Trump Tower Bali: Bali farmers were forced off ancestral land during Suharto era to make way for resort Trump is building over

Via Coconuts Bali Jul 6, 2017

Donald Trump’s entrance to Bali is not a smooth one.

The land where Trump is laying down his controversial six-star resort in Bali has a sordid history.

It’s already bad enough that Trump’s Bali Tower threatens to cast a shadow over Tanah Lot, one of Bali’s holists temples that the land overlooks. 

But it also turns out that before the spot came into being as the Pan Pacific Nirwana—the five-star resort Trump acquired and is knocking down to build his own in place of—the land belonged to small-scale, traditional Balinese farmers who were forced out during the Suharto era. 

The revelation was shared on Monday in a 43-minute program by Four Corners, the investigative journalism television program of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

The Trump Hotel Collection is working in partnership with Indonesia’s MNC Group, an investment group founded by billionaire Trump ‘pal’ Hary Tanoesoedibjo, to redevelop Pan Pacific into its vision of luxury, erect a Trump tower, and update its 18-hole golf course. Pan Pacific encompasses 103 hectares of a Tabanan cliff-top with views of the Indian Ocean.

While not much specifics are known about Trump’s plans for the hotel and how it will be laid out, and how close to the temple building will get, he has said he wants it “big” and overlooking the sacred Tanah Lot—a temple that Balinese for years have fought to protect. Moreover, Bali’s got a building height restriction that nothing can up “taller than a coconut tree,” or more than 15 meters, so it’s not yet clear if Trump would be getting around that with his tower. 

“If anything’s been approved, it’s been done very privately and very quietly,” says reporter Mark Davis in the Four Corners investigation. 

Davis tracks down Eka Wiryastuti, the regent of Tabanan, in charge of governing where the Trump land sits, only to be turned down for comment. 

Apparently much more eager to talk to Davis though was Ketut Djarsanda, a farmer who was one of the original landowners where the Trump development will soon stand. 

“He was forced off his hereditary land in the mid 1990s, at the height of the dictatorship of President Suharto. The army told him that his land was needed for a government project,” Davis says in the ABCprogram. 

Despite it being a dangerous time to resist whatever the military asked for—skeletons from massacres at the time are literally still being found amongst the surrounding lands—Djarsanda still refused to sell his ancestral land. But others with land adjoining his, started to cave under so much intimidation. Until finally, he was totally blocked off with no access to get into his own land and water was cut off so he couldn’t cultivate rice. 

However, it turned out the land wasn’t being snatched for a “government project” like soldiers had said, but in actuality, it was being sold for a resort development to one of the biggest and wealthiest companies in Indonesia, the Bakrie Corporation—which was owned by one of Suharto’s closest and richest friends. 

While Djarsanda and other farmers formed a resistance, demonstrating to save Tanah Lot, making for a rare display of protest during the Suharto era, the Bakrie Corporation claimed victory in the end, parceling up all the farmers’ land and eventually selling it to Trump’s partner, Tanoesoedibjo—widely referred to as Tanoe in Indonesia—through his MNC Group in 2013. 

In a particularly affecting segment, Djarsanda takes Davis to show his ancestral land, “somewhere around the fifth green,” only for Djarsanda to get cut off by a golf cart, with apology from a tourist: “Sorry, sir.” 

Meanwhile, land still in the hands of farmers, surrounding the development spot is still being fought over. MNC has been buying up land bordering the Nirwana resort to make it even bigger, but locals are not keen in selling out and surrendering their land.

“There is hardly anyone who wants to sell their land,” said Nyoman Madya told ABC’s Adam Harvey in a report that was released in March. Madya is the head of the Enjung Pura neighborhood that borders the planned Trump development.

“They couldn’t agree on the price,” Madya said, explaining that MNC was offering villagers way under market price. 

Developers have had their eyes fixed on the area for decades, so local villagers know what their land should run for, says Madya.

And of course it’s not just about potentially being shortchanged. The Balinese have a major spiritual connection to their land. 

“When we talk about the land in Bali, where most of its people are Hindus, the land has a very big meaning for us all. Because life is about take and give and that it’s the responsibility of the Hindus, to preserve not only the traditions, but the culture and religion as well,” Made Sumaway, head of traditional affairs in Beraban village, said to ABC.

“Donald Trump may have different traditions and culture but once he comes here he needs to follow ours.” 

Demolition of the Pan Pacific is slated for August, followed by a three-year redevelopment plan partly operated by the Trump group. The beginning of construction has been reported to be set for 2018. 

Tanoe has said that Trump and family won’t have a financial stake in the resort, but will be paid to run the operation. 

“The role of the Trump organization is to operate the hotel, the country club and the golf only. The villa deal is more of a franchise,” Tanoe told ABC.

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