Jakarta. Chief Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan lodged a defamation complaint against rights activists Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti on Wednesday over a video alleging business motive behind current security operations in Papua with Luhut’s involvement.
Luhut himself came to the Jakarta Police headquarters to report the case and “defend my name and that of my children and grandchildren”.
The retired army general said he made the decision after his two attempts to demand public clarification and apology from the two activists went unanswered.
"They didn’t respond during the two occasions, prompting us to take legal action under both criminal and civil laws," Luhut told reporters.
"There is no such thing as absolute freedom, everything has a consequence. I have the right to defend my rights. I have asked them to present evidence [on the allegation] and there was none,” he added.
In the video published on Haris’ YouTube account last month, he interviewed Fatia, who is the coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras), an NGO focusing on human rights issues.
Both discussed allegations that the current military operation in Papua was actually meant to protect mining businesses in the easternmost province.
Fatia implied that mining company Toba Sejahtera Group, in which Luhut is a shareholder, had mining projects in the district of Intan Jaya, Papua.
“It’s fair to say that Luhut has a role in mining businesses in Papua,” Fatia said in the podcast video.
“The core of human rights problems in Papua is militarism. And it turns out that behind the militarism approach – supposedly to restore security and peace in Papua – there are economic motives.”
At one point of the talk show, both activists called the minister “Lord Luhut”.
In an interview with Kompas TV earlier this month, Haris said he had responded to the reprimand by inviting Juniver Girsang, an attorney for Luhut, to become a guest in his podcast and present Luhut’s views to ensure a fair exchange of opinions.
In the same interview, Juniver said his client had no slightest interest in attending and increasing views and revenues of a podcast program that already insulted him in public.
The Jakarta Globe has reached Haris for comments.
In a separate news conference, a lawyer representing both activists said Luhut as a state official is not immune from criticism.
“If he cannot be criticized, there will be no voice of the people. Once we lost people’s voice, democracy is gone,” lawyer Asfinawati said.
“Fatia criticized Luhut in his capacity as a state official, nothing is personal,” she added.
Luhut’s attorney meanwhile said that in addition to the criminal suit, he also planned to file a Rp 100 billion ($7 million) civil case against the activists.
“If judges accept the lawsuit, the Rp 100 billion money will be donated to the Papuan people,” Juniver said.
It’s not the first time a close aide of President Joko Widodo involved in a feud with activists that led to legal motions.
On August 20, Presidential Office Chief of Staff Moeldoko filed a defamation complaint against two Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) activists over allegations that the former military chief had cashed in on the distribution of Covid-19 medication Ivermectin and misused authority to join in rice export program.
(The story has been updated with remarks from the lawyers of both camps.)