The Constitutional Court began reviewing on Friday a provision in the 2012 state budget that allows the government to use taxpayer money to compensate victims of the Sidoarjo mud volcano in East Java.
A group calling itself the Savior Team for Lapindo State Budget filed the legal challenge against the provision based on the argument that taxpayer money should not be used to cover for a disaster caused by a private company.
“The court has issued a schedule to hear the case, and we will have our first hearing on Friday,” Taufik Budiman, the group’s lawyer, said on Thursday.
He said that as taxpayers, his clients had a legal right to seek the revocation of the provision from the budget and demand the cancellation of the disbursement process of state money for the disaster.
“It’s simply inconceivable for public money to be used to bail out an individual company that has caused a disaster. They must be responsible for their own mistake,” he said, referring to gas drilling firm Lapindo Brantas.
Lapindo, which is linked to the family of Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie, is widely blamed for triggering the mud volcano in May 2006 that has now led to more than 10,000 families being displaced from their homes.
Although the government never made an official determination for the cause of the disaster, it held Lapindo’s holding company, Minarak Lapindo Jaya, liable for compensating the residents for the loss of their land.
As the affected area grew, from the initial six villages to 16 across three subdistricts in Sidoarjo, so did MLJ’s bill, which now stands at Rp 2.5 trillion ($267 million) in compensation to residents and Rp 1.3 trillion to stem the spread of the mud.
The government itself has allocated Rp 6.2 trillion for the compensation process.
Between 2006 and 2010, the government disbursed Rp 2 trillion for both compensation and mud containment efforts. In 2011, it allocated Rp 1.2 trillion for these purposes, while from 2012 to 2014 the government has set aside Rp 5.8 trillion in state funding for the disaster.
“The fund allocation clearly violates Article 23 of the Constitution, which requires that the state budget should be allocated for the interests of the people, not for individuals,” Taufik said.
Lapindo has maintained that the mud volcano was a natural disaster triggered by an earthquake in Yogyakarta — 300 kilometers away and two days earlier.