Political parties disregard rights, environment and sustainable development

Down to Earth No 61  May 2004

Long before the results of Indonesia's April 5th elections were announced, the outcome for environmental policy-making was already clear.

One month before Indonesia's April parliamentary elections, the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) issued the results of a survey of political parties' platforms on the environment and sustainable development. The results made disappointing reading for voters wanting to elect a government that will seriously address the country's deep ecological crisis.

ICEL's survey found that only half of the twenty four political parties taking part in the elections had any kind of proposals concerning the environment or sustainable development. Of those, only two parties had something to say under the three categories listed by ICEL: environment/natural resources; sustainable development; and good sustainable development governance. No political party had any 'break-through' proposals which offered ways of tackling the current urgent problems of drought, landslides, flooding, illegal logging and forest fires.

The two biggest parties elected in 1999 - President Megawati's PDI-P and Golkar - had no platform at all on the environment or sustainable development for the 2004 elections. ICEL concludes that the PDI-P has not learnt any lessons from the failure to manage natural resources during its period in government. Whereas Golkar (the ruling party during the Suharto era) "has clearly not yet been capable of changing their old paradigm which merely glorified economic growth distorted by bad governance".

Instead, concludes ICEL, the governing parties have made decisions that go against sustainable development. These include issuing a regulation to permit mining in protection forests (Perpu No.1 of 2004 - see separate article, mining section, below), approving the environmentally damaging Ladia Galaska road project in Aceh and passing the Water Resources Law, which was strongly opposed by civil society organisations. The government has also ignored MPR decree No. IX of 2001 on Agrarian Reform and Natural Resources (see DTE 57) and Law No 25 of 2000 on National Development Programmes (Propenas) by stopping all further work on formulating a Natural Resources Management Law (see DTE 59) and on setting up a National Sustainable Development Council. This is despite President Megawati's commitment, made in front of thousands of participants and national and foreign journalists, at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg in September 2002.

The national parliament (DPR) has also failed to include sustainable development in its policy-making, says ICEL. Parliamentarians failed to fulfil their promise to form a 'parliamentary environmental caucus'.


The 2004 elections

On April 5, Indonesia voted to fill over 16,000 positions in local councils, provincial assemblies (DPRD) and the national parliament (DPR).

The results were announced one month later. The Suharto-era government party, Golkar, won most seats in the national parliament, followed by President Megawati's PDI-P (which won most seats in the 1999 elections). The PPP came third and the PD, led by presidential candidate Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, fourth, followed by former President Wahid's PKB.

Presidential elections are on July 5, but if no candidate receives 50% of the vote or at least 20% in half of the provinces, the two leading candidates will contest a second round in September. (Jakarta Post 6/May/04; WSWS, 8/Mar/04, 21/Apr/04 - www.wsws.org/index.shtml).


The only two parties that had proposals under all three of ICEL's criteria were the United Development Party (PPP) led by vice-president Hamzah Haz, and the Star Reform Party (PBR), a PPP spin-off party. The PPP's programme includes the development of a conflict resolution mechanism which does not disadvantage local communities; pushing for renewable energy utilisation; and reviewing natural resource management policies based on the principles of conservation, democracy, economy, transparency, people's prosperity, justice and efficiency, which are oriented towards sustainable development and the greatest prosperity for the people. However, as ICEL points out, the PPP has been in parliament and has had ministers in the cabinet, where it has not showed any commitment to sustainable development.

The small PBR party proposes to recognise customary rights of indigenous peoples and to include indigenous peoples in the management of their customary owned natural resources.

Of the other ten parties which have environmental programmes, those most likely to win seats in parliament include the party of former President Abdurrahman Wahid, the National Awakening Party (PKB). The PKB says it will impose severe sanctions on polluters, apply technology to detect pollution and conduct campaigns to raise environmental awareness. Another is the Justice and Welfare Party (PKS), which organised large anti-Iraq war rallies and conducts grass-roots social programmes. This is also the only party to have a 30% quota for women candidates. The PKS states that environmental conservation is based on it being an integral part in all sectors of development, there is no room for "sectoral arrogance". It also wants "total people and state participation" in resource management, plus international co-operation.

The National Mandate Party (PAN), led by MPR speaker Amien Rais, commits to environmental protection based on the belief that the environment is borrowed from future generations and needs to be protected from human greed.

The new Democratic Party (PD) created by former army general and former Co-ordinating Minister for Politics and Security Affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, says it will support global environmental conservation (according to national capacity and without sacrificing the people's interests); contribute to global conservation by preserving forests; and ensure that logging concessions (HPH) are allocated based on the natural capacity of Indonesia's forests. As befitting a party led by a former military man, this party also pledges to manage natural resources sustainably as part of strengthening "national integrity". According to an April opinion poll published in Jakarta, Yudhoyono, is leading in the presidential race. In January he was quoted as saying that democracy, human rights, concern for the environment could not become absolute goals in Indonesia because pursuing them as such will not be good for the country.

ICEL concludes that those parties that do have environment and sustainable development platforms actually have nothing new to say, and that some of their programmes date from the 1970s before the environmental crisis had reached today's levels. One party, PKPB, had simply cut and paste the contents of the GBHN (State Guidelines for the 1999 to 2004 period) into their manifesto, without putting it into an appropriate context. (This party is chaired by retired general Hartono, who is close to former dictator Suharto and is pushing Suharto's daughter Tutut for the presidency).

