MAC: Mines and Communities

Indonesia: Indigenous farmers rally to halt cement factory in Central Java

Published by MAC on 2017-03-30
Source: Jakarta Post, Asia Pacific Report

They have been sitting with their feet in cement boxes in protest

Since 13 March, over 50 local Indigenous farmers from the Kendeng mountainous area have been sitting with their feet in cement boxes in protest. It is both a symbolic and literal plea to President Joko Widodo to halt the construction of a cement factory in Rembang, Central Java.

The promoter of the project, Semen Indonesia, formerly known as Semen Gresik, is the largest cement producing company in the country.

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See previous on MAC:

2016-05-17 Indonesia: Women protest with their feet

Church supports ‘concrete feet’ environment protest in Jakarta

March 29, 2017

The church in Indonesia has lent its weight behind an ongoing demonstration outside the presidential palace by Javanese farmers protesting against the establishment of a cement factory, which critics say would invite an environmental disaster.

Farmers from several villages in Central Java province’s Rembang district, who started their protest last week by having their feet encased in concrete, were joined by environmentalists on March 20. The church also offered a message of support.

“This protest symbolises our life which will be shackled by the factory,” said Joko Prianto, coordinator of the protest.

He said the factory would ruin the quality of groundwater in the Kendeng karst mountain range.

“The groundwater basin must be protected. If not, we will face drought during the dry season and floods during the rainy season,” he said.

The construction of the PT Semen Indonesia factory began in 2014 but protesters have doggedly delayed it. It was due to begin operating in April but the launch has been delayed, according to local news reports.

Responding to the farmers’ protest, PT Semen Indonesia Corporate Secretary Agung Wiharto said the company had offered a number of solutions, including employing a so-called block mining system to prevent water pollution.

Support for farmers

Father Aloysius Budi Purnomo, chairman of the Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of Semarang Archdiocese, supported the farmers.

“They fight because they see nature being damaged due to the exploitation of natural resources. This is exactly what Pope Francis spoke about in his encyclical Laudato si,” he said.

“The papal encyclical encourages the church to support those fighting for the integrity of creation,” he added.

Similar support came from Muhammad Nurkhoiron from the National Commission on Human Rights.

“One of our commission’s efforts is to protect the karst mountains’ ecology for the sake of all people. The right to water is part of human rights,” he said.

In April 2016, a similar rally ran for two days until presidential staff promised to schedule a meeting between the protesters and president. In August, they met with the president who said no permit would be issued until an environmental assessment was complete.

Experts involved in the assessment reportedly said that the factory’s activities were feasible. On February 23, Governor Ganjar Pranowo issued a permit but the farmers do not accept the finding.

Anti-cement plant rally goes on after farmer’s death

Jakarta Post -

March 22, 2017

Following Tuesday’s death of a farmer demonstrator, about 100 NGO activists joined the Central Java farmers’ protest across from the State Palace on Wednesday, protesting a cement factory that they deem as endangering the villagers’ livelihood.

The activists replaced hundreds of farmers who had held a daily rally since March 13.  The farmers went back to their home villages to bury their community member, Patmi, who died of heart attack early Tuesday.

Representing various civic organizations, such as Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA), Legal Aid Institute (LBH), Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam)  and Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS), eight of the activists buried their feet in concrete blocks the way the protesting farmers had done to dramatize their demand.

“Now we all are Kendeng,” said Dewi Kartika, the KPA’s secretary general, in reference to the mountainous area in Rembang regency where the factory is being built. “We swear we won’t stop until our demand is met.”

The protesters took turns addressing the crowd, announcing their demands and praising the late Patmi’s courage.

“Patmi was right here Monday and buried her feet in concrete blocks, just like what we’re doing now. She fought with us because she had faith that the Kendeng people would eventually retain their land. We should share her faith,” Adi Wibowo of KPA said.

The activists said they were unhappy with the government’s stand on the issue. Presidential Chief of Staff office head Teten Masduki told the protesters on Monday the government was reviewing the disputed project, but he was short of saying the government would cancel it as they have demanded.

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