Environment groups hit arrest of anti-coal activists in Indonesia

MANILA (July 7) — Greenpeace and The Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK) released a statement today denouncing the unwarranted and unjust detention of anti-coal activists by police authorities in Cirebon, West Java, since July 5. Police and then immigration officials have detained 12 foreign activists for over 40 hours, subjecting them to continuous interrogation procedures, even before filing any charges and on the basis of what the groups said was an outrageous and unsubstantiated allegation that the activists were supposedly causing “social instability”.

The activists apprehended by the local police were from Greenpeace and from communities who have been campaigning against the expansion of coal power plants across Asia – from China, India, Thailand and the Philippines. They went to Cirebon to share with local communities their experiences of living with the deadly impacts of coal mining and coal-fired power plants, and to learn lessons from each other about how to campaign for clean and renewable energy solutions. The activists were apprehended by  police authorities while they were attending a press conference organized by local groups to launch a
regional manifesto against the expansion of coal power plants in Asia.

Among the 12 activists were three Filipinos: Amalie Obusan, climate and energy campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia; Albert Lozada, Solar Generation-Pilipinas coordinator of Greenpeace Southeast Asia; and Jean Marie Ferraris, team leader of the LRC-KsK Davao Regional Office.

“We condemn in the strongest terms this latest harassment by the Indonesian police and immigration authorities on peaceful activists, as well as on communities who are opposing coal because of its  impacts on the local environment, the health of host communities, and on the global climate,” said Von Hernandez, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “It is lamentable that campaigning to uphold environmental justice through non-violent means has now become an offense worthy of heavy-handed tactics on the part of Indonesian authorities.”

Two months ago, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stated that he welcomed working in partnership with NGO’s, including Greenpeace, especially to address deforestation and ecosystem damage in the country. “However, the actions of police and immigration authorities that wilfully violate the human rights of local and international activists, especially without basis, reflects badly on the country’s
reputation as a genuine and robust democracy and can only fuel concerns that the law is being abused to serve the interests of those who are profiting from the destruction of the environment,” Hernandez

Judy Pasimio, Executive Director of LRC-KsK, said that the anti-coal community will be urging the Indonesian administration to condemn this most recent act by the local police and Immigration authorities. “The Indonesian government needs to condemn this very hostile act against
legitimate, peaceful meeting of coal campaigners and human rights defenders. We challenge President Yudhoyono to expose the implicit connivance of police and coal companies out to protect their own,
selfish interests. This unfortunate incident will not silence us, nor the communities we work with. In fact, this has strengthened our stand against corporations willing to use force against the people for their
own profit,” Pasimio stated.

Congressman Walden Bello, Akbayan Representative, who had made calls to the Indonesian Embassy in the Philippines and the Philippine Embassy in Indonesia for the immediate release of the Filipino
nationals, echoed the sentiments of the environmental groups. “Illegal arrests of environmental activists are becoming a trademark of the supposedly liberal government of Indonesia. We ask President Yudhoyono to order the security forces to stop their harassment of activists and to give safe passage and clearance to these activists who were unjustly detained,” Bello said.