Indonesia mud disaster violated rights-commission
Wed Feb 25, 2009 7:16am EST
JAKARTA, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Indonesia's human rights commission said on Wednesday it had found evidence of human rights violations after a mud volcano in East Java started erupting in 2006 displacing more than 50,000 people
The commission, which has been investigating the disaster near Indonesia's second-biggest city of Surabaya for a year, said it could bring a case to the country's human rights court.
It said that it would establish a special team to investigate further and violations could involve the state and private firms.
Some scientists have said that energy firm PT Lapindo Brantas' drilling for a gas exploration well set off the mud volcano. Lapindo has denied it is to blame, saying the mud disaster was triggered by tectonic activity.
The human rights commission said it did not see a strong possibility that it was triggered by natural causes.
"There are many human rights violations that should be resolved by the government and second we see there is only a small possibility that it is linked with a natural phenomenon," said Syafrudin Ngulma Simuelue, head of the investigation team at the rights commission, called Komnas HAM.
Nur Kholis, another commissioner at Komnas, pointed to the fact that thousands of people had been forced to flee their homes against their will because of the disaster.
"Human rights violation which have occurred are in line with almost all of the elements in the human rights bill. There are 15 violations," said Kholis without elaborating.
The disaster has been a major embarrassment for the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, since Lapindo is linked to the Bakrie Group, controlled by the family of Indonesian Chief Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie.
Yudhoyono, who is seeking a second term in office in polls in July, intervened last year to order Lapindo to expedite payments.
The government had ordered Lapindo to pay 3.8 trillion rupiah ($318.6 million) in compensation and it was due to have paid 80 percent of the compensation by December 2008.
The Bakrie group promised last week it would allocate about 1.4 trillion rupiah this year and another 1 trillion rupiah in 2010 to complete the payments, in addition to building new houses for the victims.
"We will pay 15 million rupiah per family every month," said Nirwan Bakrie, a brother of the welfare minister, who was representing the Bakrie group.
Indonesia's police chief General Bambang Hendarso Danuri threatened last week to take legal action against Bakrie group if the company did not meet its payment commitments.
Earlier attempts by police to launch a criminal case over the disaster have failed, after prosecutors said there was not enough evidence. ($1 = 11,925 rupiah)
(Reporting by Telly Nathalia; Editing by Ed Davies)
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