Dani Prabowo, Jakarta – Human Rights activist Usman Hamid says that the statement by Defense Minister and presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto, who said that the riots in Rempang, Riau Islands, were a result of foreign interference, belittles the Rempang community's struggle.
Because, according to Hamid, the riots occurred because the people of Rempang truly wanted to defend their homes from the Rempang Eco City project.
"The statement also demeans the struggle of the Rempang people who are truly defending their lives from forced eviction by the government', said Hamid when contacted on Friday November 3.
The secretary of the Fact Finding Team (TPF) that investigated the 2004 assignation of renowned human rights defender Munir said that Prabowo's statement has no clear basis.
This kind of rhetoric, said Hamid, only exploits anti-foreign sentiment as if he is showing himself to be a nationalist. "This kind of rhetoric is dangerous", he said.
Aside from this, the executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia said Prabowo's statement appears to be trying to distort the actual facts about the situation in Rempang.
"The actual facts are clear, that it's the government who is bringing in foreign interests, namely the Xinyi glass company from China, but this is being distorted as if the people of Rempang brought in foreign interests", he asserted.
Earlier, Prabowo said that foreign intelligence agencies are interfering in the conflict on Rempang Island
This was revealed by Prabowo during the opening of the Symposium on Geo-politics and Geo-strategies and its Influence on Indonesia at the Ministry of Defense complex in Central Jakarta on Thursday November 2.
Initially, Prabowo said that Indonesia is a country that is big and has mineral wealth. "So like it or not we're a target for big global forces", said Prabowo in front of the ministers and leaders of the TNI (Indonesian military) present at the event.
"Incidents like those in Rempang have already begun to show interference by foreign intelligence", said Prabowo.
"And we have also experienced this a lot in Aceh, in Ambon we've experience it, in East Timor, and we continually experience it in Papua, how foreign interference greatly influences our situation", said the former commander of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus) and the Army's Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad).
Indications of rights violations
The clash between Rempang Island residents and a joint unit of law enforcement officials occurred on September 7 when residents opposed the construction of the Rempang Eco City economic area.
When the authorities arrived at the location, hundreds of residents had blocked the road from Bridge 4 preventing a joint team from being able to measure land and mark out boundaries.
The blockade was created by setting fire to tyres and cutting down trees to block road access onto Rempang.
The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) says that there strong indications that there were human rights violations in the series of clashes between residents and the authorities.
Komnas HAM commissioner Uli Parulian Sihombong said that that there were at least six indications of this.
"First, against the right to safety and freedom from discrimination. There was excessive use of force. Then there was also the unmeasured use of teargas that resulted in casualties", said Sihombong.
Second was the right to obtain justice, restrictions on access to legal assistance for eight suspects, who have now been released, during the police investigation process.
Third, the right to a decent place to live related to the planned relocation of residents. This is related to human rights because the planned relocation directly impacted on the Melayu Kuno group of villages.
"Fourth, the rights of children and the protection of children, there were students from the SDN [State Elementary School] 24 and the SMPN [State Junior High School] 22 who were affected by teargas", said Sihombong.
Fifth, the right to healthcare. During the Rempang incident the government tried to clear out community healthcare centres and remove health workers on Rempang Island.
Finally, related to business and human rights, the Eco City national strategic project will have a bad impact on communities on Rempang Island, particularly the traditional Melayu (Malay) communities.
- See: Prabowo claims that like Papua, foreign intel interfering in Rempang land dispute. Kompas.com – November 2, 2023
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Pernyataan Prabowo Soal Intel Asing Dinilai Merendahkan Perjuangan Masyarakat Rempang".]