Not Just Expats, But ‘Non-native’ Locals Are Not Allowed to Own Land In Yogyakarta

Officials in Yogya believe there are two kinds of Indonesians: native and non-native. Because of this, you might not be able to own the land you’ve purchased

What makes the Special District of Yogyakarta so special, apart from its system of government, is that it apparently seems to have different views on what your nationality is. Evidently, officials in Yogyakarta believe there are two kinds of Indonesian citizens — native and non-native. Depending on the group you belong to in the eyes of the law, you might not be able to own the land you’ve purchased.  

The local government says a “native” Indonesian has the right to declare ownership on the land they’ve bought. However, if the administration classifies you as a “non-native”, then you are only granted the right to build on the land, while the ownership of the real estate itself is shifted to the government. Should you want to use the land for unique purposes, non-natives will be made to pay rent to the local government, says local media.     

Zaelous Siput Loksari (right)

Zaelous Siput Loksari (right)

Indonesian citizens Eni Kusumawati, Zaelous Siput Lokasari, and Willie Sebastian claim to have been victimized by this vague “natives only” rule. All three of these people have been denied ownership of land they already purchased – courtesy of the National Land Agency (BPN) – allegedly because they are of Chinese descent.

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The policy is based on an instruction letter signed by the vice governor in 1975, which states that all land in Yogyakarta shall not be owned by non-native Indonesians. However, many say this contradicts the nation’s 1960 Agraria Laws (UUPA), which say “only Indonesians” can own Indonesia’s land.

The purpose of the policy is to “even out” the wealth and land distribution between the native-born Indonesians and the ethnically Chinese, according to Suyitnoa land official of the Yogyakarta Regional Government, who claims the latter group of people is thought to already be dominant in terms of land ownership.

Suyitno admits he does not have data on the subject, but claims he is willing to bet that several strategically placed buildings all over Yogyakarta are owned by people of Chinese descent. This rule can only be dismissed if the distribution is “equal”, he told Tirto.

An explanation from Arie Yuwirin, head of BPN Yogyakarta, adds confusion to the matter. According to him, the instruction was confirmed by the Supreme Court to be a legal jurisprudence regulation. He also stated that the regulation is applicable towards all non-native Indonesians, not only people of Chinese descent. However, when the matter was brought before the nation’s Supreme Court, the court ultimately denied the petition to change the rules. Instead, it said that the suit can not be processed due to the fact that the regulation is not a product of the nation’s official law.

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Actions taken by victim Willie Sebastian, head activist of the Nation’s Child Against Discrimination Movement, were also futile. One of the most prominent stunts he pulled took place in September of 2015, when he wrote a letter to the president accusing the Governor Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X of separatism.

Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X

Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X

“The Sultan himself stated that in Yogyakarta, there is no state-owned land. The purpose of this regulation is to conquer and own the nation’s land,” Sebastian told Merdeka.

According to Siti Noor Laila, commissioner of the Human Rights National Commission, if Yogyakarta is part of Indonesia, then it should follow the laws and regulations of the nation, and not its own set of rules. “There are rich natives, and poor non-natives too,” she said.

Budiman Sudjatmiko, member of the House of Representatives’ Second Commission added, “Since UUPA is officially imposed, the regulation should be automatically terminated. There should not be any differentiation.”

Meanwhile, on September 14, Siput sent a legal notice  to the Governor in Yogyakarta. In the document, he declares that if the regulation is not dismissed within 30 days, he will take the matter back to court. The public should hear more on this soon.

Feature image via Wikimedia; first image via BBC; second image via Suara Pembaruan

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Tommy Prayoga is a full-time staff writer and editor at Content Collision, a media agency and technology firm in Southeast Asia. He covers issues related to political science, news, and business. See his portfolio at tommyyoung.c2live.com and build your own for free! For more information, visit www.contentcollision.co


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