Development of infrastructure should not violate basic human rights. There should be no hiding behind the principle of the right to development.
WHILE putting highest priority on building infrastructure, the government is sacrificing basic human rights. Tempo identified distinguished violations in five strategic national projects: violence enacted against citizens in the vicinity of the projects also nullified the people’s economic, social and cultural rights. The five projects in question are the construction of the international airport in Kulon Progo, Yogyakarta; the development of 10 new tourism destination points; the development of the Lambo Dam in Nagekeo, East Nusa Tenggara; the development of the trans-Sumatra toll road; and the displacement of customary tribes in Langkat, North Sumatra.
For the Yogyakarta International Airport, for example, construction was begun despite having reached no consensus with the landowners. Each time the landowners—most of whom are farmers—picketed against being relocated, the military and the police were dispatched to disperse the demonstration. Some of these citizens are currently facing difficulties seeking a livelihood. Many of their offspring do not go to school.
President Joko Widodo’s actions are identical to Suharto’s over 30 years ago. An outstanding example was how Suharto had no qualms in shunting aside 5,000 people from three regencies in Central Java to build the Kedung Ombo Dam. While failing to obtain a fair reimbursement, these residents also lost their landholdings, their places of abode, and their livelihoods.
An indication of violation of human rights was apparent in President Jokowi’s statement on the Human Rights Day remembrance, December 10. In his speech, the President said infrastructure development was the government’s effort to protect the basic human rights of the people. This view on the right to development, however much acknowledged by the United Nations, tags along with it several requirements. Among them the imperative of government to protect the people’s right to livelihood, their right to speak out, and their right to not be discriminated against on the basis of race, ethnicity, language, religion, and gender.
Indonesia ratified the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and adopted its principles in Law No. 11/2005. Development that does not prioritize the rights of the citizenry surely will be noted by the rest of the world. The impetus to punish states or corporations who disregard human rights is a currency staunchly upheld by the international community.
Using the argument of the right to development, Jokowi appears to be seeking justification to apply a sledgehammer type of ‘developmentalism’. His principle of “work, work, work” in practice applies rapid exertion in lieu of good governance and a flagrant disregard of human rights.
Building infrastructure while ignoring the basic human rights of the people brings with it many calamities. Pushing for development targets without creating dialogue with the stakeholders only creates anguish and much pain. It seems Jokowi has forgotten how he, while mayor of Solo, refurbished the marketplace and relocated the street vendors of Solo by putting a high premium on first creating dialogue.
The many instances of disregard for basic human rights have been the red grades in Jokowi’s administration. The President’s promise to seek closure on gross violations of human rights in the past to date has never come to fruition. What happened instead was the opposite: Jokowi embraced the violators of human rights, including by appointing them as ministers and advisors to the president.
The government has to put a stop to its practice of human right violations. During the New Order, Indonesia applied more than three decades of ‘developmentalism’ which was flagrant in its violation of human rights. It is untoward that Jokowi is closely following Suharto’s footsteps.