27 December 2011

Indonesia’s Bima clash needs to be investigated independently

While an investigation into bloody clashes between security forces and local people that claimed the lives of nine people in Mesuji, Lampung province, was still in progress, another incident involving police and residents happened in Bima district, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), on Saturday, leaving to two locals dead

By Andi Abdussalam | ANTARA | December 26 2011
Situation after incident involving police and residents happened in Bima district, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), Saturday (Dec. 24). (ANTARA/Rinby)

Many quarters, including chairman of the Muhammadiyah Islamic organization Din Syamsuddin, legislators, mining officials and a legal aid institute (LBH), urged the government to investigate the Bima incident thoroughly in order to uphold the law.

"Law enforcers must find the parties responsible for the incident because the violence constituted human rights violations ," Din Syamsuddin said after inaugurating a mosque in Jepara, Central Java, on Sunday.

Din said he was sad about the incident because it had claimed the lives of people. Moreover, the dead victims included a member of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia`s second largest Muslim organization which claims to have about 25 million members.

He said the clash between police and demonstrators began with the rejection by residents of the presence of a mining firm in their area. Law enforcers should settle the problem of people`s aspirations through dialogs or through a discussion forum, he said.
"I hope clashes like those in Bima will not also happen in other regions," Din said.

The same hope was aired by a top Democratic Party legislator who said the incident should become an important lesson in enforcing the law. "I have instructed Democratic Party faction members in the House of Representatives hailing from NTB to visit the location where the clash happened and make consolidation and coordination with the local government," chairman of the Democratic Party faction in the House of Representatives (DPR), Mohammad Jafar Hafsah, said.

Mohammad Jafar Hafsah said that as chief of the Democratic party faction in the House, he had consolidated especially with members of the House commission VII from the Democratic Party overseeing mines and energy affairs in an effort to get a comprehensive report on the Bima clash.

Chief of NTB`s Energy and Mineral Resources Office Eko Bambang Sutedjo said meanwhile that residents` demand for the revocation of the mining license (IUP) issued by Bima district Head Ferry Zulkarnaen should be settled through legal channels.

The local people`s demand for the revocation of the IUP could be settled through a legal process, namely a review by the State Administrative Court (PTUN).

"Any opposition to a government policy should be settled through legal channels, not through street protests which always tend to become anarchic," Eko said.

A clash between police and demonstrators broke out at Sape Ferry port in Bima district, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), on Saturday claiming two lives. It happened when security officers tried to forcefully drive away a group of local residents who had occupied the ferry port since December 20, 2011.

The residents who called themselves members of an anti-mining front, had occupied the port and demanded that the Bima district head retract his decision to allow mining firm PT Sumber Mineral Nusantara to operate in the district on the ground the company`s operations had damaged the environment.

During the clash, police confiscated 20 machetes, four crescent blades, 10 spears, some large and small stones and Molotov cocktails as evidence. Apart from that, the police also seized gasoline in "aqua" bottles, a black bag, a Carry Pick-Up car, a motorcycle, a megaphone and other public speaking equipment.
The local police chief said after the demonstrators had left the scene, an angry mob had also torched the Lambu police precinct and several other government office buildings.

They vandalized the office of the Lambu police precinct and set fire to his official residence, four police dormitories, and a Bank Tabungan Negara (BTN) building.

In addition, they also vandalized a forestry office, a youth and sports office and 25 houses.

Until Sunday, police had named 47 people suspect over the clash in which, according to police, two people were killed, but another source said there were three fatalities.

"The Bima police resort has so far questioned 47 suspects. They are members of the Anti-Mining People`s Front who were involved in blockading actions and arson," spokesman of the National Police Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said on Sunday.

He said police investigators would interrogate each of the suspects for their alleged part in the violent acts which included the occupation of the Sape ferry port, vandalizing and setting fire to public facilities.

"All the suspects will be interrogated about their involvement in the incident," he said.

Yet, a legal aid institute urged the government to set up an independent investigation team because the clash involved security officers and demonstrators.

LBH Keadilan (Legal Aid for Justice Institute) called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to set up an independent team to soon investigate the Bima case in which three people were killed.

LBH Keadilan in a press statement made available to ANTAR on Sunday said the independent team should be composed of civilians and academics. Without an independent team, it was feared the law would not enforced fairly.

The bloody Bima clash which has added to the number of violent police-people confrontations happening in the country, is a serious case that has to be solved with the partcipation of independent investigators, it said.

In order to prevent the occurrence of the same conflict in other areas, LBH Keadilan called on the president to form a special team to settle conflicts over natural resources and agrarian issues. Without a special team, natural resource related conflicts would continue to take place, it said.

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