Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Look Back at some Agrarian Conflicts in 2013

A translation of Mongabay-Indonesia's review of some of the clashes over access to land which arose in Indonesia during 2013, based on reports on that website. Of course it only reports a small fraction of the incidents which occurred, but still gives a good overview of the diversity of community struggles for land and livelihood, drawing on news from around the archipelago. 
Rosimah, taking part in the Action. Since December 10th she has camped out on the National Human Rights Commission back veranda. Photo: Andreas Harsono 
Rosimah was reclining on a wooden bench that afternoon. She was sitting on a covered veranda behind the National Human Rights Commission building, on Jalan Latuharhary, Menteng, Central Jakarta, just a few meters away from the Nabahan Dormitory.

Rosminah spoke haltingly. Sometimes she was silent. “It's hard to think. Too much to think about. I don't know what I want any more.” She spoke slowly. It was clear she was holding back tears. Her lips were trembling. “In the end we came here from Jambi, we want to demand what is rightfully ours.”

Since 10th December 2013, this women in her fifties has been occupying this building along with dozens of other members of the Suku Anak Dalam 113 community. They stay on the veranda, and sleep there at night. An emergency kitchen has been built, protected by a tarpaulin, with a surface to prepare food and cooking utensils. It is a sharp contrast with the luxury buildings that abound in this rich part of the capital.

They are there to demand the return of their customary land which has been claimed by an oil palm company, PT Asiatic Persada. They are also demanding that this company's land use permit (HGU) is revoked.

Rosimah lived in Pinang Tinggi village, Batanghari, Jambi. Her home and garden are considered to be part of the company's concession. “It's all gone, our two houses pulled down. Rubber trees, durian trees, rambutan, cempedak, the company destroyed them all.”

Yet, she says, her ancestors have always lived there. “This was the land of my grandmother, I was born there, I have six children, they're all grown up now, lots of grandchildren were living there. And now it's all gone...”
Ruslan, another Suku Anak Dalam community member taking action, said that the National Human Rights Commission had sent letters to the National Land Agency and local government. They were currently awaiting news from the agency. “We are going to stay here until the National Land Agency sets a timetable for hearing the case,” he said.

Mahyudin, from the Peduli Bangsa Institude which supports the Suku Anak Dalam, spoke with a similar tone, “We will only return to Jambi if the National Land Agency sets a schedule for addressing the case.”

Land conflicts in this country never cease. The conflict between the Suku Anak Dalam and PT Asiatic Persada is only one of hundreds. Their action to demand justice in the capital, was the closing act of the year.

A Consorsium for Agrarian Reform (KPA) Report revealed that agrarian conflicts increased in 2013. This year, the number of fatalities rose drastically, by 522%. In 2012 three people were killed, but this year that rose to 21. Other victims included 30 people shot, 130 victims of violence, and 239 people arrested. The perpetrators of violence in 2013 were most frequently police, in 47 cases, followed by company security guards in 29 cases and the military in nine cases.

During 2013 the KPA noted 369 agrarian conflicts, involving a total 1,281,660.09 hectares of land and 139,874 families. Conflicts with plantations took first place with 180 cases (48.78%) followed by infrastructure (105 cases or 28.46%), mining (38 cases or 10.3%) forestry (31 cases or 8.4%) shoreline development (9 cases or 2.44%), plus another six cases (1.63%). In other words, more than one conflict a day breaks out, involving on average 383 families or 1532 individuals over an area of 312 hectares.

What follows is Mongabay's round-up of some of the land and natural resource conflicts that occurred in Indonesia during 2013.

The first story is from 9th January, when community members together with the People's Alliance to Criticize Sea Sand Mining took action in front of the Serang District Head's building in Banten Province. They were demanding that the District Head should revoke the permit to extract sand from the Lontar coast and the whole Serang Regency.

They were also demanding a stop to the issuance of new permits to manage marine or coastal areas by mining companies. After long protests, the community elicited a small victory. The Serang District Head, A. Taufik Nuriman, called a temporary halt to sand mining when he issued decision document 540/02-Huk. BPTM/2013, which temporarily prevented PT Jetstar from operating, dated 9th January 2013.

According to the District Head's decision, this halt would be used to re-examine the case for mining, involving relevant stake holders, local government, business and the community. Unfortunately the company was only stopped for a moment. The Serang Government's evaluation was inconclusive and now the sand mine is back in operation once more.

