Rights groups face classic problems

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Anton Muhajir, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar | Wed, 12/17/2008 11:12 AM | Bali

Bali’s human rights organizations were still embroiled by classical, internal problems diminishing their capability to implement their agendas, an activist said during a civil society gathering last week.

“Efforts to implement human rights agenda in Bali are still hampered by a lack of coordination among the human rights organizations,” chairwoman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Association’s (PBHI) Bali Chapter Nyoman Sri Widiyanthi said.

The gathering, titled Consolidation of the Civil Society Movement for Human Rights, was attended by 30 people, including students, journalists and victims of human rights’ violations in Bali.

Widiyanthi further disclosed that the local human rights organizations were still struggling with a myriad of internal problems, including a lack of funding and qualified human resources.

“Other internal problems are the lack of a solid database on human rights violations in Bali because in-depth research has not been conducted yet and a network of human rights activists is limited,” she said.

Consequently, those organizations could not operate at its optimum level.

“The advocacy works could not be carried out at the level we wished for and we couldn’t achieve all the objectives that we set,” she said.

Besides the internal problem, she added, the organizations also had to cope with external problems such as the rise of civil militias on the island.

“The emergence of civil militias in the domain of local politics has raised the possibility of violence, thus increasing the probability for the occurrence of human rights violations,” she added.

As a center of tourism in the country, Widiyanthi said, there was always a massive flow of capital coming into the island from investors.

“Human rights violations will take place when investors marginalize locals in the process of developing tourism on the island,” she said.

She referred to several cases in the past involving developments of tourism projects and the marginalization of local communities by the investors.

Unfortunately, in all those cases, the investors were supported by local administrations, the state and a large number of the island’s intellectuals.

“Many of our intellectuals have became ardent supporters of the neoliberal agenda,” she claimed.

Her statement was supported by Made Sudiantara, a victim of an alleged human rights violation involving the construction of a golf course in Selasih, Gianyar Regency, in 1992.

The golf course’s investor, assisted by the local administration, allegedly intimidated the locals to sell their lands at low prices for the planned 200-hectare golf course.

“We haven’t seen any significant development in the investigation of the case. As a victim, I have assisted the investigation by gathering evidence and submitting it to the authorities,” he said.

“There were many government officials involved in the violation, but none of them have been indicted.”

Sudiantara urged the human rights organizations to bring those officials involved in Selasih to court. If the organizations succeeded in doing so, he said, the organizations would receive stronger support and recognition from the public.


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