Indonesia: Java mudflow is human rights threat, says key body

Jakarta, 26 Feb. (AKI/Jakarta Post) – The displacement of thousands of mudflow victims from their homes in the East Java town of Sidoarjo by a mud volcano may constitute a human rights violation, Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights said.

Since May 2006, the volcano has been spewing out approximately 2,500 cubic metres of mud per day – equivalent to the contents of a dozen Olympic-size pools.

Levees have contained the mudflow since last November, but further breakouts are possible as the mud flow continues, experts have said.

The commission said it was highly unlikely the incident was a natural phenomenon and had instead been caused by PT Lapindo Brantas, a mining company owned by the family of coordinating welfare minister, Aburizal Bakrie.

The company should be held responsible for the devastating consequences of the disaster, the commission deputy head Hesti Amirwulan told journalists.

Besides displacing around 13,000 families from their homes, the mudflow also led to an explosion at a gas pipeline belonging to state-oil firm PT Pertamina, which killed 14 people (photo).

“There were deaths and injuries, and thousands of people were displaced from their homes, ” Hesti said. “The military was mobilised in the now-inundated areas to control the disaster. It is the commission’s task to see whether or not gross rights violations indeed took place.”

The commission on Tuesday called for the immediate establishment of an ad hoc investigation team to collect evidence related to the Sidoarjo case.

In its research it has found that violations of at least 15 economic, social and cultural rights of mudflow victims occurred during the displacement process.

Some of these included the right to settlement, food, health, education, security and to live and work.

The commission criticised the Indonesian government for issuing regulations that failed to protect the victims, while blaming local administrations for acting too slowly and showing negligence in dealing with victims and their rights.

It also accused central and local politicians of not paying sufficient attention to resolving the mudflow case early enough.

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