MAC: Mines and Communities


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.

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