Presidential candidates not addressing criminalisation of environmental activists

Source – February 3, 2019
Syahrul Fitria (right) speaking in Jakarta – February 3, 2019 (Kompas)
Syahrul Fitria (right) speaking in Jakarta – February 3, 2019 (Kompas)

Devina Halim, Jakarta – Syahrul Fitria, a researcher with the non-government organisation (NGO) Auriga, believes that the criminalisation of environmental activists has yet to be taken up as an issue by either of the two presidential election campaign tickets.

Fitria said this in the lead up to the second presidential debate during a discussion titled Examining the Vision and Mission of 2019 Presidential Candidates, at the KoDe Inisiatif offices in South Jakarta on Sunday February 3.

The second debate will discuss several topics, namely energy, food, infrastructure, natural resources and the environment.

“Actually it’s not just been happening of late or just to environmental activists, but also community groups fighting for their environment. That’s what I’m saying is not yet clear, they aren’t even serious about it at the moment”, said Fitria.

Fitria believes that the government overly prioritizes the economic aspect without listening to what the public’s complaints are.

Fitria took the example of the community at Talang Mountain in Solok, West Sumatra. Communities in the area are opposing the construction of a geothermal power plant because it would result in the loss of land belonging to the people.

“The government always emphasises economic investment but doesn’t want to listen to what communities’ real complaints are. Then many of them are arrested [when they protest]”, he said.

Fitria also believes that these cases are similar to what has been experienced by anti-corruption activists, meaning that there is no resolution to the cases.

Because of this, Fitria is of the view that the regulations on protecting environmental activists are not being upheld. This protection is enshrined in Article 66 of Law Number 32/2009 on the Protection and Management of the Environment.

The article states that, “anyone who fights for the right to a healthy and safe environment cannot be charged with a crime or sued under civil law”.

“I think that what’s needed is clarity because according to the law on the environment it states that environmental activists cannot be criminalised for what they are articulating. This is not yet being implemented”, explained Fitria.

The second presidential debate will be held on February 17 and will present the two presidential candidates. The themes that will be taken up are energy, food, infrastructure, natural resources and the environment.

The debate will be held at the Sultan Hotel in Jakarta and be broadcast by four television stations, namely RCTI, JTV, MNC TV and INews TV.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Kedua Paslon Dinilai Belum Serius Tangani Kriminalisasi terhadap Aktivis Lingkungan”.]