About-face shocks, shames Lapindo victims
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When Hari Suwandi’s 25-day trek from Porong, Sidoarjo in East Java to Jakarta, wrapped up on July 8, many considered it as a triumph of human spirit against the injustice that had befallen victims of the Lapindo mudflow.
Upon reaching Jakarta Hari said the journey was the least he could do after years of unsuccessful attempts to obtain the remaining compensation promised by oil and gas company Lapindo Brantas.
On Thursday, however, he became the subject of ridicule and contempt from fellow Lapindo victims, after appearing on national television and formally apologizing to Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie, who owned oil and gas company PT Lapindo Brantas which has been blamed for the disaster.
In a 12-minute interview with Bakrie-owned news channel tvOne, Hari apologized to Aburizal and his family for staging the protest that he felt had besmirched the Bakries’ good name.
“We have been here for 16 days but no government official was willing to meet us. So I decided to change my mind,” Hari said in his introductory statement.
He then went on to make an apology to the Bakrie family.
“I regret my action of walking from Porong to Jakarta, because now I believe only Aburizal Bakrie can handle the situation in Sidoarjo. Especially the situation regarding the victims of Lapindo, [I mean] the victims of the Sidoarjo mudflow,” Hari said, correcting himself.
In the interview, Hari said that he had traveled from Sidoarjo to Jakarta because he was forced by members of the local community affected by the mudflow. “I regret the fact that I besmirched Bakrie’s name and I want to say thank you to the Bakrie family, because it is that family who can solve this problem,” said Hari, with tears welling in his eyes.
The person who was most devastated by Hari’s statement was fellow Sidoarjo native Harto Wiyono, who accompanied him during the 847-kilometer trek. “I feel very disappointed with the statement he made on tvOne. It not only hurts me, but also the people and organizations that supported our struggle. I feel very sad and humiliated,” Harto told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Hari and Harto began their journey on June 14 and arrived in Jakarta on July 8. Upon their arrival, the two received a heroes’ welcome from NGOs such as The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).
Harto returned to Sidoarjo on July 14 and returned to Jakarta on July 23, to meet Hari at Kontras’ headquarters.
He said that he saw nothing wrong with Hari but two days later, Hari quietly went on tvOne without telling him and gave the interview. “He could have received threats or pressure from Bakrie while I was away. You know I was always with him from when we started this journey,” he added.
Harto said that fellow protesters from Porong would soon head home, as they saw no point staying in the city. “This was all Hari’s idea,” he said.
Harto also said that Hari went missing after the interview. “Before heading back to Porong, I will try to look for him because nobody can contact him, who knows, maybe he is now staying with Bakrie,” he said.
Another Lapindo victim, Yudo Wintoko, expressed mistrust of Hari’s motive. “We regret his actions, which turned out to be for his own interest,” Yudo said as quoted by tempo.co.
Lapindo Brantas, through its subsidiary company PT. Minarak Lapindo Jaya has paid only Rp 2.9 trillion (US$308 million) of the required Rp 3.8 trillion in compensation to 4,129 victims from four villages in Sidoarjo: Siring, Jatirejo, Kedung Bendo and Renokenongo.
Minarak Lapindo Jaya said in a statement in April that they could only afford to pay Rp 400 billion of the outstanding Rp 900 billion. The statement stipulated that the payments were to commence in June and be completed by December.
Hari used to work as a bag maker 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.
In the interview, Hari admitted that Lapindo had given money to his wife in 2009. “That shows that Bakrie is committed to settling the compensation payment problem,” said Hari.
At the end of the interview, when asked about his future plans, Hari said that he would not go back to Sidoarjo. “I will travel far and start a new life.” (nad)