Survivors demand compensation be settled

Indra Harsaputra, The Jakarta Post, Sidoarjo | Thu, 04/19/2012 8:43 AM

Victims of the hot mudflow disaster in Sidoarjo, East Java, are once again demanding that Lapindo Brantas Inc. pay the remaining compensation as scheduled.

They have opted to camp on the embankments where their villages and homes once stood before being engulfed by the mudflow until the company, deemed responsible for the tragedy, pays the remaining 80 percent compensation by June this year.

“We demand Lapindo keep its promise and pay us the compensation. Otherwise, we will continue our protest by interrupting the activities of the Sidoarjo Mudflow Mitigation Agency (BPLS),” the victims’ representative, Pitanto, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Pitanto said Lapindo Brantas Inc. had apparently paid 20 percent of the compensation set by the government following the hot mudflow in Porong, Sidoarjo, on May 29, 2006. The residents used the funds to build new homes five kilometers from their villages.

“We still have to pay loan installments to Bank Jatim. We have no money because a majority of the victims lost their jobs as their workplaces were engulfed by the mudflow,” he said.

Pitanto stated that Lapindo Brantas Inc. had one week to provide certainty of payment, failing which thousands of residents affected by the mudflow would again rally in Jakarta.

The mudflow still continues up to this day.

Despite a Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) statement on violations committed by Lapindo Brantas Inc. leading to the disaster, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono decreed in 2007 that the government would compensate victims in four villages in Porong.

The government has so far paid out Rp 6.7 trillion (about US$7.8 billion) for compensation and has set aside another Rp 500 billion this year for the same purpose.

According to the presidential decree, Lapindo Brantas is responsible for compensating mudflow victims in Siring, Jatirejo, Renokenongo and Kedungbendo villages. The company claims it has paid around 75 percent, or Rp 2.8 trillion, of the Rp 3.9 trillion compensation.

The remaining amount will be paid by PT Minarak Lapindo through PT Mutiara Masyur Sejahtera, a subsidiary of Lapindo Brantas, which applied for a Rp 1.023 trillion loan from Bank Jatim and several other state banks. The application was rejected last week.

As the company has been unable to provide certainty on compensation payment, hundreds of mudflow victims on Monday rallied and blocked access to the main road replacing Porong highway, while hundreds of others converged on the East Java governor’s office in Surabaya. A number of them also vandalized BPLS facilities. “We are disappointed with the government. We have been suffering for years,” said Pitanto.

PT Minarak Lapindo spokesman Andi Darussalam Tabusala previously said his company would try to pay the compensation by the end of the year.

“We will continue seeking loans. We are in a difficult financial position,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

East Java Governor Soekarwo said the government would not compensate mudflow victims because, in accordance with the prevailing regulation, the government is only responsible for compensating residents in three villages for their land valued at RP 3.23 trillion, Rp 560 billion of which was taken from the state budget and paid.

“We demand PT Minarak Lapindo ask other banks for loans so compensation can be paid immediately to mudflow victims,” said Soekarwo.