Fishermen Jubilant as Court Strikes Down Coastal Management Law

The Constitutional Court on Thursday struck down a 2007 law that it deemed unfairly prioritized the private sector over traditional fishermen in the management of coastal areas.

Chief Justice Mahfud M.D. ruled that 15 of the 16 articles in the Law on Coastal Areas and Small Islands Management (HP3), which was the subject of a judicial review brought by fishermens rights activists, were indeed unconstitutional.

“We have decided to grant most of the plaintiffs requests,” he said.

The articles in question stipu-lated that the management of coastal areas and small islands should be given over to private investors. However, traditional fishing communities, joined bythe Fisheries Justice Coalition (Kiara), Indonesian Human Rights Committee for Social Justice (IHCS) and Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), sought a judicial review on the grounds that the articles unfairly sidelined them.

Mahfud said the articles went against Article 33 of the Constitution, which gu arantees econom ic equality for all. The court also said the law had the potential to threaten the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and traditional fishermen, who had long relied on coastal resources, by restricting access to those resources to private investors.

Taufiqul Mujib, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, welcomed the courts ruling as a major victory.

“The court acknowledged that it was unconstitutional to shift the rights to manage natural resources from the state to theprivate sector, because it would leave local residents out of the process,” he said. “Essentially, the HP3 law was just going to benefit the private sector.”

However, he said the fisher-mens fight was not yet won because several regional bylaws based on the law were still in place, while many regional administrations had already issued permits to private developers to manage their coastal areas and small islands.

“That means that we need to keep working hard to push through more advocacy for regional authorities to revoke all regulations based on the HP3 law,” Taufiqul said.

Riza Damanik, Kiaras secretary general, said the decision was the first ever legal victory registered by the countrys traditional fishermen.

“The court strongly empha-sized the existence of the constitutional rights of fishermen, which includes the right of access to natural resources,” he said.

Teguh Surya, head of climate justice at Walhi, said the courts decision should prompt the government to disclose all information on permits issued so far based on the HP3 law so that fishermen in the affected areas could start taking measures to reclaim their fishinggrounds.

The request for a judicial review of the law was filed 17 months ago. While the courts ruling only scraps several individual articles, their annulment leaves the law without substance, effectively nullifyingthe entire legislation.

Thelawmustnowbesentback to the Justice and Human Rights Ministry to be revised.



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