Still in January, the conflict between residents and PTPN VII Cinta Manis unit heated up once more. Police arrested and harassed people as they celebrated the Prophet Muhammed's birthday holiday on disputed land in Betung village, Lubuk Keliat sub-district, Ogan Ilir Regency, South Sumatra on Friday 25th January. In the incident, one person was arrested, Suardi bin Damiri (32) and five people were left with bruises after being beaten by police officers aided by company thugs.

The matter didn't end there. An action of around 500 people made up of activists from different civil society organisations from South Sumatra and Ogan Ilir peasants ended up in clashes with the police outside South Sumatra police headquarters on Tuesday 29th January

The security forces' attack on demonstrators in the pouring rain meant that many activists and farmers were injured, including Anwar Sadat, Executive Director of Walhi South Sumatra, who was spattered with blood from a head wound. In that action, around 25 people were arrested, 11 of which were held at the provincial police headquarters, and 14 at the Palembang City police HQ.

The action of farmers and their supporters outside South Sumatra police HQ, moments before it kicked off. Photo: Walhi Sumsel

In February, the land confict between PT Toba Pulp Lestari and the Pandumaan Sipituhuta indigenous group in Humbang Hasundutan Regency, North Sumatra, flared up once more on the 25th of the month. This occurred because Toba Pulp Lestari started planting eucalytus on the Benzoin (Styrax) Forest in Dolok Ginjang, although an agreement had been reached to call a halt to the planting. The people protested which lead to clashes with Toba Pulp Lestari workers.

Worst of all, police mobile brigade guarding the company arrested around 31 people, 16 of which were held and charged, and another 15 set free. The situation in Humbang Hasundutan still remains tense.

Those arrested included, from Sipituhuta village: Hanup Marbun (37), Leo Marbun(40), Onri Marbun (35), Jusman Sinambela (50), Jaman Lumban Batu (40), Roy Marbun (35), Fernando Lumbangaol (30), Filter Lumban Batu (45), Daud Marbun (35) and from Pandumaan village: Elister Lumbangaol (45) Janser Lumbangaol (35) Poster Pasaribu (32), Madilaham Lumbangaol (32) Tumpal Pandiangan (40).

On 4th March, community members, together with the Popular Front of Struggle of Tojo Una-una Mining Victims and Jatam Central Sulawesi, took action at a port belonging to PT Arthaindo Jaya Abadi in Podi village, Tojo Una-una Regency, Central Sulawesi. They were demanding an end to nickel mining activities that would potentially damage the environment in their area.

Around 100 people gathered, including children, women and young people. They assembled in Kayu Nyole at 9.26 am. Kayu Nyole is the second housing development built to relocate the people of Tojo who were victims of the flash floods on the Podi river in 2007.

The people had good reason to oppose the mine. PT Arthaindo Jaya Abadi's mine has the potential to create big problems for the people of Podi village, as well as threatening trans-Sulawesi traffic travelling from Banggai Regency through Pos to Palu and Makassar cities. The company is digging upstream of the village where the Podi River cuts a narrow channel between two mountains which is being blocked by excavated material.

On Monday 3rd June, people blocked the road that PT Weda Bay Nickel and PT Tekindo had constructed, starting from 7am until 1pm. The residents of Desa Woe Jarana, Woe Kobe and Kulo Jaya, Central Weda sub-district, wanted to give a message to the mining companies not to disturb their ancestral lands.

Weda Bay Nickel holds a concession covering 54,874 hectares, the largest in Indonesia. Around 35,155 hectares of this is located in protected forest. So it is not only causing agrarian conflict, but also blatant environmental destruction.

Since it first appeared on the scene in 1999, the company has been in conflict with the Sawai and Tobelo Dalam indigenous groups. Now it is ready to start commercial exploitation. The factory has been built. The indigenous people are threatened with being pushed off the land of their ancestors.

A similar threat is facing indigenous people in Central Kalimantan. Their customary forest is facing the threat of being turned into an oil palm plantation owned by PT Kalimantan Hamparan Sawit. Indigenous Dayak people from Tumbang Mantuhei, Mahuning Raya sub-district, Gunung Mas Regency, set up a customary blockade or 'hinting pali' on 25th May 2013.

The Dayak people, part of the Badehen Eka Balindung community, were worried that the forest that has always supported them and their environment would be destroyed to become an oil palm plantation.
The Mantuhei people's hinting pali ritual, a customary blockade to forbid the company to clear forest on their land. Photo: Save our Borneo

Still in June, Mongabay recorded clashes between residents and police mobile brigade. PT Indo Muro Kencana's mining operation in Murung Raya regency, Central Kalimantan, was temporarily halted after the clases between berunak (tailings miners) and police mobile brigade guarding the company on Saturday 29th June.

