Coalition urges audit of environmentally destructive companies instead of NGOs

CNN Indonesia – November 18, 2021
Protesters speaks through megaphone at demonstration – Undated (Asep Fathulrahman)

Jakarta – A coalition of non-government organisations (NGOs) believes that the government is anti-criticism because it often responds to criticism with threats of criminalisation and audits.

This was conveyed following a threat to audit NGOs by Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment (Menko Marves) and retired military General Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.

The NGO coalition includes Greenpeace Indonesia, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the Auriga Nusantara Foundation (AURIGA), Forest Watch Indonesia, the Nusantara Traditional Community Alliance (AMAN), the Natural Forest Foundation (YHA), Environment Aceh (Lingkungan Aceh), the Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA), the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) and the People's Earth Heritage Foundation (Pusaka).

"Threatening an audit without clarifying the legal basis is an act of anti-criticism committed by the government through the Menko Marves who should not have the authority to do this", said Walhi National Executive Director Zenzi Suhadi in a press release on Thursday November 18.

Suhadi said that the threat to audit NGOs is also an effort on the part of the government to control civil society and this is dangerous and threatens democracy.

He said that instead of Panjaitan issuing a statement that he wants to audit NGOs, the groups are urging the government to conduct a thorough environmental audit. Because, he said, the risks to the ordinary people's safety as a consequence of environmental disasters are far more urgent at the moment.

"It would be better for the Menko Maritime to lead an environmental audit, how bad the deforestation actually is, how big are the country's financial and economic losses, projected income of the extractive industries which often [pay] disproportionately [low] taxes", he said.

"How big is the burden on the government and the people in coping with and dealing with disasters, is the flow of natural resources proportional between that which goes into the corporations' coffers and the burden shouldered by the state", he added.

Suhadi is of the view that there are many things that are important to audit. He then touched on Pandjaitan's involvement in the PCR Covid-19 testing business saying it would be better if Panjaitan audited his own businesses.

"If there's still time it would be better used to audit PCR testing service companies, is it true they're taking profits, because this is what the public is waiting for at the moment. A string of urgent responsibilities being ignored. Wanting to audit civil society is like you don't have enough work to do", he said.

AMAN Secretary General Rukka Sombolinggi also suggested that Pandjaitan audit the companies believed to be damaging the environment and hurting the people.

In addition to this, the government should also audit several public policies and business licenses that have been issued because many of these are seen as robbing traditional communities of their rights.

"The most urgent thing for the state right now is conducting an audit of the investment activities by mining, plantation and industrial timber plantation companies, even government programs related to energy and food estates", said Sombolinggi.

The head of Greenpeace Indonesia, Leonard Simanjuntak, took the opportunity to say that Panjaitan could potentially violate the law by auditing NGOs because audits can only be done based on a court order.

"So if it's done just based on the interests of the executive, particularly if it's only on the orders of Menko Marves Luhut it would not be in accordance with legal regulations", said Simanjuntak.

As has been reported, Panjaitan has threatened to audit NGOs in Indonesia because he believes that many of them are spreading lies.

So far however he has yet to explain what will be audited, whether it is related to finances, performance or something else. (yla/kid)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Koalisi LSM soal Luhut: Audit Tanpa Dasar Hukum Jelas itu Antikritik".]