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Rights experts concerned over intimidation around mega tourism project in Indonesia Indonesia
Image: Unsplash/Appai

Rights experts concerned over intimidation around mega tourism project in Indonesia

India Blooms News Service | @indiablooms | 07 Mar 2023, 03:51 pm

New York: Experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council have expressed concern over reports of increased militarization and intimidation surrounding a multi-billion-dollar urban development and tourism project in Indonesia.

The Mandalika project includes parks, resorts, hotels and a motorcycle racetrack hosting international sporting events. It is located on Lombok island, in impoverished West Nusa Tenggara Province.

The experts said they have received alarming accounts of alleged human rights violations committed by police and military forces, including excessive use of force to evict and restrict the rights of the indigenous Sasak people.

Intimidation and coercion

The $3 billion project is being implemented by the Indonesia Tourism and Development Corporation (ITDC), a State-owned enterprise, with funding primarily from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

A task force for the acceleration of settlement of land disputes attached to the project – comprised of members from both the police and provincial army, according to the experts - has reportedly intimidated and coerced indigenous people to cede their lands.

“The Indonesian government must ensure that any actions taken concerning the Mandalika project are not excessive and immediately provide victims with access to effective remedy,” they said in a recent statement.

Comply with rights standards

They also called on the Indonesian authorities and the AIIB to ensure their policies and practices comply with international human rights standards, in line with UN guidelines, including on development-based evictions and displacement.

The Government was also urged to remove members of the security forces from the task force to settle land disputes. “Only then can affected communities and human rights defenders safely raise their concerns about the negative impacts of the project,” said the experts.  

 Meaningful consultation must occur at all stages of project development, and the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples must be obtained in line with international standards, they added.

 Furthermore, the AIIB and State authorities should disclose standard operating procedures for security personnel in connection with the project, to allow affected communities to report any non-compliance.

The UN experts have raised their concerns with Indonesia, ITDC, AIIB, and concerned private companies which have their bases in France, Spain and the United States, as well as the Governments in these countries.

Independent voices

The 10 experts who issued the statement include five UN Special Rapporteurs whose mandates cover issues such as extreme poverty and human rights, and the rights of indigenous peoples.

The other signatories are members of the UN Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts operate in their individual capacity. They are not UN staff, nor do they receive a salary for their work.

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