April 28, 2009

Police Likely to Drop Case In Dam Failure Tragedy

A month after the Situ Gintung reservoir disaster on March 27, police have yet to locate or name any suspects behind the tragedy, and the investigation will likely be dropped due the a lack of evidence, a police official said on Sunday.

“We have not yet found any criminal violations in this case, because there is no evidence as to negligence on this issue. But we will not drop the investigation yet,” National Police spokesman Chief Comr. I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana said.

This month leading Indonesian environmental watchdog, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, or Walhi, reported six government officials to the police for suspected negligence that led to the Situ Gintung dam disaster, which killed at least 100 people.
The six officials — Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto, Banten Governor Ratu Atut, Ministry of Public Works Director General of Water Resources Iwan Nusyirwan, Tangerang district chief Ismet Iskandar, South Tangerang Mayor Muhammad Saleh, and Ciliwung and Cisadane River Management Agency Chief Pitoyo Subrandrio — were reported to the criminal unit of the National Police.

According to Berry Nahdian Furqon, executive director of Walhi, the officials were reported because they failed to make sure the dam was safe and there had been no maintenance work done on the artificial lake.

He also said reports of damage from the local residents had been ignored and no action had been taken to prepare for potential malfunctions in the dam’s structure.

The head of South Tangerang’s public works agency, Eddy Adolf Nicolas Malonda, was questioned by Jakarta Police early in April over the disaster.

Situ Gintung Dam Survivors Unable To Cast Ballots.

Confusion reigned around the site of the Situ Gintung reservoir disaster on Thursday, with close to half of the survivors who lost their homes unable — or unwilling — to vote.

It was around 7 a.m. when Burhanuddin, 42, and several other survivors of the dam burst arrived at polling station No. 30, just 200 meters from the Kertamukti camp for those displaced by the disaster in Banten Province. But within moments, they were all told that they could not vote.

“They are not on our voters list,” Eman Sulaeman, a Kertamukti election official, told the Jakarta Globe. “They are not residents of Kertamukti, so they are not listed here.”

Unlike the 2004 elections, this year voters were only allowed to cast their vote at the polling station which had their name listed. Voting anywhere else would have required a lengthy administrative process.

Burhanuddin and the others said they had no choice but to return to the camp without voting.

“We don’t know where our polling station is,” Burhanuddin said. “Nobody told us.”

On the eve of the elections, officials visited the camp and registered eligible voters, distributing official invitations that showed them where their polling station was located. However, there were numerous victims like Burhanuddin who did not receive an invitation and therefore did not know where they were supposed to go.

There were four polling stations set up around the Situ Gintung area for victims of the disaster — the Kertamukti polling station not being one of them — but they were all at least two kilometers away.

“I’d rather stay here [in Kertamukti] than vote,” said Sunyoto, 72, another victim. “It’s too far away.”

At polling station No. 23, the names of least 10 of those killed in the dam burst were still registered on the voters list. Syafruddin Nero, an election official at the station, said that only 181 of the 352 voters listed cast their votes.

On polling day, election officials provided a bus to take survivors to their respective polling stations. However, there were individuals like Sunyoto who refused to board the cramped bus.

Several others who did board the bus were taken to the wrong polling stations.

“I feel like a Ping-Pong ball, being tossed around like this,” another victim, Amin, 57, said.

A spokesman for the Banten General Elections Commission, or KPUD, confirmed that 48 percent of the survivors did not vote.

The Situ Gintung dam burst two weeks ago and a consequent flash flood claimed at least 100 lives and left another 1,000 people homeless.

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