Unrealistic Rice Field Program
PRESIDENT Joko Widodo’s instruction to create new rice fields in peatland areas has received strong criticisms. Some argue that such program had been done and failed.
Wahyu Perdana, Manager for the Essential Food, Water, and Ecosystem Campaign at the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), considers the program to create new rice fields will likely repeat the errors of the New Order era, which launched a million-hectare peatland project. According to Wahyu, creating new rice fields on peatlands will damage the peat swamp ecosystem. On top of that, it could result in peatland and forest fires during the dry season, and flooding during the rainy season.
Wahyu is urging Jokowi to stop the new rice fields plan. “Stop using the pandemic as a reason to exploit nature,” said Wahyu. Khudori, a member of the Experts Working Group of the Central Food Resilience Council, said that converting the function of peatland for agricultural use is not realistic. This is because special technology is required to make such a program to work. “It takes time and a lot of expense,” said Khudori.
President Jokowi ordered some institutions, including state-owned enterprises, to clear land for new rice fields. This policy is a response to the warning given by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which predicts a food shortage crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic. Coordinating Minister for the Economy Airlangga Hartarto said that the government is readying 900,000 hectares of land in Central Kalimantan.
Achsanul Qosasi, a member of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), pointed out that past rice field creation programs are proven failures. A similar program even resulted in state losses. Based on the results of an audit done in 2015, the BPK found that the BUMN Peduli program to create new rice fields resulted in Rp208.67 billion in state losses.
The BUMN Peduli Rice Field Program
This program was intended to create new rice fields on 20,000 hectares of neglected land in the Ketapang Regency, West Kalimantan.
Total state losses: Rp208.76 billion
▼ The use of program funds is not regulated in the working plan and budget.
▼ The implementation of the physical rice field construction work preceded the planning stage.
▼ The work was done in locations which were not fully supported with cooperation agreements with landowners.
▼ Accountability reports on the use of program funds for creating rice fields was insufficient.
SOURCES: AUDIT DONE BY THE SUPREME AUDIT AGENCY (BPK), TEMPO.CO
Crew Deaths on a Chinese Vessel
Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi explained that the three Indonesian ship crew members who died on a Chinese fishing vessel were buried at sea after receiving family approval. “We have sent a diplomatic note and received a reply that the burial process was done according to the provisions of the International Labour Organization (ILO),” she said on May 7.
One crew member died from illness on March 26. Two others died while the ship was sailing in the Pacific Ocean in December 2019. It was said that the two contracted a communicable disease.
Some of the surviving crew members said that they had to work 30 hours at a time and were only given six hours of rest. For working 13 months, they only received US$120 or about Rp1.7 million. The Indonesian Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, the country where the ship last docked, sent them back to Indonesia on April 24.