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Walk on:: Hari Suwandi (center) a resident of Porong, Sidoarjo, East Java, whose home and business were destroyed by the Lapindo mudflow, takes a break having left his home on June 14 to walk more than 820 kilometers to Jakarta to protest the poor handling of the disaster. JP/Wendra AjistyatamaIt was a long, long journey from Sidoarjo to Jakarta, but for Hari Suwandi and Hartowiyono, the journey was the least they could do after years of unsuccessful attempts to obtain the remaining compensation promised by oil and gas company Lapindo Brantas.
“We’ve come 847 kilometers to see the President to ask about the compensation that was promised by Lapindo and we are not going home until we’ve met the President,” Hari told reporters on Monday.
Hari Suwandi, 44, from Kedung Bendo, Tanggulangin, Sidoarjo, East Java is one of the thousands victims of the mudflow, triggered by drilling conducted by Lapindo Brantas, that submerged parts of the regency six years ago.
Hari, who set off from Sidoarjo accompanied by his friend Hartowiyono, 42, on June 14, walked to Jakarta, where he arrived on July 8.
“We are urging the President to push Lapindo to pay the compensation as promised,” Hari said in a press conference, adding that he was planning also to see lawmakers at the House of Representatives, as well as Aburizal Bakrie, who owned Lapindo Brantas.
Lapindo Brantas, through its subsidiary company PT. Minarak Lapindo Jaya has paid only Rp 2.9 trillion (US$308 million) of Rp 3.8 trillion in required compensation to 4,129 victims from four villages in Sidoarjo: Siring, Jatirejo, Kedung Bendo and Renokenongo.
Minarak Lapindo Jaya said in a written statement in April that they could only afford to pay Rp 400 billion of the of Rp 900 billion outstanding compensation. The statement stipulated that the payments were to commence in June and be completed by December.
“It’s July already and they haven’t even started to pay the Rp 400 billion, when they actually have to pay Rp 900 billion,” Hari said.
Sinung Karto of The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said that Lapindo should compensate the mudflow victims for more than just their property.
“Lapindo is also responsible for the victims’ loss of economic rights. These people not only lost their homes, but also their livelihoods and their social standing, which should be accommodated within the total compensation,” said Sinung.
Hari Suwandi used to work as a bag handcrafter in Sidoarjo with a total revenue of between Rp 3 million and Rp 4 million per month. The disaster not only took away his livelihood, but also his entire future as a businessman.
“My machines had a total value of Rp 40 million, but they are not considered assets that can be compensated by Lapindo. They only want to pay us for land and buildings,” said the father of three.
Hari’s friend Hartowiyono used to have a teak wood and motorcycle business in Jatirejo, Sidoarjo. He lost his entire assets valued at Rp 426 million in the mudflow.
“I received only the first 20 percent of compensation in 2007, that amounted to only Rp 85.6 million,” Hartowiyono said. He said that since 2007, he had not received the rest of compensation that was promised.
“We are here to voice the plight of the victims who have been forgotten by the government,” Hari said.
According to Khalisah Khalid of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Walhi and Kontras are currently preparing legal back up and seeking ways for Hari and Hartowiyono to meet the President.
“We are trying the best we can so they can meet the President but all that we can do for now is to allow them to meet the legislators,” Khalisah said on Tuesday.
Non-governmental organizations have slammed the government for spending excessively from the state budget to pay for the mudflow mitigation efforts.
The government has spent Rp 6.7 trillion on compensation and reconstruction, and has budgeted Rp 500 billion for 2012 for the same purpose against Lapindo Brantas’ payment of only Rp 2.8 trillion in compensation.
In total, the government is expected to spend more than Rp 9 trillion by 2014 for the Lapindo disaster. (nad)