Saturday, December 28, 2013

David Versus Goliath in the Aru Islands

In December 2013, PT Menara Group is meant to start operations in Aru. That’s according to the Menara Group’s work schedule which has become general knowledge amongst government officials in Maluku Province and Aru Regency, especially Maluku’s caretaker governor Saut Situmorang.

How can that have come about? The officials claim that all the permits are issued according to procedure, there are no problems with the environmental impact assessment, and the people of Aru raise no objections. If there are some people who object, it is only a handful of people, who are not the customary landowners. Can this all be true?

The call to Save Aru has become a global movement. School and university students, academics, researchers, NGO activists, nature lovers, journalists, artists, religious teachers, all sorts of groups from across five continents have echoed the cry to Save Aru. Petitions have taken off, songs have been sung, performances staged, poetry inspired. The fire of resistance continues to grow.

The giant consorsium PT Menara Group plans to develop sugar-cane plantations in the Land of Aru, the land called Jargaria. It has ambitions to take control of around 500 thousand hectares for this purpose. Before planting this vast plantation and building a sugar factory, first of all it would clear-fell the forest, full of top-quality timber such as meranti, linggua, ironwood and so on. This would inevitably be an ecological disaster, as birds of paradise and other wildlife endemic to Aru are cleared from their natural habitat. This is the Menara Group’s plan which is meeting vehement challenges from the Save Aru movement around the world.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Open letter from the Suku Anak Dalam in Jambi Province

To all palm oil consumers around the world, stop draining our tears and our blood!!!

“Some thoughts about the evictions of our homes by PT Asiatic Persada in Jambi Province.”

“Hundreds of people appeared suddenly, they were wearing police or police mobile brigade uniforms, along with others wearing the clothes of PT Asiatic Persada employees. We were shocked and scared, as we realised they had come to destroy our houses. We could only stand by and watch as our homes were demolished by the company's heavy machinery, and we also had to just accept it when they took away some of our possessions.” That is how one of the evicted Suku Anak Dalam described what happened, when we visited them on 11th December 2013 at 17.00.

PT Asiatic Persada has taken action once again, just as it did in 2011, when it also managed to smash up around 80 houses in the Sungai Beruang area. This time, PT Asiatic Persada and state security forces carried out an intense wave of evictions between 7th-11th December around Pinang Tinggi, Padang Salak, Tanah Menang and Terawang. Currently around 146 houses have been razed to the ground, and those 146 families have sought refuge in Jambi City.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Conflict Between Takalar Farmers and PTPN XIV Flares up - Farmer Shot by Police

The conflict between residents of Takalar Regency, South Sulawesi and state-owned plantation company PTPN XIV has flared up once again.

 Unavoidable clashes between the people of North Polongbangkeng Sub-district and Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) on Monday morning (2/12/13) resulted in community member Yunus Daeng Empo receiving a bullet in his right thigh.

When contacted by Mongabay, Zulkarnain, Walhi South Sulawesi's executive director, said that the incident was provoked by PTPN IV's plan to cultivate disputed land which is the subject of an ongoing case in the Supreme Court.
On hearing about this plan, dozens of local people went to the location being guarded by 10-20 members of South Sulawesi Police Mobile Brigade. The situation heated up as PTPN XIV failed to heed the community's protests. Yunus Daeng Empo was trying to stop the company working the land when the police shot him. “The situation became chaotic when Brimob started arresting and shooting people,” Zulkarnain said today.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Growing Movement Against Plantations in West Papua

“We, the indigenous people of Yowied Village reject corporations coming on to our land in Tubang District for the following reasons:

there is not so much land around Yowied Village.

Our lives are dependent on what our environment can provide.

