‘Incompetent’ Ruling Threatens to Leave Indonesia Without Bottled Water
Jakarta. Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah, has called on private firms to stop selling bottled water after the Constitutional Court revoked in its entirety the 2004 Water Resources Law, which regulates such sales.
“We welcome this decision and are grateful that our judicial review was accepted [by the court],” Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsuddin said.
Muhammadiyah was one of the plaintiffs in the suit alongside another group and a number of individuals.
“This law has been challenged three times before. This is why we were ecstatic with the recent Constitutional Court ruling which repealed the law in its entirety,” another plaintiff, Syaiful Basri, said at the same press conference.
Other plaintiffs include Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) chairman Amidhan, former sports minister Adhyaksa Dault and Rachmawati Soekarnoputri, a daughter of founding president Sukarno.
The court repealed the law last week, calling it “unconstitutional.” The annulment of the law means the 1974 Water Law is now applicable.
Constitutional Court Chief Justice Arief Hidayat, who also presided over the judicial review, argued the law violated an article of the Constitution that states: “land and water are controlled by the state and must be used for the benefit of its people.”
The now-defunct law, the court ruled, allowed private firms and individuals to control this resource.
But the ruling has created confusion among bottling and water management companies.
Troy Pantouw, a director of Tirta Investama, the Indonesian holder of the Aqua Danone brand, said his company was still examining the ruling.
“We will follow all legally binding rulings. We will also discuss this with [the bottled water company association] to discuss the possibilities arising from this decision,” he told Kompas.com.
Aqua Danone is the biggest mineral water provider in Indonesia, employing some 12,000 people across the country. The brand has operated here since 1973.
“We hope the bottled water business can still grow in the future,” Troy said, adding the ruling could also impact employees’ families, distributors and agents.
Although it is uncertain that bottled water companies are now operating illegally, as Muhammadiyah argues, the ruling will change how such firms operate.
The ruling will also force President Joko Widodo’s administration to completely overhaul all relevant government regulations in effect today.
Marwan Jafar, the minister for underdeveloped regions, welcomed the ruling, saying the 2004 law only benefited private firms, while farmers and indigenous communities struggled to gain access to clean, fresh water.
“Now it is time to empower the local community so that they can manage their resources well to their benefit,” he said.
Tarli Nugroho, an economist with the Mubyarto Institute, said the Constitutional Court’s annulment of the water law highlighted how incompetent the government and legislators were in making laws, pointing to many other laws revoked by the court.
“It’s impossible that the state can guarantee basic rights of its people if the state officials don’t understand the Constitution,” he said.
Editorial: Revoking Water Law Is a Washed-Up Move
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