The province of West Kalimantan is in the midst of a hydrometeorological disaster of a massive scale, yet those who are at least partially responsible for the environmental destruction that led to the tragedy have been accused of washing their hands clean off the issue, drawing ire from the region's leader.
West Kalimantan Governor Sutarmidji took to Facebook yesterday to air his frustrations of palm oil companies, who he said only wants to take from the province but won't give back to the people.
"Yesterday I invited representatives of 20 palm oil companies to ask them to help those affected by the floods. But they had the gall to say that their plantations are not located in the flooded areas, and that they had to ask for permission [from their bosses] and so on and so forth. I was livid so I just kicked them [out of the meeting]," Sutarmidji, who is affectionately known as Bang Midji, wrote.
"They have no heart, and are severely lacking in sympathy for the people. The people are suffering maybe because of their deeds. If they don't care about the people of West Kalimantan, then I don't care about whether or not they remain in West Kalimantan."
Sutarmidji didn't mince his words either when he was interviewed about the floods on TV yesterday evening. He said unchecked land concessions for plantations and the timber industry have led to massive deforestation, which, in turn, have robbed the region of natural safeguards against flooding and other ecological disasters.
As the issuance of concessions is the authority of the Forestry Ministry, Sutarmidji called on the central government to rescind the permits to prevent future disasters.
Heavy rainfall triggered massive floods in West Kalimantan's Sintang, Kapuas Hulu, and Sekadau regencies, with many areas still inundated in floodwater for more than two weeks. In Sintang, two people were killed while some 140,000 people were affected by the floods. Officials say 32 shelters have been set up for citizens who had to evacuate their homes, though the exact number of displaced persons is not yet known as many have chosen to take refuge in the homes of their relatives.