Friday, November 12, 2010

Kulon Progo - The Government Forces us to Fight Back

The plan to mine the ironsands along the southern coast of Kulon Progo (more exactly from Pantai Trisik to Pantai Glagah) continues to be resisted by Paguyaban Petani Lahan Pantai (PPLP - Association of Shoreline Farmers) . The demonstrations keep on coming, as do the efforts of the government and investors to make ensure that  Jogja Magasa Iron's plan to mine the ironsands will bring them profit. Why does PPLP continue to resist, scarcely leaving any space for negotiation? The following is KONDE's [local newspaper] interview with Widodo, one of the figureheads of PPLP in the past time.

Is there any scope whatsoever for negotiation?

What is there to negotiate? Rejection, that's our bottom line. So if the government keeps pushing, whether it be the Kulon Progo government or the Yogyakarta Provicial Government, then we will keep fighting.

What is the most serious risk?

Chaos! Battles! We have already envisioned the ways we need to confront them (investors and the local government), and this vision fits with a scheme of battle between the people and the government which should be our duty for the protection and security of the people.

Who is the Bupati? Who are the armed forces? Who are the police? We, the inhabitants of the coastal zone know exactly what their role is. And we also know exactly what duties they are called to perform. And so if one of these days we have to go to battle with them, we very much understand why we attack and we also know the risks involved, including the risks that they will have to face.

More concretely, how do you imagine this?

It's quite simple! At some point the investor will enter with heavy machinery to mine, guarded by riot police of the military. At that moment, we, the people of the coast, previously known as 'orang cubung' (meaning a dirty, backward people, prone to sickness) will be confronted with rifles, truncheons and tanks.

But we also count on the people's strategy for attack. Maybe we will use bows and arrows or molotovs, and at close range we only have machetes, swords and bamboo spikes, as well as the belief that the people should not be attacked by the police or army in their own place.

If this should ever happen, the world can take note, and even laugh at the army and police, and put the local government in a position of contempt in the eyes of the world.

Why do you need to fight?

Because we know, we know exactly, what it is we are struggling for. And that's the 1,500 hectares of coastal land, land that was given by God to mankind, and if the government has forgotten this fact, we will remind them with our style of fighting.

We fight to defend our lives. That land is our lifeblood. That land, from barren beginnings, we have made green over the course of decades, we have looked after for generations, and concretely, that land is the main source of livelihood for thousands of people.

But if they keep on pushing, forcing us to give up our land to the investors, that is as if the government is expelling us as citizens. If a civil servant is expelled from their job, they retain their role as a citizen, but if citizens are expelled then what do they become? They might as well be killing us. And the only way to deal with death threats is by fighting!

Isn't this the land of Puro Paku Alaman [feudal principality linked to Sultanate of Yogyakarta]?

Who says so! Since when did this land turn into the possession of Puro Pakualaman? Who's this Puro, this palace or this local government? From the point of view of orang cubung we ask: which came first - the people or the government?  Even aside from this, we can speak the language of the rules of the state. According to the rules of the state, as the basic agrarian law makes clear, after 20 years farming land the rights go to the people, if Puro wants to take control, acting as a landlord, what is the basis for this?

Are the government, Puro, and the Sultan's palace trying to fight the law of the land, trying to fight the agrarian law? Remember, Yogyakarta local government is also part of Indonesia. They have to follow Indonesian law.

What about the land use plan that the local government is in the process of drawing up?

The local government should know this and act wisely: When planning land use, don't assume that it is just empty space, without inhabitants, without any connection to the people. If for decades it has turned into a slice of life for the people, land use planners shouldn't force it to be an iron mine, a slice of an investor's soul! That would be a nice idea! Involve the people in land use planning! The government assembly should really understand this, isn't it obvious? Are there any representatives of the people out there that understand their duty, that understand their own selves, that understand us? Maybe not?

So starting from today, thousands of people along the coast will say that the political agenda is bullshit. If you don't believe they will, well you'll soon see what happens!

You don't think of making some sort of political contract with the candidates for Regency President in 2011, by any chance?

We didn't think about that, there's absolutely no desire for that sort of thing. We only want to plant chilli, vegetables, our arable crops and get enough to live on with a bit of security, according to our own standards. Even if the investors offer us compensation of 100 million per hectare, we will still choose to plant chillies, and we'll choose that for as long as we live.

Actually what's the yield from planting chilli like?

We thank God, in each harvest cycle (7 months - ed), on average we are able to buy 2 new motorbikes, build a nice house, quite a few can even buy a car. But we're still farmers, we don't seek luxury and we have no use for it.

There was a long history before we could enjoy the good life we have now. We were previously known as being cubung, poor, scabious, but we (our ancestors) worked the sand lands as farmers and made it into the bounty it is now. Can we make a living from government programs? No!

Why does it seem that there is always so much energy to keep up the struggle?

Because this is the struggle of the people, not of PPLP or anybody else. They feel they will be killed so they keep fighting. They feel forced to, and so they rebel. They are afraid of losing their source of food, so will fight to the bitter end.

Maybe you know, maybe not, but all parts of the coastal population are aware and each know their place and their duty in this struggle without the need for a command structure. Where do the old people stand, what should the youth do, where are the women and what must they be screaming, all this they will do determinedly and with spirit.

All this is the soul of our struggle. So if investors, local government or anyone else is foolhardy enough to mess around with our coastline, they will be finished off without mercy because this coast is the flesh and blood of all orang cubing.

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