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Property dispute in Batam leaves some Singaporeans anxious

A group of Singaporeans who had boughtproperties in Batam, hoping they would be able to extend the leases when they were up, are now embroiled in a dispute with Indonesian developers.

On Dec 13, the management of Indah Puri Golf Resort sent in heavy machinery to begin demolition work on Block 1 of the 10-block complex.

Tribun Batam reported on Dec 16 that residents had blocked the heavy equipment sent to start the demolition.

In Indonesia, foreigners are allowed to buy apartments, but not landed homes.

They get 30-year leasehold titles for these units, which is extendable by another 20 years upon application.

Buyers can also later apply for an additional 30-year extension to the leasehold on top of the 50-year lease.

In September 2018, the 30-year lease on Indah Puri ended.

Before that, residents like Singaporean Cynthia Wee-Hoefer and other expatriates began engaging developer PT Guthrie Jaya Indah Island Resort to determine what was needed for the extension of the lease.

But both sides are at an impasse.

On Thursday, she sent ST images of furnishings in her golf-course and sea-facing apartment being taken away by unknown men.

A day earlier, Mr Mangara Manurung, a lawyer for the developer, was quoted by CNA, saying: "We have been very lenient towards them. Out of compassion, we let them stay for three years without paying.

"We have tried to be persuasive. We have issued warnings and legal notices. We have been very generous towards people who no longer have the right to be there."

On Tuesday, a retiree, who asked not to be named, told ST: "Right now, all I feel is pain from watching the photographs and videos of the demolition. It has been frustrating because nobody wrote to me about the demolition."

Singaporean apartment owner, Dr Masood Faizullah Khan said the residents' efforts at negotiation have been hampered by delays in the process.

Madam Wee-Hoefer, 70, said Singaporeans own at least 14 units at Indah Puri and travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic have made it difficult for home owners to go to Batam to resolve the situation.

BP Batam, also known as Batam Development Authority, confirmed there had been several meetings between the apartment owners and the developer.

BP Batam's spokesman, Madam Ariastuty Sirait, told ST: "The mediation process facilitated by BP Batam occurred over seven times since 2018. We hope the situation between PT Guthrie Jaya Indah Island Resort Batam and apartment owners can be completed amicably."

Dr Masood, 70, told ST that in 1993, he had spent money on two apartments, garden space and renovation work.

The businessman said: "I bought the apartments because we were given assurances the lease could be extended. Nobody would have invested in them without a long-term guarantee."

He showed us a copy of the lease agreement with PT Guthrie Jaya Indah Island Resort.

It stated the resort can, under applicable laws and regulations, renew the lease, for a further period upon the expiry of the current lease period, by paying a premium.

But the home owners are baulking at what the property management are now asking for.

Speaking on behalf of her brother, who is an apartment owner, Singaporean Pat Kwok, said the offer by the Indah Puri management in October 2019 for a lease extension was above $130,000 for her brother's unit.

Recent photos of Facebook groups showed some residents protesting the demolition on the resort grounds, and posing for photos in front of apartments with roofs being removed.

ST understands there are still some residents living in Indah Puri amid the ongoing demolition.

Mr Robby Batubara, a lawyer representing 60 apartment owners, including Singaporeans, said the remaining residents are reluctant to leave their apartments for fear of being locked out by the resort's security.

He added that water and electricity have been cut.

Mr Robby, who met with the developer and BP Batam on Wednesday, said: "As far as I know, there has been no court order for the demolition.

"We are worried because it could cause problems in the future - people who want to invest in mega companies or properties in Batam may think twice about doing so."

He is filing a stop-work order on the demolition work.

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