Chorus of dissent against capital city move grows louder

Source – February 7, 2022
Arial photograph of North Penajam Paser in East Kalimantan – August 28, 2019 (Antara)

Fitria Chusna Farisa, Jakarta – The government plans to start the construction of the new capital city (IKN) mega-project "Nusantara" in North Penajam Paser, East Kalimantan, in mid-2022.

Despite estimates that the project will take 15-20 years to complete, the presidency, the TNI (Indonesian military), the Polri (Indonesian police) and several ministries are targeted to begin moving to the new capital in 2024.

Moreover President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has a dream of holding the August 17, 2024 Independence Day commemorations at the new capital.

But despite not even beginning yet, the project has already attracted widespread criticism.

Opposition has come from a variety of parties, which is being poured out though a petition against the new capital through to a judicial review of the IKN Law legitimising the move with the Constitutional Court.

Petition against new capital

Most recently, 45 national figures launched a petition opposing the capital city move and construction.

The petition titled "Pak [Mr] President, 2022-2024 is not the time to move the country's capital city" was initiated by the Narasi Institute and organised through the website. The petition is directed at President Widodo, the House of Representatives (DPR), the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) and the Constitutional Court.

In the petition, the initiators opposing the capital city invite all Indonesians to support them and call on Widodo to halt the plan. The initiators believe that the project is inappropriate in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Moreover the ordinary people are in a difficult situation economically, so there is no urgency for the government to move the state capital", reads the petition.

The figures who signed the petition are urging the government to focus on dealing with the new Covid-19 Omicron variant which will require large amounts of funds from the state budget and the National Economic Recovery (PEN) program.

They are also asking the government to reconsider the plan because Indonesia already has a huge foreign debt, a budgetary deficit of over 3 percent and is facing a decline in state revenue.

Meanwhile other basic infrastructure in several regions is still badly needed with damaged schools left unrepaired and bridges connecting villages being neglected and not maintained.

"It would be very wise if the President did not push through the use of state funds to pay for this project", reads the petition.

Included among the 45 figures supporting the petition are former Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Chairperson Busyro Muqoddas and University of Indonesia professor of economics and husband of former Women's Empowerment Minister Meutia Hatta, Sri Edi Swasono.

"I have a singular commitment to the values of those who are firmly taking a stand which sides with the ordinary people as the holders of sovereignty who have been insulted by the political process of enacting the IKN Law", said Muqoddas in a press release on Saturday February 5.

In addition to this, State Islamic University (UIN) Professor Syarif Hidayatullah, noted Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra, former Muhammadiyah General Chairperson Din Syamsuddin and senior economist Faisal Basri also support the petition.

The names of the 45 people supporting the petition are: Sri Edi Swasono; Azyumardi Azra; Din Syamsuddin; Anwar Hafid; Nurhayati Djamas; Daniel Mohammad Rasyied; Mayjen Purn Deddy Budiman; Busyro Muqodas; Faisal Basri; Didin S Damanhuri; Widi Agus Pratikto; Rochmat Wahab; Jilal Mardhani; Muhamad Said Didu; Anthony Budiawan; Carunia Mulya Firdausy; Mas Ahmad Daniri; TB. Massa Djafar; Abdurahman Syebubakar; Prijanto Soemantri; Syaiful Bakhry; Zaenal Arifin Hosein; Ahmad Yani; Umar Husin; Ibnu Sina Chandra Negara; Merdiansa Paputungan; Nur Ansyari; Ade Junjungan Said; Gatot Aprianto; Fadhil Hasan; Abdul Malik; Achmad Nur Hidayat; Sabriati Aziz; Moch Najib YN; Muhamad Hilmi; Engkur; Marfuah Musthofa; Masri Sitanggang; Mohamad Noer; Sritomo W Soebroto; M Hatta Taliwang; Mas Roro Lilik Ekowanti; Reza Indragiri Amriel; Mufidah Said; and Ramli Kamidin.

Constitutional Court challenge

Not long ago, the IKN Law was also challenged at the Constitutional Court by a group of people calling themselves the State Sovereignty National Axis (PNKN).

As has been reported, the Draft Law on the State Capital City (RUU IKN) was ratified on January 18 though a DPR plenary meeting. The law however is still waiting on the president's signature for it to pass into law.

