MAC: Mines and Communities

Indonesian Minister Nabiel under fire for alleged incompetence

Published by MAC on 2004-07-08


Nabiel under fire for alleged incompetence

Kurniawan Hari, Jakarta Post

8th July 2004

Non-governmental organizations called Minister of the Environment Nabiel Makarim incompetent on Wednesday, but stopped short of urging him to resign.

The criticism was lodged by the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) and the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam).

The NGOs sent a motion of no confidence to the minister and appealed to the next president not to reappoint Nabiel for a another five-year team in office.

Nabiel has been known to criticize the government's policies on the environment, but that was before he was appointed minister by President Megawati Soekarnoputri in 2001.

"Pak Nabiel is my colleague. I am really upset that he cannot do his job well," Walhi director Longgena Ginting said during at a press conference in Jakarta.

Jatam coordinator Siti Maimunah said her organization had come to the same conclusion that the minister had failed to demonstrate his commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable development.

She said there were at least seven cases in which Nabiel failed to protect the environment, including the issuance of a permit for mining in protected forests and his tardy response to the leak at the Balongan oil refinery in Indramayu, West Java.

Other cases were the landslides in the Grasberg area of PT Freeport Indonesia in Papua, widespread sand dredging from coastal areas in Riau, pollution blamed on PT Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR) in North Sulawesi, and environmental damage allegedly caused by PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara (NNT) in Sumbawa, Maimunah added.

She explained that the leak at state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina's Balongan refinery, which has not been repaired since November 2002, had caused pollution along a 25-kilometer stretch along the coastline off Indramayu.

Local people collected 221 kilograms of oil from the coastal area in January last year.

Maimunah said PT Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR) has, since 1996, dumped four tons of tailing into Buyat Bay, which caused health problems and reduced the income of local fishermen.

A three-month old infant, Andini Lesun, has died, apparently because of the pollutants emanating from Newmont, she said. The baby suffered from skin diseases and a skull abnormality since birth.

Walhi policy campaigner P. Raja Siregar said that a series of analyses on the sediment around the Buyat Bay showed a high level of arsenic and mercury in fish.

Environmental activists have found many dead fish after the opening of the NMR mine in 1996, he added.

"The findings from the various groups are basically the same that there are dangerous pollutants," he said.

Jakarta, 07 July 2004

Mr. Nabiel Makarim
Minister of Environment
The Republic of Indonesia
Jl. D.I. Panjaitan Kav. 24

Subject : Motion of No Confidence

Dear Mr. Nabiel Makarim,

We are the Non-governmental Organizations working on the issues of natural resources management, environmental advocacy, human rights, and mining, oil, and gas advocacy.

During the last two years, we've been observing your performance in taking care of environmental cases, especially those related with mining sector. We are assured that it's been your Ministry's task to prevent any destructive potential of the mining, oil, and gas sector.

Based on data we've collected (attached to this letter), even until the ending of the President Megawati Cabinet period, no sufficient actions have been taken by your ministry aimed at protecting the environment from any devastation impacts due to mining operation. Your policies had been quite on the opposite, which further worsen the environment condition. For times we've extended our concern through both dialogues and letter writing with a wish that you would do something meaningful to the environment and local communities that has always been the victims of mining operation. Unfortunately, this has become just a hope.

On the mining sector, the performance of the Environment Ministry under your governance has been so poor. Some environmental problems in the sector couldn't be resolved properly, especially those related with the destruction of local surrounding that resulted in ultimate breakdown of economical, social, and cultural rights of the people. You as the minister has acted ambiguously and seemed to take sides on the mine corporations' interests. This conclusion is supported by the following facts showing on how you as the Minister took care of environmental problems in mining sector:

1. Pollution of Balongan beach, Indramayu by oil spill and oil sludge
2. Landslides at Grasberg mine and Ajkwa river pollution by PT. Freeport Indonesia
3. Sea sand mining in Riau islands for export to Singapore
4. Submarine Tailing Disposal applied by PT. Newmont Minahasa Raya that polluted Buyat bay, North Sulawesi and caused severe health problems to local people.
5. Controversial "Green Company Award" giving to PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara
6. Mining in Protected Areas and the issuance of Government Law in Lieu of Act No 1/2004 and Government Decree No 41/2004.
7. Environmental problems regarding with Mine Closure

Up to now, you have settled none of the cases comprehensively. Any actions you've taken have even raised disadvantage to victimized people, while on the contrary giving such protection to mining agents.

From the above description we believe that your institution have been under such decadence that barely did something significant with regards to prevent all shapes of exploitation of depleting mineral and energy reserves. Thus, as groups of civil society and citizens of Indonesia we:

1. Declare a MOTION OF NO CONFIDENCE to the performance of Minister NABIEL MAKARIM, the Minister of Environment of The Republic of Indonesia, in taking care of environmental cases related with mining, oil, and gas sector.

2. Calling on all presidential and vice-presidential candidates to choose for more qualified person to administer the ministry of environment and not again trust Nabiel Makarim in the next cabinet.

3. Related with PT Newmont Minahasa Raya case, we demand the fulfillment of Minister's promise to visit to Buyat Bay and consult with victimized people, and urge Mr Nabiel Makarim to take significant measure with regards to clear up problems on degrading health and loss of livelihood due to tailing dumping of PT NMR.

Finally, we thank you for your attention and cooperation.


Longgena Ginting, Executive Director, Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI)
Siti Maimunah, National Coordinator, Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM)
Supriyadi W. Edyono, Institute of Community Study and Advocacy (ELSAM)

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