Jakarta citizens' final challenge in the Supreme Court International petition on annulling Jakarta water privatisation

International Water Justice community sent the petition to the Supreme Court of Indonesia.  Residents of Jakarta filed a citizen lawsuit against water privatisation in Jakarta at Central Jakarta District Court in November 2012. They argued in the lawsuit that water privatisation failed to fulfil the residents’ access to safe water, caused a series of corruptions and financial harm to the public budgets. In March 2015, the court ruled in favour of the residents, annulling the contract agreement with two private water operators. It was a significant victory of people. The decision, however, was challenged by these private companies and other defendants.  Unfortunately the residents lost in the High Court in February 2016.  Jakarta people decided to challenge the High Court ruling at the Supreme Court.

Amrta Institute

World water day 22nd March in Jakarta. Protesters held posters that said “Rp 18,3 trillion water scandal in Jakarta.” “Water is owned by the people, not the private companies”.

To: Supreme Court Chief Justices
Cc. Supreme Court Justices at Civil Chamber
Cc. The Examining Judges for Civil Case by Tim Advokasi Hak Atas Air
(Advocacy Team For The Right to Water).
Supreme Court of Indonesia (Mahkamah Agung Republik Indonesia)
Medan Merdeka Utara no. 9-13
Jakarta 10110

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our support to the citizen lawsuit filed by Tim Advokasi Hak Atas Air (Advocacy Team For The Right to Water).

We are civil society and labour organisations from many countries and we share deep concerns about the issues regarding water and sanitation services in Jakarta during last several years.

We understand the problems of water privatisation in Jakarta, thanks to the numerous studies conducted by Jakarta citizens. Thus, we have supported the citizen lawsuit since 2012, which is now with your respected office. We share the common view with trade union affiliates in Jakarta, water workers in PAM Jaya, PT Palyja, and PT Aetra; that privatisation of water services in Jakarta has seriously failed to fulfil the residents’ access to safe and affordable water.

We have reviewed evidence that private water management in Jakarta has not given priority to the social objectives: it has failed to make the necessary investments to deliver a sufficient volume of water and to improve water quality. Instead, private water operators in Jakarta have prioritised the interest of their shareholders.

Every resident of Jakarta has the right to access safe drinking water and sanitation services. This is based on the international recognition on the human right to water and sanitation through Resolution 64/292 of the United Nations General Assembly in 2010. Governments must ensure that people can enjoy sufficient, safe, accessible and affordable water, without discrimination.

In this regard, we reviewed the Indonesian Constitutional Court ruling of 20 February 2015, which annulled Law No. 7/2004 on Water Resources on the grounds that water resources must be controlled and allocated for the public benefit, and thus private companies cannot monopolize rights over water sources. We took note of the 24 March 2015 decision of the Central Jakarta District Court which annulled the privatised water contracts signed with PT Palyja and Aetra, finding these contracts with private firms to be negligent in fulfilling the human right to water for Jakarta residents. We welcome these consistent decisions to defend public interest.

As the Central Jakarta District Court ruled, the Jakarta government has to regain its responsibility for water services provision and to plan appropriate investments in order to fulfil its obligations as a primary duty bearer. The financial debt created by the partnerships with private companies on public budget is enormous and undoubtedly unsustainable. This failed model, if continued, will prevent Jakarta from achieving universal access to water and sanitation.

We have collectively conducted a number of studies and concluded that public management is better able to provide universal access to quality and affordable water and sanitation services. In the latest research, we found that 235 cities over the world terminated private water contracts and returned to public services provision during the last 15 years.1 The main reasons of this shift are: degradation of service quality, high transaction costs, lack of (financial) transparency and lack of investment under private management. These problems overlap with Jakarta. Many other capital cities including Berlin, Paris, Buenos Aires, Accra, Dar es Salaam and Kuala Lumpur experienced the similar problems and decided to go back to public ownership and management.

Private water contracts in Jakarta are among the largest remaining contracts in the world. The world’s population is carefully paying attention to the decision of Supreme Court of Indonesia to see if it will defend its peoples´ right to water and allow Jakarta government to rebuild reliable public water systems or if it will defend the interests of two private water companies and allow them to continue making profit from water.

We sincerely hope you will hear the voices from the Jakarta residents. We trust your decision will defend people in Jakarta and Indonesia and end unlimited profit seeking from this crucial resource for life that is water.

To see all the signatories download the pdf.

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