Greenpeace on Defensive Again Over Lottery Funds
Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Greenpeace Indonesia defended itself on Tuesday from a new round of attacks, as religious groups called for the environmental group to be investigated for allegedly receiving money from an overseas lottery scheme that funds charities.
Lotteries, whether for charitable purposes or otherwise, are illegal in Indonesia.
Joko Arif, a Greenpeace Indonesia campaigner, clarified that his office had separate finances from the Netherlands branch, which receives funds from that country’s National Postcode Lottery. That scheme also supports various other causes such as the UNHCR’s refugee program in Sudan.
“The money accepted by Greenpeace Netherlands must be spent in that country, while Greenpeace Indonesia raises funds here and must spend them here too,” Joko said.
Religious organizations including the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) and the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) have demanded that the group be investigated based on reports that it had received 7 million euros ($10 million) from the Netherlands lottery.
The government-approved charitable lottery is a monthly, direct debit subscription program. Nahar Nahrawi, from the MUI, however, described it as gambling, and said any money from gambling operations was illegitimate according to Shariah law.
“It’s clearly stated on the Greenpeace Web site that they have received funds from gambling,” Nahar said.
Amidhan, the MUI head, urged the government to investigate the possibility that Greenpeace was being used to launder money.
“Their source of funds is from a lottery. It could be another method of laundering money, which is illegal in Indonesia,” Amidhan said as quoted by state news agency Antara.
But Greenpeace’s Joko explained that each Greenpeace office operated independently of each other, including in fund-raising matters. He said they were linked only by their commitment to a better world and environment.
The group’s operations in Indonesia, he said, are funded by individual donations from local citizens.
“We have more than 34,000 individual donors in Indonesia, each of them donating an average of at least Rp 75,000 [$8.80] per month,” Joko said. He added that Greenpeace Indonesia never received donations from companies.
Benny Susetyo, executive secretary of the KWI, said all the accusations against Greenpeace needed to be carefully investigated by the government.
“It’s debatable whether Greenpeace should be sanctioned just because of foreign gambling funds,” he said. “It’s legal for the public to protest them because of that, but the government can only punish them for a violation of the law.”
If legal violations were found, he said, such as if any of its employees did not have proper work permits, then the government should freeze Greenpeace’s operations in Indonesia.
The environmental group, which is no stranger to controversy, has faced a barrage of criticism over the past two months, beginning with questions about the legality of its presence in the country.
The debate started in June when a former Central Jakarta mayor, Muhayat, said Greenpeace was operating illegally here because it had not registered with the Political Affairs Unit.
That was followed by demonstrations by the Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR), the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Jakarta chapter of the Islamic Student Association (HMI). They accused Greenpeace of deliberately trying to tarnish the image of Indonesian companies.
Greenpeace has carried out a sustained campaign against the palm oil industry in Indonesia, targeting plantation companies such as Sinar Mas.