Institute for National and Democratic Studies

House slammed over mudflow disaster decision

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Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Human rights and anti-corruption activists lashed out at the House of Representatives on Tuesday for failing to make the government and Lapindo Brantas Inc. properly compensate victims of the mudflow in Sidoarjo, East Java.

They accused the House of “quiet conspiracy to defend corporate (interests)” in dealing with the problem.

“The House should have pressured the government and Lapindo to handle the victims correctly in order not to create more victims on a large scale,” said a joint statement from the activists grouped under the Young People’s Solidarity for Lapindo Victims.

Lapindo, a mining company linked to the family of chief welfare minister Aburizal Bakrie, was widely blamed for the devastating mudflow.

Last Friday the House officially announced its special team would continue investigations into the mudflow, while a plan to question the government over the disaster remained a possibility.

The announcement clarified confusion over a House plenary session decision on the disaster two days earlier.

Usman Hamid from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), part of the group, said the apparent decision to side with Lapindo showed the House was allowing “corporate crime” in Sidoarjo.

He demanded the House review the decision.

“Lawmakers have no authority to determine whether the mudflow is natural or man-made. They need to focus on their principal main task of seeing that the government and Lapindo Brantas carry out their responsibility to handle the mudflow victims.”

Let scientists decide whether the mudflow was a natural or man-made phenomenon, he added.

Usman said, by declaring the devastating phenomenon a natural disaster, the House special team on the mudflow was shifting the economic losses to the state and public.

“The logic is simple — had there been no exploration activities in the area, there would be no mudflow.”

“It’s not acceptable to us to see the cost of the mudflow coming from the state budget.”

The group also included activists from Nahdlatul Ulama based in Sidoarjo and Indonesia Corruption Watch, as well as others from Jakarta.

The joint statement said the mudflow was caused by drilling activities of Lapindo.

“What’s happening in Sidoarjo is a corporate crime and caused by Lapindo’s negligent drilling operations,” it said.

“Thus, it does not make sense to declare it a natural disaster.”

In a report presented at a House plenary meeting on Feb. 20, the special team repeatedly cited information supporting the theory that the mudflow was an “uncontrollable natural disaster”.

It quoted the geologists as saying the mudflow was caused by an underground mud volcano that had nothing to do with human activities.

The activists said the mudflow, which began on May 29, 2006, had swamped over 600 hectares, a figure larger than the one appearing in a 2007 presidential decree on the boundaries of victims and affected areas.

“Since there is no certainty when the mudflow will stop, the government must revise the boundaries,” Badrus Zaman, a member of Nahdlatul Ulama’s teamwork in Sidoarjo, said at the press conference.

He said that as the mudflow produced about 150,000 cubic meters of mud per day, there would be more victims in the affected areas.

“We want a new map without rigid boundaries around the affected areas. The government must compensate all victims uprooted by the disaster,” Badrus added.
Notes:

In April 2007, INDIES had released a report on Lapindo-Sidoarjo Mud-Volcano. Its avaliable in Bahasa Indonesia. Contact: sekretariat.indies@gmail.com for further information or download it from – Lumpur Lapindo

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Written by INDIES

February 27, 2008 at 2:53 pm

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