Where will the future generations go?”
The sign is tied with coconut leaves, a signal that it is a ‘sasih’ marker, a traditional means to forbid passage. Similar signs can be seen in almost all villages in the area. They are backed up by an agreement between all villages in the area that no-one should give up their land, under pain of death. It’s a desperate first act of defiance to a modern world they know has no place for them. A plantations mega-project has been imposed on Merauke, West Papua, and 2.5 million hectares of forest, grassland and swamps – the ancestral lands of the Malind people – are being targeted for oil palm, industrial timber and sugar cane.

For now, the natural ecosystem in remote Tubang District is still in good condition, and the Malind Woyu Maklew people who live in the area can easily find all they need from the forest by hunting, gathering and fishing. The former chief of Yowied village has claimed that he could easily live on only $2 a month, which he would use to buy tobacco and betel nut – everything else could be got from the forest.

Throughout Merauke Regency in the southern part of West Papua, a land controversially annexed by Indonesia 50 years ago, indigenous communities are having to learn fast how to resist corporate manipulations. In 2009 ambitious local politicians proposed Merauke as Indonesia’s new centre for industrialised agricultural growth. This was in the aftermath of the 2008 global food crisis, when governments worldwide got preoccupied about national food security, prompting a wave of land-grabbing globally. The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), as it became known, was officially launched three years ago in August 2010. Around 50 provisional permits have been issued to around 20 corporate groups, mostly from Indonesia or South Korea.

'Jogja Not for Sale': not just looking for Haryadi

The commotion of Jogja's anniversary seemed not to have subsided, even though two days had passed. Not because it had been such a wild celebration, but because something had happened to stir up Jogja's street art community. Early on the morning of Wednesday 9th October 2013, an artist was dragged to the municipal guard's barracks because of painting a mural. Muhammad Arif was arrested for painting the words “Jogja Ora Didol”, meaning 'Jogja is not for sale' in the Javanese language.

Actually, this action was happening for the second - or third - time. The mural had first been painted on the actual anniversary of Jogjakarta, two days previously on the 7th October. However, before twenty-four hours had passed, the slogan “Jogja Ora Didol” had already disappeared, painted over by black paint, apparently by the municipal guards. Then the same phrase was painted over the black paint as a response. However Arif's action ran into trouble when a middle-aged man forced him to stop what he was doing. The man ordered Arif to come down from the wall he was standing on, but Arif didn't move. In the end Arif gave in as the man was pointing a pistol at him. Arif was brought by the man to the municipal guard's barracks to be interrogated and file an evidence report.

What Arif was actually doing - in theory - was part of the urban movement 'Looking for Haryiadi Festival', which had been conceived by various artists and collectives around Yogyakarta city. The Festival's Art Director, Agung Kurniawan, said that this movement had been sparked by concerns that city mayor Haryadi had absented himself from the task of reorganising public space, controlling visual pollution such as billboards, and other urban problems. There are also massive plans to build hotels, which mean evictions, and the uncontrolled growth in motor vehicles which causes traffic jams and increasingly takes space away from cyclists and pedestrians. As all these problems pile up around him, Haryadi has just chosen to travel abroad - the mayor's latest travels have taken him to Spain and the United States, who knows what for. In the end, it means thatYogyakarta is starting to become a less pleasant place to live.

But is it right to direct all the criticism only at Haryadi? Or is there also someone else involved who should also be facing accusations? I want to open up this possibility, that Haryadi is not the only one who should take the blame for the chaos in Yogyakarta's urban planning. Of course, if we see Haryadi as the administrative head of Yogyakarta City, he's the one who must be asked to take responsibility for any chaos in urban planning. He is also believed to be allowing visual pollution - such as corporate advertisements - affect buildings in a cultural conservation area. But actually, similar cases are not only happening in Yogyakarta City, but also other places around Yogyakarta Province. In Bantul for example, traders in Parangkusumo are threatened with eviction by a megatourism project which plans to develop the Parangtritis area. In Kulon Progo, coastal farmers are on the point of losing their farmland because of plans to develop an iron-sand mine. Hotel and other tourist development is also taking place in Sleman and Gunung Kidul districts.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Kulon Progo Farmer Tukijo Freed From Prison

Tukijo finally walked free from Yogyakarta prison this morning, to be welcomed by his family, farmers from Kulon Progo and supporters of their struggle. There was no holding back the emotion as his friends hugged him in turn - a pointless and vindictive ordeal was over at last.