On Saturday afternoon, thousands of people known locally as berunak (who look for gold in the waste from the corporate mine) attacked the gold mining company PT Indomuro Kencana in Mangkahui village, Siang Selatan sub-district, Murung Raya regency, Centra Kalimantan. Four members of the police mobile brigade ended up with stab wounds and one resident was shot.
PT Indomura Kencana's mine is polluting rivers as well as being a threat to indigenous cultures. Photo: Perkumpulan Punan Arung Buana (PPAB) Kalteng

The police mobile brigade officers are tasked with guarding the gold mine, owned by an Australian investor, on a daily basis. Reports by the JPNN Group Media indicate that thousands of berunak rioted because they had heard that one of their colleagues had been shot by the police. In their anger, they then gathered and attacked the mine's offices at its base camp.

It wasn't only the mine employee's camp that was burnt. The gold processing plant, dozens of vehicles and an employees' housing complex were also burnt down. News circulated that six police mobile brigade officers had been killed, but it turned out that they were only injured. To aid the police, army officers were deployed to the gold mining company. The situation gradually calmed down.

On July 25th, 27 civil society organisations concerned with human rights and the environment from Indonesia, Inggris and Germany sent a 40 paragraph letter to the Commission on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination/CERD in Geneva.

They were urging and recommending this UN Commission to address and consider the plight of the Marind and other indigenous peoples in Merauke Regency, Papua, threatened by the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE).

Still in the month of July, the long-running land conflict between the people of Pantap village, Kuala Kuayan, East Kotawaringin Regency, Central Kalimantan and PT Bumi Sawit Kencana, heated up once more. Clashes occurred between dozens of residents and security guards working for the oil palm company, a subsidiary of the Wilmar Group, on 23rd July. The people also burnt down two security outposts.

The conflicts kept on happening. Going into August, indigenous people in Bagaraga, Wardik and Tokas Villages in Wayer and Moswaren districts, South Sorong Regency accused forestry company PT Bangun Kayu Irian of taking over their customary lands in the Nawir area.

The people represented seven different clans: Saman, Yaru Homer, Homer, Tigori, Smur, Fna and Wato. The company's licence to operate was issued by the Forestry Minister on 4th January 1993, to use a 299,000 hectare concession over 20 years.

In September, around 29 residents representing four villages in Mantangai sub-district, slept over in the Kuala Kapuas District Head's office in Central Kalimantan. The residents of Desa Sei Ahas, Katimpun, Kalumpung and Pulau Kaladan took this protest because they had not received a definitive answer about land claimed by an oil palm company, PT Rezeki Alam Semesta Raya

In fact, the District Head and Provincial Governor had already written letters ordering that any large-scale permits that are still not 'clean and clear' should be revoked. Although mediation meetings had already taken place several times, there was still no clear decision about the 2922 hectares of land belonging to the people.

In the same month, the people of Sungai Bungur village, Jambi Province, protested because a company had not handed over 225 hectares of land which it was supposed to. The worst of it was that they had to pay billions of Rupiah debt repayments on the land which was still in the company's control!

As a reaction to this, on National Farming Day, Tuesday 24th September, residents of Sungai Bungur village, Kumpeh Ilir sub-district, Muaro Jambi Regency, occupied their land which was under the control of the oil palm company PT Puri Hijau Lestari (PHL), a subsidiary of the Makin Group.

Also this month, it kicked off on Bangka Island, North Minahasa, North Sulawesi. The popular opposition to a mining company surged once more. This time, residents monitored all areas to obstruct the planned construction of a wharf which they believed would be infrastructure to support the mine.

On Thursday and Friday 26th-27th September, the people of Kahuku village attempted to obstruct drilling equipment believed to be owned by PT Mikgro Metal Perdana. First of all they heard that the machines belonged to the government agency of public works. However, that agency had not said anything about any plans, which triggered the community's suspicions. “If it were true that the drilling machines belong to the Agency for Public Works, they would have given the community notice,” said Merty Katulung, a local resident on Friday 27th September.

The people took action to obstruct and chase away the machines. A boat transporting the machine was bombarded with stones. The community was furious since they had never received a positive response when they expressed their opinion.

