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Widespread criticism following violence, arrests by police at Wadas Village

Kompas.com - February 10, 2022

Ardito Ramadhan, Jakarta – The mobilisation of hundreds of fully armed police to Wadas Village in Purworejo regency, Central Java, on Tuesday February 8, has attracted criticism from many parties. The government and the police are being urged to prioritise dialogue to overcome the land conflict there.

Muhammadiyah Central Leadership Board Chairperson for Legal, Human Rights and Public Policy Affairs, Busyro Muqoddas condemned the siege and repressive actions by security personnel.

Muhammadiyah warned that citizens have the right and it is legitimate for them to express their aspirations, as well as consolidating their movements in order to safeguard the preservation and future of the environment.

"[We] deplore all forms of [violent] actions by police where it is indicated that it is intimidatory, repressive and confrontative in character", said Muqoddas as quoted by Kompas TV.

This is mandated under Article 28H of the 1945 Constitution and Law Number 32/2009 on the Protection and Management of the Environment.

According to Muqoddas, the police's actions will in fact give rise to fear and security disturbances among the residents of Wadas Village.

Prioritise dialogue

Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board (PBNU) Chairperson Tanfidziyah also called on the government not to use violence and prioritise dialogue.

"We ask that the government not use violence and carry out mediation", said the man called Gus Fahrur by his friends.

According to Tanfidziyah, the government could utilise local NU figures and the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to conduct a mediation process.

"The government must respect the rights of Wadas Village residents and they are not allowed to force through its wishes. The people's right to land must be respected", he said.

Komnas HAM Commissioner Beka Ulung Hapsara urged the police to conduct a total reevaluation of the repressive approach used in escorting a team from the National Land Agency (BPN) to measure the land at the Wadas Village which ended in the arrest of residents.

"The Central Java regional police [should] withdraw the police on duty at Wadas Village and conduct a total evaluation of the approach which was used as well as punish officers who are proven to have committed violence against residents", said Hapsara.

Criticism from lawmakers

House of Representatives (DPR) Commission III member Taufik Basari warned that the repressive actions of the police at Wadas are not in accordance with the Presisi (predictability, responsibility, transparency, justice) program touted by Indonesian police chief General Listyo Sigit Prabowo.

"The Indonesian police should ensure that people feel secure and not be overcome by fear as a consequence of the tensions which occurred, and because of this, dialogue and persuasive measures are what must be prioritised", said Basari.

The National Democrat Party (Nasdem) politician emphasised that the forceful measures carried out by police such as arrests, seizures and detentions must be in accordance with the Civil Procedural Code (KUHAP).

He also urged Komnas HAM to visit the location of the incident and asked that the police support and facilitate the work of Komnas HAM at Wadas.

"[We] ask that Komnas HAM along with the national police headquarters explain to the public the results of their findings, bearing in mind that there are several versions of the story which are circulating publically so that the public can get information which is valid, complete and comprehensive", said Basari.

Like New Order era

Another DPR Commission III member, Arsul Sani, believes that the deployment of police in such large numbers gives the impression that the police and the government's paradigm of thinking about development is still like the New Order regime of former President Suharto.

"Was there indeed a threat of terrorism or social unrest at Wadas Village, so that it was necessary to deploy hundreds of officers", asked Sani.

"This is like a repeat of the security methods of the authorities in dealing with the Kedungombo Dam construction during the New Order era", he said.

According to Sani, the role of the police in safeguarding development should not be the deployment of troops but to prioritise informal approaches with communities.

Moreover, said Sani, with a spirit of prioritising a just and restorative approach then the deployment of police and the use of force can be avoided.

"Invite residents to hold a dialogue and speak heart to heart, after they accept it then the measurement can be done without needing the deployment [of troops]", said the United Development Party (PPP) politician.

Government denials

Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs Mahfud MD has claimed that police acted in accordance with procedures in dealing with the land measurement in Wadas Village.

The land measurement was done for a planned andesite rock quarry which would produce material for the construction for the Bener Dam.

"Certainly there were frictions on the ground, but these frictions were only because of excesses by the crowd of residents themselves who were involved in [a dispute between those who are] for and against the planned development and the police only took steps to maintain security caused by the frictions between residents", said Mahfud at a press conference on the afternoon of Wednesday February 9.

Mahfud also claimed that the situation at Wadas Village was calm and peaceful and not tense as is shown in a number of videos which have been circulating on social media.

He said that the 64 people arrested by police have already been returned to their respective families without any incidents of mistreatment.

"In a crowd such as this, perhaps it was unavoidable that there were firm actions [by the police], this was perhaps unavoidable, but there was not one gunshot, there was not one person who was injured", said Mahfud.

Mahfud believes that it is quite normal that Wadas Village residents are divided between those who support and those who are against the planned mining project and the construction of the Bener Dam.

However, he confirmed that the land measuring by officials will continue assisted by security measures which are measured and through a persuasive approach and dialogue.

Mahfud said that the Bener Dam represents a strategic national project (PSN) which will be built to provide water for 15,000 hectares of rice fields and as a source of water, electricity and to overcome floods.

"So that the mining and the construction of the dam proceed smoothly and continue to be supported by the community, the Central Java governor will hold a dialogue with Wadas Village residence who still oppose the planned construction activities which will be facilitated by Komnas HAM", said Mahfud.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Ramai-ramai Mengecam Pengerahan Aparat di Desa Wadas".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2022/02/10/09492891/ramai-ramai-mengecam-pengerahan-aparat-di-desa-wada