UN human rights experts on Wednesday urged the Indonesian government to respect human rights and the rule of law amid reports that a US$3 billion tourism project on Lombok island has involved aggressive land grabs, forced evictions of indigenous peoples, and intimidation and threats against human rights defenders.
Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said farmers and fisher folks have been expelled from their land and have endured the destruction of their houses, fields, water sources, cultural and religious sites, as the Government of Indonesia and the ITDC (Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation) groomed Mandalika to become a ‘New Bali’.
Mandalika, in Lombok’s poor West Nusa Tenggara Province, is set to be turned into an integrated tourism complex, comprising a Grand Prix motorcycle race circuit, parks, luxury hotels and resorts, including Pullman, Paramount Resort, and Club Med.
“Credible sources have found that the local residents were subjected to threats and intimidations and forcibly evicted from their land without compensation. Despite these findings, the ITDC have not sought to pay compensation or settle the land disputes,” the experts said.
To date, the project has attracted more than US$1 billion in private investment and is being managed by Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral financial institution.
The rights experts also criticised a lack of due diligence by the AIIB and private businesses to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address adverse human rights impacts, as set forth in the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights.
“In light of the dark history of human rights violations and land grabs in the region, the AIIB and businesses cannot look the other way and carry on business as usual,” the experts said.
“Their failure to prevent and address risks of human rights abuses is tantamount to being complicit in such abuses,” they added.
In March 2021, several UN experts voiced their concerns in joint communications to the Indonesian Government, the ITDC and the AIIB, as well as to concerned private companies involved in the project as well as their home States, France, Spain and the United States, the statement noted.
Special Rapporteur De Schutter also highlighted that the Mandalika project puts Indonesia’s “laudable commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its underlying human rights obligations to the test”.
He added that large-scale tourism development that “tramples on human rights is fundamentally incompatible” with the concept of sustainable development.
Mr. De Schutter insisted that “the time has passed for racing circuits and massive transnational tourism infrastructure projects that benefit a handful of economic actors rather than the population as a whole”.
“Instead, governments keen to build back better after COVID-19 “should focus on empowering local communities, enhancing livelihoods and participation in decision-making,” he continued, urging investors not to finance or engage in projects and activities that contribute to human rights violations and abuses. (Source: UN News)