On jalan Komando Raya everything continued as normal; crowded with the lunchtime activities of buying and selling. After Friday prayers, under sunny skies the road was filled with queues of customers for warteg (Tegal buffet), nasi padang, es kelapa (chilled coconuts), gorengan (assorted fried snacks), and sate (satay). However, this seemingly normal state of affairs was overshadowed by the concern of the traders about the future of their livelihoods, particularly those who had relied on their small roadside businesses more than a decade.
Like a bolt from the cloudy sky, bad news had struck the community of traders in Kampung Karet’s fourth administrative division (RT04, RW02) the previous Wednesday; they would no longer be permitted to sell their wares on Jalan Komando Raya, effective Monday, 14th of January 2019. Despite her surprise, Bu Mia calmly gathered all the members of her community to discuss how to deal with the new reality. Would they still be able to sell in the same location come next Monday? If forced to relocate, would their customers still come? How long before they would finally move, and establish themselves in a new location?
A worker from the nearby office complex told RRJ “I normally eat here because it’s close to my office, and the service is fast. There’s no way I could eat in a restaurant every day.” “We like eating here,” a group of young men told us, after finishing a hot bowl of soup on their lunch break, “The atmosphere is nicer, the food is delicious, and we can enjoy a cigarette too.” All seemed confused to hear that it could be the traders’ last day.
An OB (so-called ‘office boy,’ despite being female) shared a more optimistic perspective; “Luckily I’ve got the number of the traders I use regularly, so if they have to move then I’ll be able to find out the new location easily.” Another interviewee agreed with the traders’ concerns, telling us “I agree with them trying to clean up the road space to deal with traffic, but hopefully they’ll get a new location that’s comfortable and not too far from the offices!”
Almost all the representatives of the trader community gather on the second floor of one of the local Padang restaurants, which had been closed to facilitate the meeting. All agreed to relocate their business activities threatened with eviction from Jalan Komando Raya to one of the small passageways nearby known as ‘Gang Z.’ Other than the fact that it was close to the offices, and Gang Z is not used by vehicular traffic, leaving their customers to enjoy their food in peace. They had also already prepared a potential design concept for a small trading area at the site.
Unfortunately, a new problem arose for the traders and their plans; on either side of Gang Z were motorcycle parking areas owned by a major company. The company’s HQ is located in one of the towers which encroach into the space of Karet’s administrative district. With the intention to maintain a neighbourly relationship, Bu Mia prepared to meet with of the building management representatives on the following Monday.
After breakfast, several representatives of the trader community prepared to visit the building management. They gathered beforehand at Mia’s house, before departing as one to the offices opposite. Along the way, those traders waiting to hear the results of the dialogue about to take place enthusiastically encouraged the delegation as it passed, offering warm words of support.
As Mia and her traders headed for the building, municipal officers deployed on the street to ensure compliance with the notice delivered the previous week; no trading would take place by the roadside. The usual hustle and bustle of breakfast and lunch on jalan Komando Raya is gone, replaced by confused-looking people emerging from their offices in search of food. “Where did the traders go?” asked one young woman, “It hasn’t even made much difference. It’s a narrow street, right? I don’t think you can fit two cars down here at once anyway, and there’s no way I can eat H** B** every day…”
Entering the office complexes, the delegation encountered a different world just across the road from where they live and work; a newly inaugurated commercial corridor beneath the towers. On either side, restaurants of well-known brands display menus with food prices on average many times greater than those available on the streetside just metres away.
The meeting turned out to be less fruitful than Bu Mia and her traders had hoped. The building management explicitly stated their objection to the trader’s plans to relocate the small businesses to Gang Z. The bad news was relayed to the wider community, almost all of which assembled to find out what had happened. They felt they had a right to determine the future of Gang Z, given that the narrow strip itself falls within the local administration authority, and is not a part of the corporate land ownership. The community representatives decided to meet with a range of other related institutions to get support for their proposal.
Will the struggles of Bu Mia and her traders be successful? Will support from other authorities, local and otherwise, be granted? How about the future of the culinary delights, the very presence of which is so essential to hundreds if not thousands of office workers in the vicinity of Jalan Komando and Jalan Sudirman? Will they still be there in the future? Keep up with our ongoing coverage @rameramejakarta