Development Governance Indonesia

Water Privatisation

Water privatisation is a human rights violation, said the Central Jakarta Disctrict Court in their ruling of March 24, 2015.

The court invalidated the contract of PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya and Aetra and found that the public and private partnership was negligent in respecting and fulfilling the human right to water for Jakarta residents.

This decision is a culmination of years of legal struggles and political resistances involving major human rights organisations, trade unions, and water justice organisations. Complaints include that the water service has been lower and leakages have been increasing since the agreement signed in 2004 following the pressure from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Moreover, Jakarta has the highest water tariff, about four times more than the Indonesian average and ten times more than that of Southeast Asian countries.

Important to note in this decision is that, first, the Court deliberately made a reference to Article 28 I of the Constitution that asserts, among others, the right to life.  They were of the opinion that no violations were found to the aspect of water availability, which is the subject of natural resource management as asserted in Article 33 of the Constitution. However, the Court found evidences on the hindrance of access to water since the implementation of the private and public partnership and therefore considered it as a human rights violation. Second, the court annulled the Law No. 7 of 2004,  which regulates the availability of water in Indonesia. The Law was considered insufficient to provide benchmarks pertaining to what extent private actors can have the authority over the governance of access and availability of water.

Indigenous Peoples Indonesia International Law

A Critical Look on the Negotiation of the Right to Food

An article written based on my most recent research project has finally been published in Human Rights Review.  The article examines how non-governmental actors invoke human rights and what are the impacts thereof. It is published as open access online, the printed version will appear in June 2015.


The norms and ideals of human rights are increasingly invoked by civil society organisations to construct claims related to land tenure and access to food, particularly to challenge a massive expansion of agricultural investment in a developing country. While this has facilitated negotiations on rights and the formulation of claims, studies that investigate to what extent such endeavours achieve the transformational goals advocated by human rights proponents or in particular whether they have been successful in instigating any institutional reform in the governance of massive agricultural modernisation projects are scanty. After discussing a national agricultural modernisation project, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), set up in Merauke, Papua, the article concludes that the analysis of the transformative role of human rights requires a prudent examination of the role of the State in the negotiation process, the patterns of socio-cultural interactions signifying the political setting and the pressure experienced and perceived by actors that affect the issues selected and omitted.

Human Rights Indonesia

Death Penalty and Indonesian Sovereignty

While various answers have been put forward to the question of death penalty in Indonesia, sovereignty is frequently chosen as the final word.  As a political choice the concept of sovereignty might serve as an effective strategy. It creates a sense of collectiveness in the domestic politics and Indonesian society, and perhaps can deliver results in international community. Yet, it does not mean that it is unproblematic.

Observably, the debates on death penalty in the country can be deducted into several narratives.

Those who are against death penalty base their disputing statements on the reasons of justice and humanity. On justice, temporal arguments apply. It is impossible to know all truth and nothing but the truth for any judiciary system presently exists in this world to decide in ending someone’s life, regardless the crime he or she is committed for. Attention is also made toward the integrity of the Indonesian legal system, which in its current state and flaws are incongruous for delivering impartiality and justice, especially on moral related decisions such as death penalty. As to humanity, circulated opinions are rather imprecise, although their substance is clear. To end someone’s life is an act that is not our nature as being human, or our objective as a civilized society.

Aware that death is the only penalty that cannot be reviewed nor appealed, the advocating arguments center on deterrence effects, even-handedness, and national sovereignty.  Statistics on negative effects of drugs are employed to support arguments related to deterrence.  However, such opinions are varied. Also that they are rather weak in their ways of providing meaningful evidences. To strengthen, these arguments are simultaneously submitted with illustrations pertaining to emotional and social effects and burdens experienced by victims, their families, and hence the nation, which can only be addressed by a single act of even-handedness. As a level of solidarity becomes the following sentiment, arguments for death penalty are further reinforced by official statements on Indonesian sovereignty.


Disappointments of the Governed

The Jakarta Post | Opinion | Tue, August 05 2014, 10:28 AM

Many have praised the integrity of the recent presidential election. Journalists, experts and scholars have all pointed out the exceptional rate of participation, the high degree of transparency and the role of volunteers in safeguarding the vote-counting process.

Valuable lessons can be drawn by comparing the success of the Indonesian electoral system with that of equivalent countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. Many of these comparisons, however, fail to account for the reactions of disappointed voters.

During the last election, high voter turnout was closely related to public enthusiasm and the collective emotions. There are constructed expectations and activities that have produced a particular relationship between government and the people.

Understanding them may help us proceed with understanding the disappointments of some voters.

We generally see democracy as the government of, by and for the people, as our ancient Greek philosophers taught us.

This formulation focuses on the contractual agreement between the ruler and the ruled, or in other words, between those who govern and those who are governed. Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century talked about the habit of obedience, which naturally presents itself; for one party to obey there must be another party that is obeyed.

Yet democracy today is no longer about the government of, by and for the people, let alone about the linear relationship between obeying and being obeyed. It is far too simplistic to talk only about the contractual agreement between the ruler and the ruled. Instead, democracy should be imagined as the politics of the governed.

Norms of democracy today reject the notion that only certain persons are worthy of entry into the governing class due to high levels of wisdom and virtue relative to the rest of the population. Instead, democracy is composed of the contestations and agreements that occur daily not only between the governed and those governing, but most importantly between the governed.

Governance Human Rights Indonesia

Upstream Human Rights Activisms in Indonesia

For the past years I have been working on the issue of translating human rights, in which I become fascinated with social processes of connecting grievances into human rights discourses and terms. Middle actors, such as non-governmental organizations or semi governmental bodies play a crucial role.

My latest publication from last year, which I wrote for the special volume on Human Rights and Conflict, published in honour of Professor Bas de Gaay Fortman, addresses the effort done by Indonesian Human Rights Commission to address the negative impacts of development.

Here is the abstract of the article:

The contestation for an implementation of international human rights battling against development hazards is the deficit in legal enforcement at the country level. The inadequacy in law as a check of power and the reception of human rights ideas in cultural and/or politico-economic contexts are identified as the factors contributing to this dynamic. The article draws out this contestation by charting the upstream approach of human rights as a strategy to combat development hazards. Particularly it aims to analyse the negotiation of economic, social and cultural rights in Indonesia in human rights activisms conducted by the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation and the National Commission in the case of Sidoardjo Mudflow. The article questions whether upstream human rights activism compensate the persistent enforcement deficit.