In Brief... DTE 51 - November 2001

Down to Earth No 51 November 2001

Stop Exxon Mobil! Free Kautsar!

The Aceh Community Democratic Resistance Front (FPDRA) is circulating a petition to free an Acehnese activist detained for speaking out against the US-based oil and gas multinational, Exxon Mobil. The petition also calls for a halt to Exxon's operations in Aceh.

Kautsar was arrested on July 11th by the local Aceh police force when he was on his way to a demonstration organised by a coalition of 13 organizations known as KARA (Aceh Community Action Coalition). Kautsar is the leader of FPDRA, one of the 13 organisations. He is charged with violating Article 160, Article 154 and Act No.1/1946 which relate to criminal acts against the state. A decision from the courts on Kautsar's fate is expected in mid-November.

Human rights workers have been targeted by the military and police in recent months. The situation has deteriorated since more troops were sent to the war-torn region following Exxon's decision in March this year to suspend its Aceh operations. These were resumed in July after extra troops were deployed.

FPDRA describes the Indonesian military, with support from Exxon Mobil, as "the most serious threat to the future of Aceh's stability, human rights and democracy". They are demanding:

  • the immediate release of Kautsar and others;
  • the withdrawal of Presidential Instruction No. 4/2001 (which has led to troop increases and more violence in Aceh - it has recently been renewed);
  • the immediate withdrawal of the military from Aceh, including the troops guarding the Exxon Mobil operations;
  • the termination of Exxon Mobil operations; 
  • that Exxon Mobil must also be held accountable for their role in the present and past human rights violations inflicted on the Acehnese people.

FPDRA is calling on people to write letters of protest demanding prompt justice for Kautsar and the Aceh people to the Indonesian President, parliament, the police and others. For further details see


Aceh Fund

The Aceh Humanitarian Assistance Fund is seeking donations for targeted financial assistance to individual Acehnese civilians and human rights workers who have had to leave Aceh as the military and police have increased their campaign against them. For further information contact the Fund's organisers, at or


West Papua Solidarity groups appeal to UN

Organisations attending the second West Papua Solidarity conference held in Germany, 15-17th October, have written to Mary Robinson, the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, pressing her to take action to prevent further human rights violations in the territory. The letter expressed concern over the killings in Wasior (see DTE 50:4) and Ilaga and over the threats and intimidation directed at West Papuan human rights defenders and the local press. The conference also sent letters to the European Parliament and President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

DTE attended this conference and presented a paper on resource rights campaigning. Other topics discussed included self-determination and human rights.


New oil and gas law

Indonesia's parliament passed the long-awaited oil and gas law on October 23rd. This removes the monoploy of state-owned company Pertamina over operations in the sector. It replaces Oil and Gas Law No. 44/1960 and Law No. 8/1971 on Pertamina. Pertamina is obliged to transfer all production sharing contracts and other contractual agreements to a new government-controlled Implementation Agency which will be established within one year to handle all contractual issues with oil investors. A separate regulatory agency will deal with downstream activities - a sector which is now open to local and foreign companies. Pertamina is to become a limited liability company under state control within two years.

Investors are also obliged to undertake community development work, something which was not provided for under the previous law.

There have been protests against the law from nationalist parliamentarians who fear it will put Indonesia's oil and gas reserves under the control of foreigners. Companies and others supporting liberalisation believe there will still be too much government control. Regional leaders had demanded participation in a new policy-determining body and threatened they would not protect oil and gas investments in their areas if their demands were not met. Their proposal was rejected by parliament. (Reuters 23/Oct/01; Jakarta Post 24/Oct/01; Petromindo 17/Oct/01)


Radioactive waste dumping

Taiwanese companies are allegedly smuggling radioactive waste from a nuclear power station and other hazardous materials into Indonesia through remote island ports, according to the Indonesian intelligence agency, BIN. Reports say the waste is brought in with false documents describing it as coal briquettes, organic fertiliser, mixed industrial and mixed metal scrap for use in the construction industry. The regions targeted for the dumping include West Papua, Maluku, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. The waste is used in coastal reclamation, road repairs, composting and other industrial recycling uses in eastern Indonesia.

Indonesia, which has ratified the Basel Convention regulating the movements of hazardous waste, prohibits the import of these materials. The environment ministry has written to all Indonesian governors to prevent the smuggling of such waste into Indonesia, although some wastes, such as used batteries, are still permitted. The letter was written in response to a request from the West Papua governor for permission to import waste from Taiwan. Taiwan is reported to pay US$18,000 per tonne of waste shipped.

NGOs and environment agency officials are concerned that local governments may use regional autonomy powers to license waste imports as a means of raising local income.

North Sulawesi's Minahasa district government has already profited from the import of ca. 3 million tonnes of waste from Taiwan, described as waste from the textile industries. These imports were prohibited by the ministry of environment in September this year and finally, the imports were cancelled. A request to import waste from Taiwan to Lembata, a small island in East Nusa Tenggara province, was turned down. Central Sulawesi's environmental protection agency in Palu has refused permission for a local company to import waste from a Taiwanese rice-sacking factory in the city. Unscrupulous government officials on Batam island, Riau are also reported to be permitting Singaporeans to dump toxic waste in local waters. In Southeast Sulawesi, three local NGOs are opposing the local government's plans to import low-grade nuclear waste.

(Tempo Magazine, 30/Oct-5/Nov/01; Kendari Ekspres via Suluh Indonesia 16/Aug/01; Suara Pembaruan 17/Oct/01; Straits Times 26/May/01)