Tukijo is one of the thousands of farmers along the Kulon Progo coast who are defending their land from an Australian mining company in partnership with the local feudal leader. He was snatched from his fields by police in May 2011 and sentenced to three years in prison for doing nothing more than telling a company worker to get off the land.

After nearly two and a half years in prison, Tukijo will now be able to return to his farm to plant chillis and watermelons once again, as the land has not yet been taken over by Indomines for its iron sand mine. Whether due to it's tumbling share price, a fall in demand for iron from China or the farmers' determined resistance, the mining company's plans have been put back again and again.

But the mining threat has not gone away. Worryingly, news has come through within the last few weeks that some villagers at the far end of the mining area have accepted a downpayment from the company, agreeing they would sell their land. This came as a big shock to other villages, which have been more centrally involved in resisting the mine. They believe they are more determined in their struggle, but now they can see how easy it is for a company to manipulate any weakness.

Although the Kulon Progo farmers have lived on the land for generations and developed their own techniques to make the sandy dunes fertile and productive, they are up against the local feudal leaders (Sultan Hamengkubuwono X and Paku Alam), who are claiming ultimate ownership over all land in the Yogyakarta Special Region province where no freehold has been granted. It is a dubious claim dating back to colonial times, which was clearly outlawed by Indonesia's Basic Agrarian Law in 1960. However the Sultan has been trying to strengthen his legal position by lobbying for new laws. A national law on Yogyakarta's 'specialness' was passed last year, and next week the Yogyakarta Provincial Legislative Council is expected to pass a local law which supports the feudal system.

Around the Yogyakarta Region, many people are not yet aware that their Sultan has got his eye on their land - maybe they are proud to live in an area where the Javanese culture is still strong, or they see the system as better than the rampant corruption which causes so many problems in other areas. However, several communities are aware and are resisting. Aside from the Kulon Progo farmers, the community of Parangkusumo is one example. This coastal village is a few kilometres away from the popular tourist beach at Parangtritis, and is facing eviction. The reason given is a moralistic one - the local government claims prostitution goes on in the karaoke bars there, but it is fairly obvious that the real reason is to clear the coast for tourism development.

So while it's good news for the moment as Tukijo celebrates being able to breathe once more the fresh sea air blowing in over the Kulon Progo coast, there are still many challenges ahead before the Kulon Progo farmers can finally relax, knowing they have defeated the iron mine once and for all.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

16 Medan Students on Trial

Latest developments in the arrested Medan students' case

The following is an interview by an FKMA reporter with a student from Medan, conducted on the 1st of September 2013 in Jakarta. The aim of the interview was to find out the latest developments in a case where police arrested students in an action protesting the fuel price rise in Medan last June, in a clear violation of human rights.

FKMA : What are the latest developments around these arrests which have affected Medan's student community?

Student : There are currently 16 students still in prison who were officially declared suspects on 16th August 2013. Many of them are still suffering from broken bones from the police violence during their arrests.

FKMA : Originally how many people were arrested?

Student : On the day of the action there were 87 people arrested. In the end only 16 of them were officially declared suspects. Nevertheless this is an act of criminalisation towards the whole student movement, and we are convinced it is an attempt to systematically paralyse the student movement here in Medan.

Monday, August 19, 2013

West Papua Freedom Flotilla: Indigenous Solidarity Knows no Borders

Two hundred years after Europeans first set foot in Australia, indigenous Australians are a tiny minority in their own land, forgotten in reservations while western culture has grown rich from the land they conquered.

