The 2020 regional elections which will be held simultaneously in 270 regions throughout Indonesia on December 9, will not only determine governance in the regions but also whether the environment would be managed in a sustainable way or not in the next five years, activists said.
Teguh Surya, Executive Director of the Madani Berkelanjutan Foundation, said that the 2020 regional elections which will be held in nine provinces, 224 regencies and 37 cities is a special moment.
“These elections are special. Apart from having to be held during a pandemic, these local elections would also produce the first elected candidates to implement the controversial omnibus law,” Surya said in an online webinar held by Katadata on Thursday (3/12).
Many environmental activists, including Surya, have criticized the Omnibus Law, which had been rushed and had failed to involve public consultations, as being heavily in favor of business interests, to the detriment of communities and the environment.
Among regions participating in these local elections this year were many with very significant ecologies, he added.
“In total, these provinces have natural forests of around 60 million hectares. Even though these elections are only followed by nine provinces, they represent more than half of the total peat land and forest areas throughout Indonesia. So, these regional elections are not only a routine exercise in democracy, but also concerns the future of Indonesia’s forests,” said Surya.
Data from the Madani Berkelanjutan Foundation showed that three of the nine provinces taking part in these elections have the most extensive forest areas, namely Central Kalimantan, North Kalimantan and Central Sulawesi. These three provinces also have track records in deforestation, destroying a total of 2.5 million hectares of forests.
Wawan Wardiana, Director of Research and Development for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) aired concerns that the data collected by his institution in the 2015, 2017 and 2018 elections, showed that 82.3 percent of candidate were assisted by donors or sponsors and it was predicted that these sponsors would later ask for “help” from the candidates if they won the their elections.
“There are 82.3% of those candidates, they were assisted by donors or sponsors and these assistances were not only limited to the holding of the campaigns, but even activities before that, such as campaign fund raisings, paying for electoral witnesses and various operational, outreach and meeting costs. In the end, they would seek to get easy permits approvals, whether forestry permits or something else,” said Wardiana.
Wawan added that a survey conducted by the KPK also said that 83 percent of candidates who had received assistance from donors would agree to meet the request of their sponsors, while the KPK was also continuing to review various systems to fight corruption in the forestry industry.
“83 percent of them said yes, they will meet the demands of the sponsors. So, since 2010, the KPK has conducted several studies, such as a study on forest planning systems and the vulnerability of forestry sector licensing systems to corruption,” Wardiana added.
Sri Suwanto, Head of the Central Kalimantan Forestry Service, said that the Central Kalimantan government has implemented a structured concession permit granting system in the hope that it could run smoothly without involving any illegal fees.
“The approval of concession permits has requirements that have been determined by government regulations, both central and regional. Investors who apply for permits must meet the requirements based on the stipulated regulations so that the process can run smoothly, easily and without extortion,” said Suwanto.
Suwanto also complained about the current permits system, saying that as Head of the Forestry Service he could not revoke the concession license issued by heads of districts or mayors even though the concession holders had committed violations. He said he could only provide supervision or guidance and therefore local elections were very important for the future of forests in the next five years.
“We can only do monitoring or guidance, for example if we see something that isn’t going according to rules, we will send a letter to the Regent in the hope that it would be investigated. We also have difficulties because we can’t just revoke permits, so we have to choose candidates who we can really trust in these elections,” Suwanto added.
Wawan and Teguh also both agreed on the importance of the 2020 regional elections for the sustainability of the environment in Indonesia, both for voters and candidates.
“Voters must also have integrity. Any loss would be felt for five years, and this because of bribes that were not much,” added Wardiana.
“The majority of voters in 2020 are the younger generation, and many of them don’t even know that there are local elections, or who are the candidates they would vote for. These elections are very important because the Regional Government holds sway in the protection of natural forests and in the preservation of the environment and thus greatly affects the sustainability of forests,” Surya concluded.