Sharon Muller – On Monday January 7 mass actions were launched in several cities across Indonesia demanding the release of human rights defenders Fatia Maulidiyanti and Haris Azhar, who were being tried on charges of defamation.
In Sorong, West Papua, protesters from the Human Rights Concern Solidarity Front held a silent demonstration at the Sorong District Court where they unfurled banners reading "Free Haris and Fatia Immediately!"
In the Central Java city of Yogyakarta, a similar action was launched at the District Attorney General's office. In speeches, the protesters demanded that Maulidiyanti and Azhar be unconditionally released. In addition to this, they also demanded that democratic space be opened as widely as possible, an end to the criminalisation of activists and expressed their opposition to mining in the Wabu Block in Intan Jaya, Papua.
In Jakarta meanwhile, more than 200 people "descended" on the East Jakarta District Court where Maulidiyanti and Azhar are being tried. Since 9 am the pro-democracy protesters had been shouting "Free Fatia-Haris!" They also performed traditional dances from Papua, gave political speeches and vowed to continue monitoring the trial until the final verdict.
As has been reported, on January 8 the panel of judges at the East Jakarta District Court acquitted the defendants on all charges. According to the judges, Maulidiyanti and Azhar were not proven to have committed defamation against Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, and the pair were declared not guilty.
"It has not been proven as defamation or tarnishing the good name of Luhut. The defendants have not been proven to have committed the criminal offices in the first indictment", said the judges (Detiknews, 09/01/24).
Pandjaitan reported Maulidiyanti and Azhar to the Metro Jaya regional police in Jakarta on September 22, 2021. In the indictment, they were charged with violating Article 27 Paragraph 3 in conjunction with Article 45 Paragraph 3 of the Information and Electronic Transaction (ITE) Law, Article 14 Paragraph 2 of Law Number 1/1946, Article 15 of Law Number 1/1946 and Article 310 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on defamation.
But all of this was untrue. As stated by presiding judge Cokorda Gede Arthana, the public prosecutor's charges against Maulidiyanti and Azhar were completely baseless. Because, first of all, the use of the phrase "Lord" is not an insult. “Lord” means “Your Majesty”, and this referred not to Luhut personally, but to the position he holds.
In addition to this, Lord is a word that is often used by many online media users to refer to Pandjaitan. Even in everyday conversations the word "Lord Luhut" is frequently expressed but it has never created any problems for Pandjaitan. So in this context, Maulidiyanti and Azhar did not commit the slightest act of defamation.
Second, the discussion in a podcast uploaded on Azhar's YouTube account titled There is Lord Luhut behind the Economic Relations-Military Operations in Intan Jaya!! There are also State Intelligence Agency Generals!! NgeHAMtam, was not a contrived attempt by Maulidiyanti and Azhar to make Panjaitan appear to be a criminal or cause trouble as alleged by Pandjaitan.
Rather, the podcast dissected the results of a quick study by nine non-government organisations (NGOs) titled The Economics and Politics of Military Deployment in Papua: The Intan Jaya Case, which was published in August 2021.
In this study, as acknowledged by the judges, it was found that 99 percent of the shares in PT Toba Sejahtera Group belonged to Pandjaitan. And the facts proved that this company, through its subsidiary PT Tobacom Del Mandiri, had been exploring a mining business agreement with Australian mining giant West Wits to plunder gold in the Wabu Block in Intan Jaya.
More than that, the panel of judges also explained that PT Tobacom Del Mandiri and PT Madinah Qurrota Ain had already committed to working together to facilitate Clean and Clear (CNC) permits at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) and permits to use forest areas for the Darewo River Gold Project mining business. And once again, Panjaitan benefited financially though PT Toba Sejahtera and Tobacom Del Mandiri.
This fact was proven based on a West Wits Mining press release in April 2017 which stated that the CNC permit had been received thanks to the work of PT Toba Sejahtera. In the minutes of a meeting document signed on October 5, 2016 by PT Tobacom and West Wits Mining, it was agreed that Tobacom would be allocated 30 percent of shares providing it helped facilitate permits from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources and the construction of a road to the Wabu Block.
On February 21-23, 2017 another meeting was held by the two companies, and the result was to agree on several issues including technical operations, legal and organisational structure, exploration and operation schemes, as well as technical financing. Even though only Paulus Prananto, the president director of PT Tobacom was involved, in March 2017 all of the meeting results were reported back to the parent company, namely PT Toba Sejahtera. So Pandjaitan's argument in court that he was not involved in the Wabu Block mining business was nonsense.
Pandjaitan's actions against Maulidiyanti and Azhar were purely a case of criminalisation. On the one hand, it was an attempt to silence critical voices that have been diligent in conveying the facts on the ground, and on the other hand it was an elite political maneuver to secure business interests in Papua.
Pandjaitan and other members of the Indonesian elite not only hold political power but also smooth the way for their business interests through this political power. The facts that emerged during the trial are evidence of this.
Maulidiyanti and Azhar are now free. This is a victory of the people, not a gift from the panel of judges against the political elite, and should therefore be appreciated. But this is not the end of the struggle. As stated by Maulidiyanti, "As long as suffering and human rights violations still exist, we still have to continue fighting".
The best kind of struggle is an organised struggle, because our enemy is an enemy that is also organised. And this struggle is none other than the building of a political tool belonging to the oppressed people, namely a revolutionary political party.
Newsroom Narrative Siapa yang berdusta di Kasus Luhut vs Haris dan Fatia? Buka Matra (Who is lying in the Luhut vs Haris and Fatia case? Open Dimension), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zf3YBmJ8324 – July 12, 2023. Accessed on January 14, 2024.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Bebasnya Fatia-Haris, Kemenangan Rakyat Melawan Kriminalisasi".]