The indigenous movement in Australia has not disappeared however, and is aware that on the other side of the Torres Strait, their history is being replayed in West Papua. Indigenous Papuans are also being economically and culturally marginalised, their forests and mountains ravaged, set against a background of half a century of military violence.

The Freedom Flotilla to West Papua is an initiative of indigenous and white Australians, Torres Straits Islanders and West Papuan refugees, who are trying to make the link between the struggles on their respective islands. On 17th August they launched two boats from Cairns, headed for Merauke in West Papua.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Demonstrators Against Fuel Price Rise in Medan Arrested and Tortured: Chronology

As the Indonesian Government made plans to reduce fuel subsidies, social resistance broke out across the archipelago, protesters fearing that the price rise would cause knock-on rises in the cost of living that would have a devastating effect on the poorest. The government has wanted to make this spending cut for several years now, but popular resistance over the years has made it very difficult to push it through. This time, however, they seem determined. One action in Medan, North Sumatra on the day the decision was taken was met with a brutal response from the police, where hundreds were injured and 87 people were arrested. Nearly three weeks later 32 people remain in police custody although it remains unclear whether they are actually being prosecuted. Neither their families nor lawyers have had any access to the people who are still arrested, most of whom were seriously hurt. Also, 17 more people, many well-known faces from the student movement, have been placed on the police wanted list as supposed intellectual masterminds of the action. Here’s the full chronology, from a participant:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Papua Prison Island

An expression of people's desire for freedom, cries of “Papua Merdeka” continue to ring out through the cities, mountains and forests of West Papua. The struggle is against fifty years of Indonesian rule, which throughout the last half-century has violently tried to subdue Papua, in its attempts to create a unified nation from the 17,000 islands that once made up the Dutch Empire.

Freedom as expressed by the word 'merdeka' is primarily a call for political independence, although the word is imbued with the clear hope that a new national sovereignty would also bring a wider liberation. Even when used outside the context of nations, 'merdeka' carries a sense of autonomy or self-reliance; from the same Sanskrit root Indonesian also inherited the word mahardika, meaning wisdom or nobility.

Those cries of freedom are also heard from the cells of Papua's prisons, where its absence is arguably felt more strongly than anywhere else. The struggle for a national liberation suddenly becomes much more personal and immediate when deprived of your own individual liberty, by means of police handcuffs or a judge's order.

Prison is used as a weapon against the people and their resistance to Indonesia, and over the years thousands of Papuans have found themselves locked away from the world behind prison bars. Many were arrested for expressing their aspirations for liberation, mostly relatively peacefully, but occasionally also for taking up arms. Others were merely unlucky enough to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and got caught up in the structural violence of a justice system designed to spread intimidation throughout the entire population.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Agrarian Struggle takes a Deep Breath. Notes from the Second Congress of the Forum for Communication between Agrarian Communities (FKMA)

Not many people, neither left-wing activists nor intellectual defenders of agrarian justice, will have ever heard his name, let alone met him. Mukhlis, a young peasant farmer from Rengas village, Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra, was one of twelve victims shot by police mobile brigade (Brimob) in December 2009. On that bloody Friday, he and hundreds of other villagers were defending the reoccupation of their land which had previously been seized by state-owned plantation company PTPN VII. Hot metal pierced his finger. A rubber bullet struck his forehead. The ring finger on his right hand is now shorter than it should be.

Mukhlis remembers, “On that day I was leaving to wash in preparation for Friday prayers. My mother told me “There's no need to go and join in (defending the land occupation), you're still young, you'll just get shot.” Mukhlis was 23 at the time. “But it wasn't at anyone's invitation that I decided to join the struggle. Something inside of me was calling,” he continued, as he raised the palm of his hand towards his breast.

Grassroots Towards Autonomy

'We farm or we die, resist the iron mine.'

This extremely brave slogan was taken from the Manifesto of the Kulon Progo Farmer's Struggle, written by the Coastal Farmers' Association (PPLP). For the farmers who live in this regency in the western part of Yogyakarta Special Region , this slogan represents the culmination of all their anxiety, anger and resistance to the mining company Indo Mines Ltd, headquartered in Perth, Australia, and supported by the Yogyakarta Special Region government.

