‘Unsafe at our home’: Activists slam shrinking civic space during G20 Summit

Intimidation, political repression, and a string of controversial incidents have marred the summit and the days leading up to it.

Yerica Lai

Yerica Lai

The Jakarta Post


A hawker cooks up meatball soup beside police armored vehicles parked near the venue of the Group of 20 Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali on Nov. 12.(AFP/Dicky Bisinglasi)

November 21, 2022

JAKARTA – 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 leadup 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, particularly for residents situated in three districts near G20 venues — namely Kuta, South Kuta and South Denpasar. 

Locals have also been ordered to work and study from home, while a team of pecalang has been trained to help keep things in order. 

YLBHI insisted that it had not violated any activity restriction as its meeting was held well outside the restricted area, about 20 kilometers 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’s 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 organizations and students experienced was aimed to silence democracy — destroy democratic space.”

Environmental NGO Greenpeace Indonesia also reported similar experiences of intimidation. Its team of cyclists for the Chasing the Shadow campaign, who were pedaling their way to the G20 Summit in Bali in its climate crisis campaign in early November, had been told by people who proclaimed themselves as local residents to stop their journey as the group was passing Probolinggo, East Java, on Nov. 7.
“One of our members in the group was forced to make a legally signed statement that they would not continue their journey and stop campaigning during the G20 Summit in Bali,” Greenpeace Indonesia said in a statement.
Prior to the Probolinggo incident, the team also has been the subject of other incidents that saw their bike tires slashed while they were parked. 
The perpetrators were unidentifiable and others were allegedly wearing security uniforms, the group said. The climate watchdog’s session on a radio station was also interrupted by seven individuals claiming to be from the police while they were on air.

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. 

“Indonesian authorities must refrain from targeting or allowing any form of crackdown by state and non-state actors against peaceful criticism, including those directed at the G20. Security measures around the summit should not become a pretext to further diminish the civic space.”

Prior to the summit, the immigration office reported it had deported a Japanese national from East Java after displaying a protest banner in Banyuwangi on Nov. 7. On Nov.11, two Chinese citizens were arrested in Jakarta for allegedly attempting to stage a protest during the series of G20 events. 

“The Bali Police have actually limited democratic freedoms guaranteed in the constitution and this is a form of betrayal. The G20 Summit has become an anti-critic forum that closes space for the public and not for the interests of the people,” Arie Kurniawaty, an activist from Solidaritas Perempuan Indonesia, said.


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