The PNKN meanwhile is made up of KPK advisor Abdullah Hehamahua, former Jakarta DPD member Marwan Batubara, politician Agung Mozin, Islamic Ulama Council (MUI) Advisory Board Chairperson Muhyiddin Junaidi and seven other figures.

Announced in a document uploaded to the official Constitutional Court website, the legal challenge was registered on February 2.

The plaintiffs submitted a formal test of the IKN Law because they believe that the formation of the law was not in accordance with the regulations on legislation.

They say the law did not go through an uninterrupted planning process starting with the construction plan document, the planning regulations, the state financing plan and the construction implementation plan.

The plaintiffs also believe that the formulation of the law failed to pay attention to the material content because much of the material related to the new capital city is delegated to implementary regulations.

"Under Article 44 of the IKN Law, there are 13 instructions to delegate authority to stipulations in implementary regulations", wrote the plaintiffs.

In addition to this, according to the plaintiffs, the IKN Law was not made because it was really needed. The plaintiffs quoted from the results of a poll by a survey institute which found that the majority of the public oppose moving the capital city.

In addition to this, there was no information transparency about each stage of the deliberations on the law. Based on an investigation by the plaintiffs, out of the 28 stages and agenda items in the deliberation of the IKN Law at the DPR, only seven were documented and the information made accessible to the public.

"The people's representatives involved in the deliberations on the IKN Law were very partial and not holistic. Yet the IKN represents the joint manifestation of the capital of the Republic of Indonesia which should have had broader participation and [involved] parties from different regions, groups and elements of other social interests in its deliberations", said the plaintiffs.

Referring to these issues, the plaintiffs believe that the formation of the IKN Law did not fulfill the stipulations on the formation of legislation based on the 1945 Constitution and Law Number 12/2011 on the Formulation of Legislation.

Because of this therefore, they are asking the Constitutional Court to declare that the IKN Law is in conflict with the 1945 Constitution.

Mega-project of the oligarchy

Criticism over the new capital city project has also been articulated by the Civil Society Coalition. The Coalition earlier accused the move as being a mega-project of the oligarchy which threatens the safety of the ordinary people.

The Coalition is made up of East Kalimantan Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) and 17 Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) offices, the Srikandi Lestari Foundation, the Sajogyo institute and #CleanUpIndonesia (#BersihkanIndonesia).

"The funds being used to realise the capital city move would be far more useful if they were used to meet the basic needs of citizens (healthcare, education and so forth) who are currently facing difficulties", read a press release by the Coalition on Thursday January 20.

The capital city move is nothing more than a project of the oligarchy because according to the Coalition, it appears that there is an effort to bring the IKN closer to the business centres of various corporations there, whose concession areas are included in the IKN boundaries.

The Coalition also believes that there is an effort to "abolish the sins" of these corporations.

"According to JATAM East Kalimantan, there are 94 [abandoned] mine pits in the IKN area where responsibility for carrying out reclamation and post mining [rehabilitation], which should be carried out by the corporations, will be taken over and become the state's responsibility", they wrote.

According to the Coalition, many parties will be directly impacted upon by the project such as traditional communities in Kutai Kartanegara and North Penajam Paser.

Then there is the central government state civil servants living in Jakarta and the residents of Central Sulawesi who will have to face environmental damage as a flow on effect from mining projects in their area to supply materials for infrastructure and electrical power for the capital city.

The other issue which has been highlighted is the rushed Strategic Environmental Study (KLHS) done by the government in the early stages of planning to move the capital city.

The KLHS was actually done after the site for the new capital in East Kalimantan was chosen, not beforehand. So, the study does not included background information about why East Kalimantan was selected as the candidate for the new capital, and not somewhere else.

Despite this, in the KLHS it also reveals the potential for environmental problems in the area of the future capital, ranging from threats to irrigation systems, flora and fauna and pollution.

Yet the plan to move the capital city began in response to the myriad of complicated problems in Jakarta, both in terms of environmental carrying capacity and population capacity.

"The other basic problem which is not well known by the public is that the IKN area and its buffer zone (Balikpapan) will be prone to clean water problems in the future and this problem is also explained in the IKN's Strategic Environmental Study", wrote the Coalition.

"In our view, the problems in Jakarta must be quickly resolved, not instead leaving behind the problems in Jakarta and creating new problems in East Kalimantan", continued the press release.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Ramai-ramai Menolak Pemindahan Ibu Kota Negara...".]