: 14,000 in elementary, 5,000 in junior high, and 3,000 in senior high. About 8,000 children are not attending school.
Still, based on the same data source, in 2023 there are 1,200 children in Rempang Island, Batam, who are educationally neglected. This figure includes non-schooling children, dropouts, and those not advancing to higher educational levels.
A grim irony
Having been independent for 78 years, the Indonesian government holds a constitutional mandate as set out in the preamble of the 1945 Constitution, which emphasizes education, creating peace, order, and delivering social justice for all Indonesians.
Since 1990, Indonesia has ratified the Child Rights Convention (CRC) on January 26, 1990. The CRC is a human rights treaty ensuring children’s rights, comprising 54 articles covering various fields like the right to life, development, protection, education, and participation.
The CRC’s ratification by Indonesia signifies the government’s commitment to safeguarding children’s rights in the country. The government has undertaken several initiatives to fulfill this pledge, including adopting the Child Protection Law No. 23 of 2002, establishing the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection, creating various child protection institutions at the national and regional levels, and intensifying public awareness campaigns about children’s rights. Regrettably, the incidence of child abuse remains high.
According to data from the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection of the Republic of Indonesia, there were 5,282 reported child abuse cases in 2022. These figures span various types of abuse: physical, emotional, sexual, and neglect.
Development that prioritizes growth emphasizes increasing economic output and productivity. Such development focuses on high economic growth as its primary goal, with a significant lean towards a Neo-Capitalistic approach.
This perspective stresses the role of the market and private enterprises in the economy while recognizing the government’s importance in regulating and overseeing the market. However, this Neo-Capitalistic approach in Rempang overlooks various aspects causing societal suffering.
Amid the socio-economic conditions and educational status of the community, the ongoing development neglects these areas, leading to disparities. The free market can lead to income disparities, economic instability, and environmental degradation.
In Rempang Island, Batam, the paradigm for growth-centric development is evident. Amid the rich natural resources, the community faces a significant challenge from investors, notably from China.
The shift from community-based management to state capitalism in Rempang reflects the ongoing geopolitical and economic battle. However, the genuine question remains: who truly benefits from such a development approach?
Isa Ansori, Columnist and Academic, Chair of ICMI East Java for Education, Health and Environment