“The Indonesian Town Revisited: Planning or Cultural Construction? The transformation of Jakarta in the Late Soeharto Period” /Peter Nas & Robert Cowherd

Nas, Peter (2002). The Indonesian Town Revisited. Muenster & Singapore: Lit Verlag & Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

“The Indonesian Town Revisited: Planning or Cultural Construction?“, published in 2002, examines Indonesian urban areas including Jakarta from a range of perspectives – transport, New Towns, land speculation, land rights, heritage conservation, etc. While it gives a very useful and broad context to understand the development of Jakarta, the third chapter was most relevant for the topic of Kamal Muara in the 1990s. The chapter, titled “ “Planning or Cultural Construction? The transformation of Jakarta in the Late Soeharto Period” was written by the architectural historian Robert Cowherd. He details the development of Jakarta in this the late 20th century, and how it was formed and justified by Suharto.

 

For instance, Cowherd explains how the pervasive corruption related to real estate was allowed to prevail. In 1995, nearly 60% of privately managed land in Jakarta was managed by three developers with close personal or even familial ties to Suharto. Several large scale developments in the 1990s were allowed by presidential decree, prioritizing the developer’s agendas rather than the Spatial Plans. An example is the 30’000 hectare development in Bonggol which was led by Suharto’s own son. Such practices brought evident affluence to Suharto and his inner circle.

The corruption was to some extent accepted by the public, partly on the basis of Indonesian traditional thought, where the wealth of the King was seen as a symbol of his spiritual discipline and divine authority. However, another reason that corruption could prevail was the strong rule of the country that Suharto exercised through extensive use of military forces and stringent control of the media.

 

Cowherd, Robert, (2002). Planning or cultural construction. In Peter J.M. Nas (Ed), The Indonesian town revisited, pp 17-38. Muenster & Singapore: Lit Verlag & Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

Second year undergraduate student of Architecture at HKU, now writing about Kamal Muara, a fishing village / kampung in northern Jakarta, and its political circumstances in the 90s.

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