Indonesia's top court has ruled in favor of Catholic farmers in East Nusa Tenggara Province by canceling the permit for limestone mining that would have destroyed their lives.
The Supreme Court in its ruling on Oct. 19 declared invalid both the permit issued to PT Istindo Mitra Manggarai, a mining company in North Jakarta, by the provincial government in 2020, and the environmental permit granted by the district government in the same year.
The lawsuit challenging lower court decisions favoring the government and mining company was filed by Isfridus Sota and Bonevasius Yudent, representatives of the residents of Lengko Lolok village in the East Manggarai district.
The petitioners, assisted by the Church, had argued that the mining activities would put them at risk of being displaced from their native village.
The mining permit covered an area of 500.4590 hectares located near the northern coast of Flores Island, where a cement factory was also being planned with a view to utilizing limestone as raw material.
The residents of Lengko Lolok initiated legal action after a series of protests supported by the Catholic Church, through the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation [JPIC] Commission of Ruteng Diocese, Franciscans and Divine Word, did not get a positive response from the government.
Yudent, one of the plaintiffs, called the verdict as a result of his prayers. "So far, we have prayed to God and begged our ancestors to keep us on this Lengko Lolok land," he said.
He thanked all those who had fought together, including the Catholic Church and other groups that helped them. "Without you, we cannot imagine what Lengko Lolok would have been reduced to," he said.
Father Marthen Jenarut, chairman of the JPIC in Ruteng diocese who is also one of the lawyers for the villagers told UCA News that the ruling shows that "the state is on the side of the people."
"With this decision, the public feels that the state is serious about protecting them, their basic interests and rights, especially with regard to their right to live comfortably in a clean and healthy environment," he said.
Valens Dulmin, a lawyer from the Franciscans' JPIC Commission, said the top court's decision was "good news" for movements to protect the environment on small islands like Flores.
"This verdict will not only benefit the residents of Lengko Lolok but also residents of other villages that would've been affected by the permit," he told UCA News.
The Catholic Church in Flores has been at the forefront of opposing the mining industry on the Catholic-majority island for a decade.
In 2020, during the dispute over the mining permit in Lengko Lolok, Bishop Siprianus Hormat of Ruteng visited a chapel in the area and symbolically planted a tree in front of it with a message to protect the environment.
The provincial and the district authorities could not be reached for their comments but may seek a judicial review of the verdict in the Supreme Court.