The high cost of politics in Indonesia is considered the main reason many politicians receive funding from environmentally damaging businesses. This funding is followed by agreements on political policies that benefit these environmentally damaging businesses. Yassar Aulia, a researcher from the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), mentioned that regulations and systems in Indonesia are not yet optimal for ensuring transparency in data to address financial crimes supporting environmental crimes.
“In general, corruption in natural resources involves overlapping permit politics, and the inflow of political funds from mining companies with untraceable owners is never disclosed. We see that Presidential Regulation 13/2018 lacks sufficient sanctions, making it unable to address recipients and beneficiaries from these companies,” said Yassar during the online discussion by the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) on “Elections and the Cycle of Environmental Crimes” (1/26).
The Presidential Regulation regarding the Implementation of the Principles of Recognizing the Beneficial Owners of Corporations in the Prevention and Eradication of Money Laundering and Terrorism is considered to lack the spirit of preventing money laundering. The ambiguity in the formulation of articles in the regulation results in the inability to enforce these articles by the intended actors. Furthermore, the absence of massive public participation channels and the existing legal-political framework have not been able to address findings of financial crimes, which is cited as a reason for its continued proliferation.
“Out of the 2.6 million entities registered with the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, which are required to report their beneficial owners, the information available is still far from complete. If I’m not mistaken, the latest data only covers around 36-38%. Once again, there is no strong centralized regime opening up data that can be scrutinized, making it difficult to understand its connection with our politics,” he explained.
According to Yassar, the financial circulation from illicit businesses to politics has been happening for a long time, but he believes that law enforcement cannot do much about it. He sees the relationship behind illegal mining as having many connections with political power, resulting in an unbalanced relationship for law enforcement. He attributes this tendency to the existing regulations not being in line with global standards, whether related to addressing corruption, data transparency, or commitment to tackling environmental crimes.
“There has not been a serious improvement in electoral political funding, ultimately resulting in public positions being filled only by elites with massive economic resources or individuals dependent on conglomerates or environmental-damaging corporations,” said Yassar.
Meanwhile, Iqbal Damanik, Forest Campaigner for Greenpeace South East Asia, mentioned that the extractive industry has prolonged impacts on the environment and societal conflicts. The ongoing connection between mining and politics persists for years because the operational aspects of the extractive industry require political support. In this context, Iqbal assesses that conflicts of interest are highly likely to arise.
“In the fastest and largest realms of business and politics, the money lies in land and environment-based industries. Having connections with political parties is crucial because they will determine policies related to the environmental industry,” explained Iqbal.
According to Iqbal, the risks can be seen in the disasters caused by environmental damage. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) records show that, at least in the year 2023, there were 4,940 natural disasters in Indonesia. This figure experienced a 39.39% increase compared to the previous year, which had 3,544 incidents. Forest and land fires emerged as the most frequently occurring natural disaster with 1,802 incidents, followed by floods with 1,170 incidents, and extreme weather events and landslides with 1,155 and 579 incidents respectively.
“And every year, the trend of disasters keeps increasing, all stemming from the climate crisis. In the next 10 years, the increase could be fivefold if we don’t save ourselves from environmentally destructive industries,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mareta Sari, the Dynamicator of Jatam Kalimantan Timur, assesses that the three candidate-pairs only present false solutions to the climate crisis, merely wrapped in the guise of green economy terms such as energy transition and down-streaming. She also mentions that the contestants and campaign teams of presidential and vice-presidential candidates also include business actors and extractive oligarchs at both the national and regional levels.
“Thus, there is an accumulation of ecological social debt that cannot be quantified,” emphasized Mareta.
Furthermore, according to her, with such patterns, elections will not be able to solve mining issues. Promises and programs offered during campaigns are perceived to further bankrupt the social and ecological landscape. She stated that in East Kalimantan, after the elections, new mining permits were issued. For instance, in 2008, there were 589 Mining Business Permits , which increased to 1,180 IUP in 2013. In Kutai Kartanegara, after the Regent Election in 2009, there were 191 new mining permits, and in 2017, there were 172 mining permits in East Kalimantan.
“So, every post-election period always results in a change in consumption and production patterns. For example, agricultural land turns into oil palm plantations through government programs, leading to the shrinking of living spaces,” she added.
Additionally, she believes that agrarian conflicts increase and expand with each election. According to the records of the Agrarian Reform Consortium (Konsorsium Pembaruan Agraria or KPA) in 2023, there were at least 241 agrarian conflict cases in Indonesia involving 638.2 thousand hectares. She observes that, paradoxically, election winners often implement controversial policies and programs that do not support environmental sustainability.
Mareta mentions that the campaign promises of election participants are never relevant to the needs of the community and do not address the root issues in society. For example, regarding mining pits in East Kalimantan, every election campaign, participants always raise it as a promise to be addressed when in office.
“What is faced and the solutions provided are not connected, so things like that are widespread in East Kalimantan. But so far, there has been no politician with ideas about tackling or suppressing illegal mining,” she emphasized. 
Translated by Catherine Natalia