Sidoarjo, East Java. A three-hour hike, followed by three hours of waiting did nothing to bring the victims of the Sidoarjo mudflow closer to the answers — or money — they have been after.
Without their promised compensation in sight, victims of the Sidoarjo mudflow started to break ranks, with some blaming their leaders and negotiators for the lack of progress.
The split was apparent after thousands of victims, who has been displaced since mud spewed from the drilling site owned by Minarak Lapindo Jaya in 2006, tried to collect their next compensation payment, which related company Lapindo Brantas promised to disburse this month.
Lapindo Brantas refused to acknowledge that the mudflow was caused by its drilling activities, but the company did agree to compensate the victims.
The victims marched eight kilometers from Ketapang village to the Sidoarjo district office on Monday.
Upon arriving at the district office at noon, they appointed 20 men as representatives to meet district head Saiful Illah, the victims’ official negotiator. Also present were MLJ director Andi Darussalam Tabusala, and Sidoarjo Mudflow Mitigation Agency chief Soenarso.
The rest of the villagers waited outside in the heat of the sun, growing increasingly frustrated when the meeting entered its third hour.
“We are not here for recreation,” Boy, a protest coordinator, announced through a bullhorn. “We came here to hear a decision about the compensation. In five minutes, there must be some news to tell the people.”
The call caught the attention of those in the meeting, who stepped outside to greet the protestors. But they didn’t have any answers.
Saiful said that he and the 20 representatives will meet Nirwan Bakrie in Jakarta on Wednesday. Nirwan is the brother of Golkar Party chairman and presidential hopeful Aburizal Bakrie, whose family co-owns Lapindo.
The company claims that the mudflow was caused by an earthquake that was centered near Yogyakarta.
“The victims’ representatives and I will try to talk with Nirwan about the remaining compensation,” Saiful said.
That response was met with disappointment from the fatigued protesters, who were hoping for a definite date by which they will see their money.
“From the beginning you [Saiful] have always said you will do your best. If you can’t give us any certainty on when the compensation will be disbursed, you had better resign as district head,” one victim said.
Saiful was at a loss for words and failed to provide any answers.
“I am just here to help,” he said. “What has this got to do with me resigning [as district head]?”
As the protesters grew more impatient and tensions began to rise, Saiful ducked back into his office.
The victims’ directed their ire at the representatives but still failed to receive the answers they had been waiting for.
“You can’t blame them for not willing to trust their own representatives. They have been let down so many times,” Abdul Fatah, one of the representatives said. “What else can we do? The representatives can only do so much.
“It should be the central government’s job to put pressure on Lapindo.”
The protesters were from an area immediately affected by the mudflow. They were given 20 percent of compensation in 2007 by Lapindo but have not seen the remainder of their money since then.
Failure to issue the payment may dog Aburizal’s 2014 election campaign.