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Activists use ritual to rail against ‘destructive’ politicians

Indonesian voters urged to reject those who don’t protect the environment

Activists use ritual to rail against ‘destructive’ politicians
A typical effigy used in an ogoh-ogoh ritual (picture: Wikimedia Commons)
Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

April 22, 2013

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Activists combined Earth Day, April 22, with a traditional Balinese ritual known as ogoh-ogoh to draw attention to politicians who collude in causing harm to the environment.

In ogoh-ogoh, effigies of ogres, villains and malevolent beings are carried in a parade, with the aim of cleansing the environment of evil elements and pollutants.

Members of WALHI, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, incorporated this ritual in their Earth Day celebrations in Surabaya, East Java on Monday.

“We invite people to comprehensively examine the track records of the politicians who will run in next year’s elections,” Abetnego Tarigan, executuive director of WALHI, told

“Those who don’t support environmental protection must be abandoned.”

The call was made as political parties in the country prepare to shortlist and announce their candidates for next year’s elections.

According to Tarigan, Earth Day is the right moment to raise the issue of politicians who are environmentally unethical. “If we don’t keep our eyes open ahead of the elections, many politicians who are destroying the environment will remain in power,” he said.

Data from WALHI says that 60 percent of the country’s 130 million hectares of forest has now been given over to extractive industries such as mining.

“We see politicians playing a strong role in several cases,” Tarigan said. “Some politicians get involved by becoming perpetrators of environmental destruction along with the mining companies, while some play their role by not paying too much attention to policies that obviously harm the environment.”

Tarigan maintains that a large number of legislators actively fail to support environmental protection, but will not disclose an exact number as his group is now working on a list of politicians known to be involved. “The list will be published soon,” he said.

Eva Kusuma Sundari, a legislator, admitted that some politicians are involved in environmental exploitation, but says the onus is on WALHI to provide accountable data.

“It is their right to have such a campaign, but it must be supported with reliable information,” she said.

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