‘We were unsafe at our home’


On high alert: A file photo of police officers patrolling with sniffer dogs ahead of the G20 summit in Nusa Dua, Bali. — AP

While President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo received praise for success as a power broker on the global stage during a time of war as Indonesia played host to the Group of 20 Summit in Bali, activists at home have deplored restriction of speech around the events.

Intimidation and political repression have marred the summit with a string of controversial incidents occurring in the lead up to the summit.

Three days before the summit opened on Nov 15, a mob dismissed an internal meeting held by members of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) in a villa in Sanur, Bali, citing a provincial policy that limits public events during the G20 summit.

The mob demanded to check YLBHI members’ phones and laptops after entering the villa without a warrant with a self-proclaimed team of pecalang – traditional Balinese security officers – preventing some participants from leaving the villa compound.

Balinese authorities last month issued a circular restricting activities including religious and traditional ceremonies throughout the week.

YLBHI insisted that it had not violated any activity restriction as its meeting was held well outside the restricted area, about 20km away from the venues for the G20 summit in Nusa Dua.

“When world leaders gathered in Bali and security was prepared in such a (repressive) way ... we became unsafe at our home for the sake of global investments,” YLBHI activist Pratiwi Febri said in a livestreamed press conference.

“When President Jokowi said at the summit that Indonesia was in a good state of democracy, that is clearly not a fact. What YLBHI and fellow civil-society organisations and students experienced was aimed to silence democracy – destroy democratic space.”

Environmental NGO Greenpeace Indonesia also reported similar experiences of intimidation.

Human rights groups have slammed the incidents, stressing that G20 member countries must ensure access for civil society to peacefully express their human-rights concerns that should be seriously addressed by governments.

“These acts of intimidation against peaceful activists are impermissible attempts by the state to silence opinions that are sadly becoming more common in Indonesia,” Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said in a statement.

“Security measures around the summit should not become a pretext to further diminish the civic space.” — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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