ICEL ends its report by appealing to the public not to vote for political parties that:

  • don't have a platform or programme on protecting natural resources and the environment;
  • don't have a genuine idea how, in the current context of ecological crisis, to save and protect the environment for the interests of the majority;
  • have already been proven to support or issue policies which directly or indirectly destroy natural resources and the function of the environment;

The NGO also urges them not to support or vote for candidates who:

  • are involved in natural resources and environmental destruction, including denial of people's rights, through holding a significant number of shares in a destructive company or through holding positions in such companies, where they are actually able to influence company policies, but fail to do so (commissioners, independent commissioners and directors);
  • are linked to policy-making which doesn't support ecological protection including protection of local peoples' rights;
  • are involved in making statements which go against principles and values of ecological protection, including protection of local peoples' rights.

(Source: Tolak Parpol yang tidak perduli penyelamatkan sumber daya alam dan lingkungan hidup dalam pentas politik Indonesia, ICEL, 19/Mar/04 at www.icel.or.id/ind/; Laksamana.net 11/Jan/04)


Urgent Action on Wiranto as presidential candidate

On April 21, Golkar nominated former general Wiranto as its presidential candidate. Wiranto was commander of Indonesia's armed forces during the systematic human rights violations by the army and army-backed militias against the civilian population in East Timor in 1999. He has been indicted on crimes against humanity charges by East Timor's UN-backed serious crimes tribunal. "Golkar should be embarrassed to select someone who has been indicted for crimes against humanity as its presidential candidate," said Brad Adams, executive director of the Asia Division at Human Rights Watch. Tapol, the Indonesia human rights campaign, has called on the international community to express concern over the impact of Wiranto's nomination on Indonesia's democratic development - contact tapol@gn.apc.org. (Human Rights Watch, 22/Apr/04; Tapol Press Release 21/Apr/04)


Who not to vote for
An NGO-supported organisation, the National Movement Against Voting for Rotten Politicians, issued a long list of election candidates with bad records on human rights, environment and women's rights. The lists of parliamentary and regional representatives council candidates were printed in the group's newspaper, Sosok in March, in a bid to raise awareness among voters and enable them to make critically informed decisions on who to vote for.

Among those listed under the `environment destroyers' category are oil tycoon Arifin Panigoro (PDP-P party) and Marzuki Usman (PKB party) for his position as commissioner of the oil palm company PT London Sumatra and former position with timber concessionaire PT Hatma Santi. A further eight candidates from different parties are listed for supporting the Ladia Galaska road project which runs through the high biodiversity Gunung Leuser protected area in Aceh.

(Both issues of Sosok, March 12 and March 28, plus elections news, are on the group's website at www.antipolitisibusuk.org/)


The environmental costs of the elections

Leading Indonesian environmental NGO WALHI reckons that the election process itself could take a heavy toll on the environment, because of fundraising activities by political parties. In January last year, Director General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation, I Made Subadia, told parliament that illegal logging would increase dramatically before the elections, as politicians put pressure on illegal loggers to provide more funds. The statement was reported to have infuriated parliamentarians.

Writing in the NGO's newsletter Tanah Air, WALHI's M. Ridha Saleh, says there is ample room for conspiracy between powerful politicians and entrepreneurs in the 2004 elections, to strike deals for mutual benefit. Such projects as land rehabilitation, logging and wood industry licences, the Aceh Ladia Galaska Road scheme, and sand mining in Riau province provide opportunities for politicians to fund their campaigns.

Says Joko Waluyo of the NGO KPSHK, "These elections will just become a means of accumulating capital, which is plundered from natural resources by powerful politicians. It is all done in the interests of maintaining their power".

(Pemilu 2004: Eskalasi Penjarahan Alam, M. Ridha Saleh [no date]; Pemilu: Bemper Partai Merusak Lingkungan, M.Ridha Saleh [no date]; Jakarta Post 30/Jan/03)


Spray campaign

Pesticides Action Network (PAN) has criticised political parties who are spraying people's homes with mosquito-killing chemicals. Party activists have been spraying (or "fogging", as it is known locally) the insecticides in a bid to win votes in their door-to-door campaigns in Jakarta suburbs and Surabaya. The PKB party candidate in Surabaya had been identified as one of those using this tactic.

There has been major concern about increasing number of cases of dengue fever - and deaths from it - in the first few months of 2004. The Health Department is doing most of the spraying, but some party activists appear to have jumped on the bandwagon to secure votes. PAN has called on parties to stop the practice, drawing attention to TV reports of the death in March of a four year-old child, caused by spraying.

PAN says these poisonous chemicals are being used by untrained people, who do not understand the health and environmental impacts. The group has urged the Health Department to stop distributing the chemicals to political parties. The authorities should also stop promoting chemical spraying as the only way to prevent dengue-carrying mosquitoes, says PAN, as there are several alternatives methods available, including mosquito-repellent plants.

In Tangerang, a suburb of Jakarta, the chemical used in the spraying is Malathion (chemical name: Diethyl (dimethoxythoohosphorylthio)succinate), which has a World Health Organisation hazard classification of III.

According to PAN, an early warning system against dengue is applied in some urban areas, whereby fogging is used only as a last resort, with the agreement of the community. The spraying is done by trained government health officials and houses which have been sprayed must not be reoccupied until at least two days after spraying. Children especially should be kept away from the spray. Spraying for political purposes is clearly falling far short of these standards. (PAN Press Release 19/Mar/04 and email exchange).


Right to food
PAN has also been involved in initiative to push political parties to adopt policies on the right to food.

A meeting of NGOs and peasants organisations in North Sumatra in February this year demanded that the government fulfil its international legal commitments on the right to food. (Press release by 17 organisations, 26/Feb/04)