President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday strongly criticized Lapindo Brantas, the oil and gas company that some scientists blame for the Sidoarjo mudflow disaster, for not fulfilling its obligation to compensate the victims.
“I got a report that Lapindo still has not completed its responsibility and Rp 800 billion ($83 million) is still not paid,” Yudhoyono said on Thursday.
Yudhoyono expressed his concern after receiving reports that the area inundated by the mudflow was also threatened by the impact of recent heavy rains.
“I have heard reports saying that there are some unfinished matters that disrupted our efforts to contain the Sidoarjo mudflow,” he said.
Yudhoyono urged Lapindo Brantas, a company partly owned by presidential hopeful and Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie, to honor its pledge.
“Please convey this message to Lapindo: that they should keep their promise. If you play around with people you will carry the sins to the afterlife, tell them that,” he said.
Golkar leadership board chairman Hadjriyanto Thohari said he rejected speculation that Yudhoyono’s criticism was a political shot at his party.
“I don’t think it was an attack against Golkar because structurally there is no connection between Lapindo and the party,” said Hadjriyanto, who is also a deputy speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR).
Agung Laksono, the coordinating minister for people’s welfare and a Golkar deputy chairman, also denied that Yudhoyono’s Lapindo critique was politically motivated.
“It was in line with the discussion with the minister of public works, so it was not political at all,” he said.
Agung said Lapindo had paid Rp 3 trillion in compensation to the mudflow victims thus far.
“It’s true that the payment has not been completed, but it doesn’t mean they haven’t paid at all, let’s just wait,” he said.
The Sidoardjo mudflow in East Java — which began in May 2006 after a blowout at one of Lapindo’s natural gas wells — destroyed hundreds of homes, swamped 720 hectares of land and displaced thousands of people.
Lapindo Brantas has long denied it was the cause of the mudflow, instead blaming an earthquake in Yogyakarta, hundreds of kilometers to the west.
The company only agreed to compensate victims within the boundaries of the affected area.