NGOs reject presidential invite, say they won't be played off against each other

Source – November 24, 2020
Walhi Executive Director Nur Hidayati speaking to reporters in Jakarta – February 22, 2020 (Kompas)

Achmad Nasrudin Yahya, Jakarta – The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) has asserted that solidarity between civil society groups will not be split or divided by an attempt to invite them to a meeting with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Monday November 23.

Walhi Executive Director Nur Hidayati said that the rejection of the invitation to attend the Palace meeting sends a strong message to the government that the social movements cannot be stemmed.

"We want to convey a strong message that we, civil society are still solid, we cannot be played off against each other through efforts such as this", said the woman who is usually called Yaya by her friends during a virtual press conference in Tuesday November 24.

Hidayati said that it would be impossible for Walhi to abandon civil society groups by fulfilling the Palace invitation.

She admitted to being concerned that if they fulfilled the Palace invitation it could in fact split and divide the strength of the social movements which up until now have consistently criticised government policies.

"We don't want this effort to be able to split and divide our movement, this was our principle concern", explained Hidayati.

Aside from this, Hidayati revealed that civil society has already lost confidence in the government and the House of Representatives (DPR).

This follows the drafting of many policies which failed to accommodate the public's wishes, such as the drafting and enactment of Law Number 11/2020 on Job Creation (the Omnibus Law).

According to Hidayati, the drafting and enactment of the all encompassing law was undemocratic because the government and the DPR sidelined the public's voices.

"We think that the elimination of public participation in making this law was absolutely fatal because public participation is the essence of democracy, because democracy without participation is actually a democracy which is an illusion, a pretend democracy", said the group.

Earlier, a number of social organisations which are active in issues of the environment and agrarian reform rejected the invitation to attend a meeting at the Presidential Palace. Aside from Walhi, one of the other organisations that refused the invitation was the Nusantara Traditional Community Alliance (AMAN).

The invitation, which was send by Palace via WhatsApp messenger, was seen as not having a clear agenda.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Undangan Istana via WhatsApp Ditolak, Walhi: Kami Tak Bisa Dipecah-pecah".]