Villagers, Living within Ritz-Carlton Walls, Battle to Get Out

By William J. Furney
Managing Editor
The Bali Times
With Bali Editor Rian Dewanto and staff reporter Arga Sagitarini

JIMBARAN ~ A battle has erupted between villagers living within the walls of one of Bali’s most luxurious hotels, with the residents having to scale rickety ladders to leave their homes, The Bali Times has learned.

The exclusive Ritz-Carlton, Bali Resort & Spa in Jimbaran is the scene of the standoff, where the management wants to purchase the land that 15 families are living on within their walls.

But the walled-in residents in the 368-room and 38-cliff-villa estate are not swayed, according to Made Lotere, a cow farmer who like his parents was born on the land.

“We don’t want to move from here; it’s our land. My home is here and I hope the hotel and government can give us our own entrance so that we can be directly linked to the other villagers in Cenggiling,” he told The Times when a reporter visited the cut-off homes.

Altogether 15 families comprising 52 people live in around a dozen houses at the back of the hotel complex that also features 12 restaurants and lounges.

If the villagers want to leave their homes, to go to school – there are some 10 schoolchildren – go fishing, look after their cows on nearby land or simply to see friends and relations, they must leave the premises via the only exit, the hotel’s front entrance.

But that poses a problem, says Lotere, pointing to the circa-one-kilometer distance between their homes and the entrance as a major deterrent as some do not own any form of transport such as motorbikes.

So instead the villagers use homemade ladders and scale the walls beside their homes, he said.

Other residents said they felt uncomfortable using the high-security hotel entrance and preferred to use the ladders.

Villager Nyoman Sadre said they had been told by the hotel that the use of the front entrance was only temporary.

“We were given temporary use of the front entrance and we demand a different way that we can use, just for us, to go and come back,” he told The Times.

According to another resident, Ketut Cabak, before the hotel was built, around 1995, the hotel and the villagers entered into an informal agreement under which the villagers would allow the hotel to purchase their land and that the residents would continue to stay there and be provided with their own entrance.

“It’s important for us to have our own entrance, and we ask that the government help us,” Lotere said, adding that there were facilities nearby that the villagers needed to use, such as hospitals, schools, government offices and soccer fields.

Lotere said last year he was forced to offer some of his 1.04-hectare plot of land for sale to the hotel, as he was in need of money to send his son to Singapore for a six-month stint training as a cook in a restaurant. The hotel turned down the offer, he said, as they wanted all the land, not part of it.

So Lotere obtained a bank loan instead, putting the land up as security, and spending Rp15 million (US$1,600) on the Singapore trip and Rp25 million on a cremation ceremony for his deceased parents.

A Ritz-Carlton security guard, Komang Merthayasa, said there were no difficulties with the villagers using the hotel entrance.

“There are no problems because of the one entrance. The hotel is fine if the villagers want to use it, as long as they let the security staff carry out their regular checks,” he told The Times.

Wayan Cawi, spokesman for the hotel’s holding company PT Karang Mas Sejahtera, said separately that the company had been generous to the villagers in allowing them to use parts of the property that did not belong to them.

“As far as we are concerned, there hasn’t been any problem with the residents. For years we’ve allowed them to use our land. We’ll let them do so until the company decides to build in particular areas,” he said.

Setyawan told The Times that the company had never forced anyone to sell their land.

“The land this hotel was built on was sold to us voluntarily. I never pushed them to sell their land, and we never promised them their own entranceway if they sold their land.”

He said he hoped for a fair solution to the problem.

“The company is willing to cooperate to find a solution. But we strongly disagree if we are asked to sell our property to anyone (such as to the government so they could resettle the villagers), or to build an entranceway for the villagers using our part of property. If they want to build an entranceway, they can do so using their own property.”

As for security implications of villagers – or anyone, for that matter – entering the hotel grounds via ladders, Cawi said security staff were vigilant and when they saw ladders up against the walls, they removed them. The villagers, however, soon replaced them, he admitted.

Badung Regency spokesman Putu Eka Merthawan, meanwhile, told The Times that the government was currently studying the problem.

“We are still coordinating meetings with the residents and investors separately, to identify the problems and demands. Basically, we seek a solution that accommodates both interests,” he said.

He said Deputy Regent of Badung I Ketut Sudikerta had proposed that the residents be relocated to the outskirts of the property of PT. Karang Mas Sejahtera, which would be swapped with the resident’s properties.

“We respect the rights reserved by each owner. But these are poor residents, and so we expect the investor will understand and help to build new houses after the relocation,” said Merthawan.

Merthawan said that the government had received two alternative plans, which were eventually rejected.

“Other alternatives were for the government to help with either building an entranceway for the residents or help to buy the land owned by PT. Karang Mas Sejahtera. These plans aren’t viable because we can’t use the government’s money for private problems such as this.”

For hotel-village resident I Komang Adi, living within the confines of a luxury hotel is “just fine, and very secure.”

The 18-year-old said he uses his motorbike to leave the complex to get to his high school in nearby Nusa Dua. But other villagers, he said, did not have motorbikes and thus used ladders to get over the walls.

He said the villagers had electricity supply but no access to running water, and had to order it from outside.

“There are a lot of reasons why we use the ladders – because people need to quickly tend to their cows or to get to the beach or the center of the village,” he said.

“We have a simple life here,” said Adi.


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