JAKARTA - Enraged by the recent floods in the Indonesian capital, hundreds of Jakarta residents filed a class action suit on Monday (Jan 13)against Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, demanding financial compensation and better flood management in future.
The 243 claimants are asking for 42.3 billion rupiah (S$4.2 million) in damages in their 2020 Jakarta Flood Class Action Lawsuit filed by an advocacy team in the Central Jakarta District Court, said Mr Alvon Kurnia Palma, one of the lawyers handling the case.
The suit is against the Jakarta government to compensate for "the losses the victims suffered because of the floods," he told The Straits Times.
"We also urge all levels of the Jakarta administration to improve the city's early warning system and emergency response to future disaster," he added.
The advocacy team had set up a centre where the flood victims could email their complaints, which were then verified. It also collected evidence for the lawsuit.
Torrential rain over the New Year caused massive floods to inundate most parts of Jakarta - which is among the fastest sinking cities in the world - and its surrounding satellite cities, such as Bekasi, Bogor and Tangerang.
At least 60 people were killed and thousands forced to evacuate, apart from incurring huge losses as the flood waters damaged their homes, appliances and furniture, among other things.
The latest floods in Jakarta, the worst since 2007, were exacerbated by the failure of sirens on New Year's Eve to warn residents of the impending danger.
The weatherman had forecast heavy rain but eventually Jakarta was inundated by a deluge that was a record daily high for the city.
The Jakarta administration later admitted that early warning systems were installed in only some flood-prone areas.
Dr Anies has been widely criticised for slashing the city's budget for flood mitigation every year since he took office in 2017.
The advocacy team received about 670 reports from the Jakarta flood victims via email, and compiled those from 243 people in the lawsuit. The biggest pool of victims that reported to the team was from West Jakarta, followed by those from East Jakarta. The biggest loss recorded was 8.7 billion rupiah while the smallest was 890,000 rupiah.
Mr Azas Tigor Nainggolan, spokesman for the advocacy team, told ST the plaintiffs accuse the governor of neglect, by failing to apply a proper flood early warning system and provide a quick emergency response.
"We hope the suit will have a deterrent effect on the Jakarta administration so that it can work better in the future," he said, adding that while the rain cannot be controlled, it can be forecast and the floods, managed.
When asked about the importance of increasing the city's budget for flood mitigation, he said: "The most important is that the Jakarta government shows its concern and work to protect the residents from hazards."
The Jakarta District Court will spend two to four weeks to process the suit before initiating mediation. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case will go to trial in court.
Another advocacy team involving the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute and some non-governmental organisations, such as the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and Greenpeace Indonesia, is accepting separate complaints - both online and offline - from flood victims in Greater Jakarta until next month.
Ms Ayu Eza Tiara, a member of the team, told ST it might take legal action against regional administrations in Jakarta, West Java and Banten, over their failure to anticipate and manage the floods.