As the Indonesian Pharaoh Builds a Pyramid, the Pyramid Needs Stones, Stones Hit People…

As the Indonesian Pharaoh Builds a Pyramid, the Pyramid Needs Stones, Stones Hit People…

Indonesia has mixed record of protecting human rights and ecosystem services in the course of development. Recent weakening of national corruption-prevention mechanisms coupled with investments for “strategic” infrastructure made exempt from many environmental and social safeguards is leading to increased violent conflicts in which police suppresses local protests. Jumbo Bener Dam in Central Java and associated rock quarries is a fresh example.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is running out of patience. It’s been almost four years since he initiated the development of the jewel in the crown of all his infrastructure projects: the (second) highest dam in the whole Southeast Asia. But the development of Bener Dam in Purworejo, Central Java, has been going nowhere.

The invasion and forced occupation of Desa Wadas, whose residents have been resisting the eviction because of the project, by thousands of police officers, and the subsequent attacks and arrests of more than 60 farmers on February 8, 2022 are actually a reflection of Jokowi’s loss of patience.

The Bener Dam, which will become Indonesia’s highest dam is located in Guntur Village, Bener District, Purworejo Regency, Central Java, is one of the national strategic projects among a series of prime projects that being carried out State Owned Enterprises. “This dam will be the highest in Indonesia with a height of 159 meters, a pile length of 543 meters, and a bottom width of about 290 meters.1 Brantas Abipraya is the SOE-dam building contractor. The Bener Dam, with a water storage capacity of 100.94 million cubic meters, allegedly, will be able to irrigate 15,069 hectares of agricultural land, reducing flood discharge by 210 m3/second (which, according to engineering research is insufficient to solve the problem, calling or alternative means of flood risk management) . But is main utility is diverting water to new airport complexes and related new urban and industrial development. This dam will also have a function as a dwarf hydropower plant with 6 megawatts (MW) of electrical energy capacity. Jumbo dam construction needs a lot of rock material hard to acquire in heavily populated Central Java.

Local opposition to a mine on and the heavy-handed police crackdown on protesters, has turned the national spotlight on a spate of development projects touted by the government as being of “strategic importance.”

The conflict centers on a planned mine that will supply the nearby Bener dam, under construction since 2018, with andesite rock. About a quarter of the village of Wadas in Purworejo district, in the province of Central Java, is slated to be mined — something that locals have strongly opposed since 2013.

But while their protests have simmered for nearly a decade, the issue only exploded onto the national stage this month: On Feb. 8, hundreds of police officers arrived in Wadas, claiming they were there to escort officials from the land agency who wanted to demarcate the 114-hectare (282-acre) mining area within the village.

The heavy police presence triggered a clash with the villagers, resulting in the arrest of 67 people, 13 of them children. Police had previously arrested 11 and 12 villagers, respectively, in similar confrontations in 2019 and 2021.

The state cannot displace people arbitrarily!

According to the provisions of Article 28H Paragraph (4) in the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, “Everyone has the right to have personal property rights and such property rights may not be taken arbitrarily by anyone.”

According to the provisions of Article 36 Paragraph (2) of Act. Number 39 of 1999, “No person may be arbitrarily and unlawfully deprived of his property.”

According to the First Point of the Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1993/77, “Affirms that the practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights, in particular the right to adequate housing (asserting that the practice of forced eviction is a grave violation of human rights, especially the right to adequate housing).”

From the beginning to the present, the people of Wadas have consistently and vehemently refused to have their land taken and damaged for mining purposes. As a result, the government should not impose its will on citizens by taking their land arbitrarily.

Islam religion also prohibits the practice of arbitrary expropriation of land as stated in the Hadith, “Whoever takes an inch of land that is not his right, he will be covered by land weighing seven layers of earth on the Day of Judgment”. (HR. Muslim)

We stand in solidarity with @Wadas_Melawan. We urgently call on the Indonesian government to withdraw police presence from Wadas and stop the quarry mine in Wadas #SaveWadas #WadasMelawan #WadasTolakTambang

We support demand issued by WALHI:

  • State administrators to obey and fulfill the Constitutional Court’s Decision and cancel the process of acquiring quarry area for the Bener Dam.
  • The Governor of Central Java to revoke the location permit (IPL) and stop the land measuring for the mining area in Wadas Village, Bener, Purworejo
  • The police of the Republic of Indonesia to stop using excessive use of force in dealing with the
    public protests
  • The Chief of the Indonesian National Police must ensure that every policy issued by the National
    Police institution and the actions of the officers in the field do not contradict the laws and
    regulations and thoroughly evaluate the use of firearms by the officers

Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition