Fidelis E Satriastanti, Ezra Sihite & Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Legislators have sprung to the defense of Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie as he continues to take flak for the Lapindo mudflow disaster while eyeing the presidency in 2014.
Satya W. Yudha, a Golkar legislator at House of Representatives Commission VII, which oversees mines and energy affairs, said on Tuesday that the criticism of Aburizal, whose family controls the company that is widely blamed for the disaster, was unwarranted, politicized and based largely on jealousy.
“From a legal standpoint, we all know that there was no problem with Lapindo Brantas or with the Bakrie family,” he claimed. “This must be underscored in light of the efforts by certain parties to politicize the matter.”
He insisted the Bakries had shown “moral commitment” in seeking to complete the compensation process for the thousands of people displaced by the mud volcano in Sidoarjo, East Java.
Satya added that Lapindo’s holding company, Minarak Lapindo Jaya, was paying the victims far more than their land was worth.
“So don’t call it covering their losses. Call it covering their gains,” he said.
Effendi Simbolon, the Commission VII deputy chairman, claimed the Bakries had shown “extraordinary empathy” for the victims by paying compensation for what he called “a purely natural disaster.”
“I salute them because they’re the only pribumi [ethnic Indonesian] businesspeople to show such empathy to the people affected by the mudflow,” the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician said.
“They didn’t flee the country, like many non-pribumi businesspeople who embezzled bank bailout funds [in the 1998 financial crisis] and refused to take responsibility for their actions.”
He also demanded an end to the “irresponsible politicization” of the issue, which he said would hamper the ongoing compensation process.
However, fellow PDI-P legislator Eva Kusuma Sundari, who lost some of her property in the disaster, accused Minarak and the government of not being committed to the compensation process.
“As a victim, I’ve received just Rp 30 million [$3,200] of the Rp 150 million that I’m owed,” she said.
“Both Minarak and the government have fallen short of their obligations and are intensifying the suffering of the people that has been going on for six years. This insensitive and unresponsive attitude is regrettable.”
The House declared in 2009 that the mudflow, which swamped 16 villages since it began in May 2007, was a natural disaster.
Several studies by scientists from Indonesia and abroad, however, found that it was Lapindo’s drilling activities that caused the mud volcano.