The Indonesian Military (TNI) is set to begin construction next year on eight apartment towers that will serve as army residences, on a plot of land that originally belonged to the Imanuel Church.
The military said on Friday that the location on Jalan Medan Merdeka Timur, Central Jakarta, was chosen because of its proximity to the Army headquarters on Jalan Veteran.
The old church building, also known as GPIB Church, will remain standing, as the apartment towers will be built on a 2.1-hectare plot of land next to the church.
“We’re not going to dismantle the church,” Brig. Gen. Bayu Purwiyono, the Army's deputy logistics assistant, said in Jakarta. “The management of the church has allowed the use, as long as it is used by the Army.”
He said that the land that would be used for the apartment block had been used as an office by the Army’s Transportation Battalion for 50 years now, as well as by hundreds of local residents.
Half of the residents have left, leaving only some 60 families, who are expected to leave the place by the end of the month so that the construction of the apartment towers can commence in early 2014.
The church council, also known as the GPIB Synod Assembly, said it approved the sale of the land to the military because it had met certain requirements, including a selling price higher than Rp 3 million ($245) per square meter.
“When the Indonesian Army submitted the proposal, we formed a team to study it. The results of the our research were conveyed to the synod,” assembly chairman Rev. M. F. Manuhutu said on Friday. “Because this is to support the Army, the church has an obligation to support it, so we’ve agreed to released the land to the state."
TNI purchased the land at Rp 3.7 million per hectare, paying a total of Rp 78 billion through the council’s bank account in July.
Bayu said the money had not come from state funds, but from property firm The Palace Hotel, which is a unit of the Army’s Kartika Eka Paksi Foundation.
The planned apartment construction sparked protest from a group calling itself "People Who Care About the GPIB Church," who said the army's actions would harm the historic church, which was built in the 1830s and which is regarded as a cultural landmark.
The group has also questioned the selling price of the land and the involvement of a private firm.
“If the land is indeed meant to support the country’s interests, perhaps we can understand, as long as the price is good,” group member Rohadi Sutisna said. “But the payment was made by PT Palace Hotel. The church community really disagrees with this private interest.”
Bayu asserted that the purchase was needed to support the country’s defense.
“We’re lacking housing [for soldiers]; only 60 percent of the need has been met,” he said. “The Army wants to build housing around headquarters… all for the sake of effectiveness and efficiency.”
Bayu said that the new apartment block was intended for Army members stationed in the “Ring One” security zone in the capital, which hosts an array of the country’s “vital objects,” including the state palace and ministry offices.
He said the property would be catalogued on the State Property Investment list once construction was complete.