However, Java's southern coast tends to attract relatively little attention, and so neither have the farmers' struggles to defend their land there. Java's economic growth has up until now mostly focussed on its northern shore. The southern coast is rich in valuable minerals. Iron sands, gold, vanadium, titanium, uranium, and also mineral water lie below the earth's surface. These minerals have not yet been much exploited.

Protected by claims of development and economic growth, local government believes they need to bring progress to the Southern Java coast. One way is through mining projects. This agenda is surely not without its other implications. For example, the plan to build a southern Java trunk road, funded by loans from the Asian Development Bank, for which it would surely be necessary to expropriate land and evict residents.

Facts such as these have become the focus for the Kulon Progo farmers' nervousness. Especially as they most certainly have to face the planned iron sands mine. A plan which, if enacted, would mean they would lose their farmland.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Save Pandumaan-Sipituhuta

Have you heard? Land conflict has occurred in Indonesia, again: One side wants to destroy the environment for the sake of mass production, the other aims to stop it. It’s an old song that’s repeating itself over and over again. But as long as there’s still injustice, let’s crank the volume up. If you love Indonesia’s beauty and hope to see it last, you know on which side of the stage you should stand.

The conflict takes place in Pandumaan and Sipituhuta, two areas in Humbang Hasuhutan Regency, North Sumatra Province, where a Tano Batak indigenous community lives. The conflict broke out after PT Toba Pulp Lestari decided to replace the people’s Styrax benzoin forest called Tombak Haminjon, part of the people’s indigenous territory, with industrial eucalyptus trees for its paper production line.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Statement of the Second Autonomous Peasant Farmer's Congress, 10th February 2012 - Forum for Communication between Agrarian Communities

To imagine a world without farmers is like imagining a world without food. In the same way, if we imagine a nation which ignores its people can we really believe in its sovereignty? Yet the state's architects are engaged in conjuring up such dark visions right now, as they become corporations' loyal servants.

In the name of development, the state and corporations continue to expropriate peasant farmers' land without cease. In the name of security, farmers are gradually but deliberately being turned into a labour force, available for hire. In the name of the public interest, peasant farmers' living space is being constricted or even obliterated so a handful of businesspeople increase their wealth. In the name of progress, farmers are hoodwinked into handing over their right to a livelihood, giving up their life, their work, their identity, losing their self-respect as a community, as humans.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Attacks by Earth Liberation Front

Our struggle can’t be limited under civilization terms. We out of it. We are wild and we are enemies of civilization. Not only the state and capital (in old terms of anarchism), but all the civilization: we are against it.

We are the ones who proudly throw out the social peace, walk out from our comfort zones and carried an attack actions against what we hate. We are declaring war against civilization and it’s property and join in the international urban guerrilla warfare with all our brothers and sisters in Informal Anarchist Federation and International Revolutionary Front.

We claim and take responsibility for arsons against car and shop belonging to the Vice Secretary of Demokrat in South Sumatera (winning party of 2009 general election), arsons against 4 ATMs in Makassar, and actions against two electrical substations during last week in Jakarta.

Solidarity Call for Ryo (1986-2012)

February 5th, 2013

Here follows a letter from the ex-members of Negasi, about the murder of our comrade Ryo. They are making public a situation that has hit them. War against the existent.

To all comrades,

On 25th November 2012, we lost our comrade named Ryo. He was killed by a coward in the morning when trying to go back to his place after looking for breakfast. Ryo is a member of the first generation of NEGASI and was active in counter-info projects, translation and publication to support the anti-authoritarian movement in Manado.