Police officers were on high alert. Nevertheless, there were almost clashes between police and the community. Merty said that the police forcibly ensured that the drilling machine could land. However the community were of the opinion that the police's role should be to ensure the situation remains calm, not just take the company's side.

On 4th October, hundreds of peasants from Kebun Sei Merah village, Tanjung Morawa sub-district, Deli Serdang Regency, North Sumatra, were involved in riots with police officers from the Deli Serdang police headquarters. The peasants defended their land that had been handed down from generation to generation but was now 'owned' by PT London Sumatra (Lonsum). Police were aided by army troops and Deli Serdang municipal guards to guard the company and try to evict the farmers.

The peasants tried to retain the 360 hectares of land and prevent the forces of law and order from destroying their huts. Each side pushed forward, drew back and also exchanged blows. However in the end the hundreds of peasants weren't strong enough. The push and shove with the municipal guards ran aground after police moved in and forcibly dispersed the peasants. Three peasants that tried to resist with spears and hoes were arrested and brought to the Deli Serdang police headquarters.
A peasant's shack built on disputed land is destroyed by municipal guards. Photo: Ayat S Karokaro

Moving on to November, tensions built up around the coastal reclamation at Sario Tumpaan beach, Manado city, North Sulawesi. On 19th October, several fisherfolk had been wounded as a result of clashes with PT Kembang Utara's security guards. The District Legislative Council also allowed them to voice their opinion on 4th November, but without reaching agreement.

Marko Tampi, Secretary of the District Legislative Council Commission A, said after that meeting that the boundaries of the open coastline in the mediation document were already clearly defined. In paragraph three, for example, it was explained that the land was bounded in the north by PT Kembang Utara, in the South by 16 percent land of the Manado City Government, in the west by Manado Bay and in the East by Pierre Tendean Road.

In Banggai Regency, Central Sulawesi, in November, local people were arrested for opposing oil palm. The people there were worried about the environmental and social impacts. It's undeniable that nearly all the rural inhabitants of Banggai oppose oil palm plantations.

However the peasants' resistance was met with intimidation from the company, which ended up with the police making arrests. This was the fate which befell two farmers from Honbola village, Batui sub-district. Yoktan Kinding and Ham Kinding are currently being held at the Banggai police headquarters, after they were named as suspects and summoned.

The detention of these two farmers was based on a report of workers from PT Delta Subur Permai, a subsidiary of PT Kencana Agri. The two were charged with criminal damage to company assets.

The incident in question started on 16th November 2013, when residents blocked the road and proceeded to the company's offices. When they arrived, security guards were angry and intimidated the local people with machetes. These actions triggered the anger of the demonstrators from Honbola village. They started rioting, smashing the windows of an excavator and also damaging part of the offices.

Finally on 26th November 2013, the Banggai police station summoned four local people; Salmon, Kiki, Nandito and Keng, all charged with the same offences. Two days later, the police also issued a summons, bringing charges against another resident of Honbola village.

As the year ended, the conflicts only got more intense, On the morning of December 2nd, residents of North Polongbangkeng sub-district clashed with police mobile brigade. As a result, one resident, Yunus Daeng Empo, received a bullet in his right thigh.

The incident was triggered by PTPN XIV's plans to take over land which was still disputed, in a case still being heard by the supreme court. Hearing of this plan, dozens of residents turned up at the site which was being guarded by 10-20 police mobile brigade officers from the South Sumatra police headquarters. Tensions rose as PTPN XIV ignored the people's protests. Yunus Daeng Empo was shot in the leg as he tried to stop work on the land.

In Jambi, hundreds of members of the Indonesian Army and Police Mobile Brigade oversaw PT Asiatic Persada's eviction of the Bathin Sembilan indigenous people, known as the Suku Anak Dalam 113 in Padang Salak, Bungku village, Bajubang sub-district, Batanghari, on 7th December.

The eviction started at around 16.00. At that time most people were at work in their farms. Suddenly 1500 troops from the joint police, military and company forces attacked and destroyed their houses with excavators and sharp weapons such as machetes.

Another case, where indigenous people from the Semende Clan who are living in the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park are being cleared from their land, is still ongoing. After burning a traditional meeting-house, on 23rd December forest police arrested four indigenous residents of Nasal sub-district, Kaur Regency, Bengkulu province. They had fallen foul of a recent law to avoid and eliminate forest destruction.
Semende traditional meeting house, burned down by forest police. Photo AMAN Bengkulu 


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