Watchdog says rights violations, agrarian conflicts linked to infrastructure drive

Tempo – December 10, 2018
Peoples Struggle Front rally marking Human Rights Day – December 10, 2018 (Tempo)
Peoples Struggle Front rally marking Human Rights Day – December 10, 2018 (Tempo)

Ninis Chairunnisa, Jakarta – Marking International Human Rights Day, the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) has highlighted widespread human rights violations related to agrarian conflicts linked to the government’s infrastructure development program.

Komnas HAM chairperson Ahmad Taufan Damanik says that human rights violations during agrarian conflicts are one of his institution’s main concerns coinciding with the momentum of International Human Rights Day which is commemorated today.

“Related to the agrarian issues, Komnas HAM has received many complaints related to rights violations, particularly related to agrarian issues and natural resources”, said Damanik during a commemoration of International Human Rights Day at the Royal Kuningan Hotel in South Jakarta on Monday December 10.

Damanik said that the widespread agrarian conflicts cannot be separated from President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla’s massive infrastructure program. The Widodo administration has at least 269 infrastructure projects which are part of the national priority program regulated under Presidential Regulation Number 13/2016 and revised through Presidential Decree Number 58/2017.

“The high level of agrarian conflicts is among other things, linked to the infrastructure development program which is a priority for President Joko Widodo”, said Daminik.

Daminik said he appreciates President Wododo’s distribution of 9 million hectares of land that are agrarian reform targets. He said there has been progress in agrarian reform even though there are challenges that still need to be faced.

Komnas HAM Commissioner Hairansyah said that aside from becoming an increasingly big problem, the other issue is the involvement of the security forces in agrarian conflicts. The other problem is the criminalisation of activists, human rights defenders and member of the public demanding their rights to land, particularly indigenous communities.

Hairansyah believes that the government still tends to be sporadic in resolving agrarian conflict cases and the government has yet to create effective mechanisms to resolve conflicts. “So the various kinds of problems related to agrarian conflicts still come up and have yet to find a point of agreement”, he told Tempo by phone on Monday.

Aside from agrarian conflicts, Komnas HAM also highlighted widespread cases of violations against freedom of religion and belief along with intolerance and extremism.

Damanik says that strengthening Komnas HAM as an institution is also a focus in the commemoration of International Human Rights day this year. “No less important is fixing up the management of Komnas HAM as an institution. This theme was chosen with external and internal aspects in the framework of upholding human rights”, said Damanik.

Today, Komnas HAM held a seminar to mark the commemoration of International Human Rights Day under the theme 70 Years Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Afterwards: Towards the Advancement and Upholding of Human Rights Which is Better.

Attending as speakers was Damanik, National Resilience Institute governor Agus Widjojo, Minister for Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning Sofyan Djalil and the head of the national police headquarters’ legal division Mas Guntur Luape.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Hari HAM, Konflik Agraria Imbas Proyek Infrastruktur Jadi Sorotan”.]