Kendeng farmers refuse to halt protests against cement factory
Marguerite Afra Sapiie
The Jakarta Post
Despite the government’s plan to begin operations at state cement maker Semen Indonesia’s factory in Rembang, Central Java, in April, farmers from the Mount Kendeng area have refused to end their Jakarta rallies against the plant until President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo shuts it down.
Joko Priyanto, an activist with the Mount Kendeng Community Network (JMPPK), said the farmers would continue to sit in front of the State Palace with their feet buried inside concrete blocks every day to demand justice. This was especially so because last October, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of farmers and ordered Semen Indonesia to cease its operation.
“Whatever the [government’s] plan is, we will continue to oppose the cement factory in Rembang. The environmental damage is too high, when in fact the karst ecosystem in the area should be protected,” Joko told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
During her visit to the factory complex on Friday, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno claimed the majority of villagers supported the construction of the cement factory, citing economic reasons. She also claimed only 5 percent of locals opposed the construction, adding that the government would seek solutions.
“The minister should understand that this case is not about a majority against a minority, this is about how the government complies with the law,” Joko said.
Friday’s rally marked the fifth day of a protests launched by Kendeng farmers in front of the palace. Fifty farmers from Rembang, Pati, Blora and Grobogan, have buried their feet in concrete blocks. (ebf)
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