Davaoeña among detained activists in Indonesia

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/6 July) — The Davao team leader of an indigenous peoples rights advocacy group, along with other activists of  different nationalities, has been detained by Indonesian police in West Java, Indonesia since Monday after holding a press conference on the impacts of coal-fired power plants on the environment and local communities, the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK)

LRC-KsK Davao team leader Jean Marie Ferraris. Photo Courtesy of   LRC-KsKJean Marie Ferraris, of LRC-KsK Davao office, is among 13 persons coming from international NGOs who held a press conference following a training activity in Cirebon, West Java.

About a hundred Indonesian police officers, accompanied by representatives of a local coal power plant operated by Cirebon Elektrik Power Ltd., made the arrest, the LRC-KsK statement said.

In a phone interview, Erwin Quiñones, campaigns paralegal of LRC-KsK Davao, told MindaNews that they have not yet established  communication with Ferraris since she was detained.

“She was able to make a quick call at our national office in Manila upon the arrest. After that, we don’t have communications anymore,”
said Quiñones.

“We condemn the arrest since the press conference is just an exercise of their democratic rights,” he said.

Quiñones relayed that Ferraris and her colleagues were told by the police that they violated immigration laws in Indonesia and will be taken to the immigration office in Jakarta today.

In a separate statement, LRC-KsK’s executive director Judy Pasimio said they “denounce in the strongest possible terms the unwarranted arrest of Ferraris by misguided elements of the Indonesian police who apparently barged into a peaceful press conference being held after a
training activity organized by our friends from Greenpeace.”

Pasimio added that Ferarris was there only to share the experience of their own partner communities who are also facing the threat of coal
mining and environmental degradation from coal-fired power plants.

“She entered Indonesia legally and was attending a legitimate activity organized by an internationally-recognized environmental NGO,” Pasimio said, adding that the arrest was “completely unjustified.”

Pasimio said Indonesia still has not completely shrugged off its authoritarian past. The latest episode she further said, evokes the time of Suharto when the coercive power of the state, through the police and the military, were used to sow terror and choke democratic space. “This abusive behavior has no place in a supposedly democratic country,” she stressed.

“We call on our government to act swiftly to effect the release of Ms. Ferraris and demand an immediate explanation from the Indonesian government. The new administration of Pres. Aquino must send a strong message to the international community that it is committed to  protecting our citizens from abuses committed on foreign soil, even if it is by a foreign government,” Pasimio added.

LRC-KsK Davao Office is among local groups in Mindanao actively campaigning against the proposed coal-fired power plant in Maasim,
Sarangani province. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)