Walhi firmly condemns the arbitrary actions of the Police in Wadas Village

Walhi firmly condemns the arbitrary actions of the Police in Wadas Village

On Tuesday, February 8, 2022, thousands of police officers infiltrated Wadas Village, Bener District, Purworejo Regency without any prior notification. Thousands of police officers came with complete equipment (shields, weapons, and police dogs). The police quibble, that the reasoning behind this was that they intended to oversee the measuring process of andesite quarry land in Wadas village carried out by a team from the Land Office of Purworejo. However, what further ensued were acts of violence, intimidation, and arbitrary arrests by the police against the local residents. The police made sieges at several points in houses of local residents and mosques used for mujahadah (praying). The police even chased the residents into their own homes then dragged them out. Not only were these arbitrary actions directed at the residents, but one of the public advocates of Wadas residents was also arrested. It did not stop there. The police also extruded other public advocates who wanted to provide legal assistance to the detained residents at the police station. There are at least 63 people who were arrested by the police in this incident.

Historically, the conflict in Wadas has been going on for a long time. This case started in 2018 in which for the first time, the proponent (The River Basin Agency of Serayu-Opak) conducted a socialization on land acquisition for the Bener dam. The government had determined that an area of ​​114 hectares in Wadas village would be used as an andesite mining site which would later be used in the construction of the Bener dam at a location 8 kilometres northwest from the village. Since then, the local people of Wadas have rejected the plan to take over their land.

Wadas residents' rejection of the andesite mining plan in their village is based on the fact that the area that will be the mining site so far is a productive plantation area which is their main source of livelihood. For generations, the local residents, who are mostly farmers, have been running multicultural agriculture (various types of plantations) on their fertile soil on the hill. This system allows farmers to earn income from harvesting a variety of plantations continuously throughout the year. In a survey of economic potential conducted by the residents of Wadas Village with WALHI Yogyakarta, LBH Yogyakarta, and Perpusjal, all plants cultivated on the hill show a high accumulated value per year: petai plants reach Rp. 241 million, Rp. 2 billion for sengon timber, Rp. 1.35 billion for cubeb, Rp. 266 million for vanilla, and Rp. 1.24 billion for durian. The residents of Wadas village also considered the hills to be mined as a protected area to guard against the threat of landslides and as a water catchment system area for 23 water springs in their village. Unfortunately, the government disregarded the various grounds to reject the mining plan in their village. In 2018 the Governor of Central Java, Ganjar Pranowo, still compelled to issue a location permit (IPL) which then became the legitimacy to seize the land of the Wadas residents.

Apart from that, the land acquisition for the Bener Dam quarry should be halted as all National Strategic Projects (PSN) must be halted first based on the Constitutional Court Decision number 91/PUU-XVIII/2020, which in its order freezes the implementation of the Job Creation Law and demands the suspension of all actions/policies that are strategic and have broad impacts. The National Strategic Project at the Bener Dam is carried out using the Job Creation Law as a legal consideration so that if the government follows the state constitution, all policy products that rely on the Job Creation Law, have strategic implications and have broad impacts should be stopped. WALHI had previously issued a Declaration of Restoration of Indonesia demanding all parties to comply with this Constitutional Court Decision. In particular, WALHI urged the President to respect the law.

The incident in Wadas village has also added to the long list of violent acts by the police against the community regarding the natural resource conflicts in Indonesia. Throughout 2021-2022, WALHI records at least 182 residents who have experienced criminalization (arrested/detained/tried) while fighting to preserve their living space. Prior to the case in Wadas village occurred, on December 27, 2021, the protest against mining in Pasar Seluma village, Seluma Regency, Bengkulu, which was dominated by women, was disbanded by the police, resulting in ten residents being detained. Then only four days after the incident in Wadas village, on February 12, 2022, the protest against a gold mine in Parigi Moutong Regency, Central Sulawesi, also encountered police violence, resulting in 59 residents being detained and one resident shot dead. All of the arbitrary actions of the Police towards the efforts of the residents to preserve their land do not display the commitment to the spirit of protecting human rights and the humanist attitude of the Indonesian Police.

Therefore, for all the events that occurred, WALHI urges:

  1. State administrators to comply with the Constitutional Court's Decision and cancel the process of acquiring quarry area for the Bener Dam.
  2. The Governor of Central Java to revoke the location permit (IPL) and stop the land measuring for the mining area in Wadas Village, Bener, Purworejo
  3. The police of the Republic of Indonesia to stop using excessive use of force in dealing with the public protests 
  4. The Chief of the Indonesian National Police must ensure that every policy issued by the National Police institution and the actions of the officers in the field do not contradict the laws and regulations and thoroughly evaluate the use of firearms by the officers

See this link for detailed chronology of the event.