On Tuesday 8 February 2022, 250 police officers and military personnel infiltrated the village of Wadas, located in Bener District in the southern part of Central Java, Indonesia. The officers arrived without warning, armed with shields, weapons and police dogs, claiming that they were there oversee the operations of Purworejo Land Agency (BPN Purworejo), a company conducting land measurement for a mining project.
However, their presence soon turned violent, with police attacking, intimidating and arbitrarily arresting local residents, both within their houses and at local mosques. Police also forced out public advocates who wanted to provide legal assistance to the detained residents at the police station. At least 63 people, including 13 children, were arrested. This attack is the latest in a series of repressive actions against the Wadas community, who, for the last four years, have been protesting against a proposed andesite mine in their village, which would support the construction of the Bener Dam nearby.
This struggle began in 2018, when the government determined an area of 114 hectares, about 8 kilometres northwest of Wadas village, to be used as an andesite mining site. The local community of Wadas has continuously rejected the plan to take over their land and strongly opposed the proposed mine, fearing the potential negative impacts on the local environment.
The planned mining site is located on productive agricultural land: hills which are the main source of livelihood for the Wadas community. In a survey of economic potential conducted by the residents of Wadas village with local NGOs WALHI Yogyakarta (Friends of the Earth Indonesia), LBH Yogyakarta and Perpusjal, all of the plants cultivated on the hills show a high accumulated value per year. The hills also assist in preventing the threat of landslides and serve as a water catchment area for 23 water springs in their village. Despite this, in 2018 the Governor of Central Java, Ganjar Pranowo, issued a location permit (IPL) which legitimised the seizure of land from the Wadas residents.
The incident in Wadas village highlights the ongoing pattern of violent acts carried out by Indonesian police against the community, in relation to conflicts over natural resources in Indonesia. Throughout 2021-2022, WALHI recorded at least 182 residents who experienced criminalisation (arrests/detention/trials) while fighting to protect their land. On 27 December 2021, a protest led by women against mining in Pasar Seluma village, in Seluma Regency, Bengkulu, was disbanded by the police and 10 residents were detained. Only four days after the incident in Wadas village, on 12 February 2022, a protest against a gold mine in Parigi Moutong Regency, Central Sulawesi, also encountered police violence, 59 residents were detained and one person was shot dead.
The Indonesian Police have shown complete disregard for the lives and livelihoods of the Wadas community and have further failed to protect and uphold their human rights.
Read the chronology of events and an analysis of the legal and human rights violations in Wadas here.
For Friends of the Earth International, these attacks are part of a worldwide pattern of criminalisation and repression of those who seek to defend their territories, environment and peoples’ rights. We stand in internationalist solidarity with the Wadas community, and join WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) in urging:
- State administrators to comply with the Constitutional Court Decision and cancel the process of acquiring the quarry area for the Bener dam;
- The Governor of Central Java to revoke the location permit (IPL) and stop the land surveying for the mining area in Wadas village;
- The Indonesian National Police to stop the excessive use of force in dealing with the protestors; and
- The Chief of the Indonesian National Police to ensure that every policy issued by the National Police institution and the actions of the police officers in the field do not contradict existing laws and regulations, and that the use of firearms by officers be thoroughly evaluated.
We are calling on the international community to join us during the month of March, in the condemnation of these attacks by taking part in the following social media actions.
Toolkit for social media.
Share your solidarity with Wadas Village by taking photos or videos of yourself holding a poster, and share them on social media using the following hashtags: #WadasMelawan #SaveWadas #WadasTolakTambang #PulihkanIndonesia.
You can download a poster created by WALHI here, or make your own poster with solidarity messages for the Wadas community.