Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara. Villagers cut down a large tree on Monday to block a main road linking West Lombok and North Lombok districts as part of an ongoing border dispute.
Hundreds of residents of Lembah Sari village blocked the road to protest what they said was a unilateral decision by officials in North Lombok to move the border between the two districts.
The new border now runs through their village.
“We felled the tree at 4 a.m. to protest the longstanding border issue that has yet to see an end,” said Zaenudin, a protester.
Protesters said that instead of using the old border with neighboring Pemenang Barat village, which is now part of the new district of North Lombok, officials had drawn a new border that crossed through land owned by Lembah Sari residents.
“The authorities in North Lombok did not need to change or shift the border, especially since it puts our village in their territory. We still want to be part of West Lombok,” said Zaidnuddin, a resident of Karang Sidemen hamlet in Lembah Sari .
Residents of Pemenang Barat said they did not want any trouble with their neighbors and hoped that the dispute could be resolved through mediation organized by provincial authorities.
“We, the residents of Pemenang Barat, are not making an issue out of this,” said Zullyadani, the village head. “We will abide by whatever decision the provincial authorities come to in mediating this dispute.”
The protesters prevented a clean-up crew sent by the West Lombok administration from removing the tree.
Hundreds of villagers from the 14 hamlets that form Lembah Sari stood guard at the fallen tree, and traffic was blocked for nearly seven hours before the West Lombok Police persuaded the assembled crowd to disperse and allow workers to remove the tree.
Adj. Sr. Comr. Agus Suprianto, head of the district police, said the blockade had disrupted the activities of villagers.
Even after the protesters were persuaded to disperse, only motorcycles were able to maneuver past the tree. Tensions rose again shortly after when a number of villagers attempted to cut up the tree themselves and take home the pieces.
“This tree is the property of the government so don’t touch it, wherever you come from,” said a policeman at the scene.
The border dispute has been dragging on for the last three months, and teams from both districts have been summoned by the provincial government as part of efforts to reach a settlement on the divisive issue.
Both sides agreed this months to a moratorium on all activities in the disputed area.
A spokesman for North Lombok, Sujanadi, said district authorities would abide by whatever decision was made by the provincial government.
North Lombok was established on July 21, 2008, after having split from West Lombok.
The new district is made up of 34 villages that were formerly part of West Lombok.