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.