Government accused of defending investment at the expense of the environment

CNN Indonesia – December 3, 2021
Residents pass through Sintang main street on boat – November 2021 (Antara)

Jakarta – Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Food, Water and Essential Ecosystem Campaign Manager Wahyu Perdana says that this is not the first time that the government has tried to defend investment instead of the environment and the public.

Moreover, according to Perdana, the regulations which exist at the moment benefit investment rather than the safety of the environment or the public.

"This isn't a president right, the first time there have been efforts to defend investment no matter what without considering environmental safety, the safety of the ordinary people", Perdana told CNN Indonesia on Friday December 3.

Perdana was responding to a call by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo who asked all regional police chiefs (Kapolda) in Indonesia to safeguard investment. Widodo even ordered Indonesian police chief General Listyo Sigit Prabowo to sack any regional police chiefs who fail to do this.

Perdana gave examples of government policies which defend investments rather than the environment. One of these is the 2.7 million hectares of palm oil plantations operating illegally in forest areas. According to Perdana, this is an effort to whitewash corporate crime.

"The language in the Omnibus Law does indeed give them three years to resolve the administrative requirements, this is 'whitewashing' corporate crime", said Perdana.

Yet, according to Perdana, investment does not always have a positive impact on the country. Based on the Corruption Eradication Commission's (KPK) records on palm oil and mining company taxes, there are thousands of people who do not have a Taxpayers Registration Number (NPWP). This means that these thousands of people are not paying tax to the state.

"[But when] it's the people's turn to defend their rights, against investment which exploits the environment, they are in fact criminalised", said Perdana.

In addition to this, he explained that if investment continues without considering the environment, the losses and impacts that are felt will become larger every day.

Such as the floods in Jakarta which have caused losses of almost 1 trillion rupiah or the many forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan in 2015-2019 which also caused financial losses to the state.

"If this is truly what is done, only considering investment, then it is actually no more than trying to get away with breaking the law", explained Perdana. (cfd/pmg)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Walhi: Bukan Pertama Kali Pemerintah Habis-habisan Bela Investasi".]