Ryo also involved in local autonomous struggles in North Sulawesi. He took a position as a campaigner and published infos related to the struggles. Stubborn but humble and always being the first one who would care about his comrades problems. Ryo left a wife and a four years old son.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Kulon Progo Farm or Die

Faced with the threat of their land being taken from them and turned into a vast iron mine, 20 kilometres long, the farmers of Kulon Progo on Java's South Coast have resisted with cries of “Bertani atau Mati!” “We farm or we die!”. Farm or die is a compilation of articles and interviews reflecting their struggle.

If you want to read or download Farm or Die as a pdf you can do that here (to read online) or here (to print). Otherwise, you can read a selection of the articles here:
  • Interview with Widodo: A chilli farmer gives his views on the will farm, the struggle, solidarity and autonomy.
  • Chronology of Struggle: Some key moments in the struggle from 2007 to 2011
  • Interview with Suratinem: In 2011 Suratinem's husband Tukijo was abducted from his field by police, and sentenced to three years in prison. Suratinem tells her story.
  • SG and PAG: At the root of the land dispute is the local sultanate, who claim the Kulon Progo land despite the farmers clearly having land title. Feudalism may exist informally in other parts of Indonesia, but only here is it protected by law. 

Kulon Progo Farm or Die: Interview with Widodo

Widodo is one of the local farmers in Kulon Progo who decided when he was young to go abroad as an immigrant worker just as many other youths from rural Indonesia. However, ever since the southern shore of Kulon Progo became verdant and began to yield healthy and abundant crops again due to the determination and hard work of local people he and many other village youth returned home to help their families continue in the ancestral tradition; self-sustained farming. Widodo has joined thousands of others under the umbrella of PPLP to continue to struggle against the lust for power and greed of capitalist mining corporations.

Kulon Progo Farm or Die: Chronology of Struggle

This is a timeline from when the farmers first learn of the plans to mine the area of Kulon Progo, located along the Southern coast of the island of Java, near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The farmers and local citizens continue to struggle to this day against the corrupt and greedy mining that threatens to destroy their land and livelihood.

Kulon Progo Farm or Die: Interview with Suratinem

Tukijo's wife (Suratinem) has now been working their land on her own for over a year while her husband sits in prison as unjust punishment for speaking out against corporate greed and corruption. At the time of this interview, Tukijo remains unfairly imprisoned. His wife is without the daily company, presence, help and support of her husband.

Kulon Progo Farm or Die: SG and PAG, The Stowaway of Yogyakarta Special State Planning Act

All this time, arguments over Yogyakarta's Special State status has been too focused on deciding who should be the rightful Governor and Vice Governor. The issue, in my opinion, is too confined. Because the thing that more characterizes the feudalism of Special Region of Yogyakarta (Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta/DIY), is the existence of million hectares of the imperial land in this province, known as Sultanate Ground (Sultanaat Gronden/SG) and Pakualamanaat Ground(Pakualamanaat Gronden/PAG).

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Islands of Autonomy - social centres in Indonesia and the Philippines.

A collection of interviews with six autonomous spaces in Indonesia and the Philippines. The interviews were conducted at the start of 2011, and although the zine has existed for some time, it has unfortunately not been published online until now. Although in the two years that have passed, a few of these spaces have ceased to exist, hopefully it's still interesting to read people's experiences of creating autonomous communities in different contexts.

Interviews are with Institut A in Jakarta, Dandelion in Bandung, Gerbong Revolusi in Kulon Progo, Lino Nipi in Makassar, and - in the Philippines - Etniko Bandido in Manila and Kinayahan Unahon in Davao City.

Islands of Autonomy can be downloaded here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Is Indonesia heading towards Fascism?

Some observations on the crisis and new terror laws.

A series of recent laws are highlighting a political trend in Indonesia. New laws on Dealing with Social Conflict and Intelligence are already ratified, and three other similar regulations are still in the pipeline: concerning National Security, Military Reserve Forces and Societal Organisations. Not only are these laws terrorising civil liberties and social movements, but they are also laying the basis for the growth of fascism in Indonesia.