Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie said he was confused claims by several leaders of the House of Representatives that they were unaware of an article in the 2013 revised state budget that allocated Rp 155 billion ($15.7 million) to overcome the impacts of the Sidoarjo mudflow disaster, which some experts say was caused by the Bakrie family gas drilling company.
The House approved the revised state budget revision on Monday, which included article 9, which stated that the government would cover the expenses for the widening areas affected by the 2006 mudflow in East Java.
“Who says? If they were unaware, why would they approve it?” Aburizal said in Jakarta on Wednesday night.
House Deputy Speaker Sohibul Iman, from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), said his faction would file a request for a judicial review on the article with the Supreme Court.
Previously, the Supreme Court rejected a judicial review on the government’s decision to provide compensation for the mudflow victims, saying it was part of the state’s functions and duties to protect and offer security to the public.
Lapindo Brantas, a subsidiary of the Bakrie Group involved in drilling activities near the site of the disaster, had been in charge of paying compensation to the residents affected by the mud.
Aburizal said it was normal for the government to allocate the budget because Lapindo Brantas was only responsible for compensating residents’ land and buildings that were in its map of affected areas.
“Those who are not in our map of affected areas become the responsibility of the government,” Aburizal said.
House Deputy Speaker Pramono Anung Wibowo, from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said he was unaware of the Rp 155 billion allocation in the revised budget for compensation and mitigation efforts for the mud volcano disaster.
He added that none of the House leaders, including Speaker Marzuki Alie, from the Democratic Party, knew of the allocation, which critics contend puts the bulk of the compensation obligation on the government for a disaster that is blamed by many experts on Barkie Group affiliate Minarak Lapindo Jaya.
“The leaders were probably not informed [of the article]. Marzuki, who led the plenary session, only found out about it at the time,” Pramono said.
“For this case, my answer as a leader would be that I only found out during the lobbying forum. I didn’t know of this before. If I have to swear, then I will. By God, I didn’t know at all about this.”
The allocation passed virtually unnoticed on Monday night, with all the attention on the budget focused on measures paving the way for a fuel price hike.
The high amount of compensation provided by the state, and the government’s insistence that the mud volcano was a natural disaster and not triggered by Lapindo’s drilling activities, has raised speculation about political horse-trading between Golkar and the ruling Democratic Party.
Speculation is rife that the Democrats made the Sidoarjo concession in exchange for Golkar’s support on the fuel policy.
But Aburizal denied the suggestion, saying that Golkar did not make any special deal with the government in exchange for mudflow mitigation budget.
“There’s none. Golkar supports [the revised state budget] for the sake of the people,” he said.
Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra) director for investigation and advocacy Uchok Sky Khadafi said that the government has disbursed a total of Rp 5.69 trillion in budget for compensation and mitigation efforts for the mud flow disaster since 2006.
Uchok said the budget allocated for the disaster continued to increase each year and he suspected high-level lobbying to get the budget approved.
“But with such a huge budget allocation, how come there are still people affected by the Lapindo mud that have not yet received the compensation?” he asked on Thursday.
Uchok also questioned why efforts to stop the mud volcano had been halted. He speculated that the government had let the mud continue to flow as a means to keep its grip on Golkar Party, especially in the parliament.
Uchok said Golkar was unusually compliant as a ruling coalition member in backing the fuel price increase. Aburizal is running for president next year.
© Ezra Sihite | June 21, 2013 | thejakartaglobe.com