According To A New Report, Land Conflicts In Indonesia Escalated. Are palm oil firms, the hungry ‘palm oil’ behind the spike in land grabbing in Indonesia?
According to a new report, land conflicts in Indonesia escalated, and palm oil and pulpwood companies benefited from aggressive sanctions.
A native tribe in Indonesia’s North Maluku province is under constant threat from illegal logging and the expansion of mining leases.
Conflicts over land erupted in Indonesia, when indigenous and rural communities tried to shut down pulp, palm oil and logging companies during the Covid-19 epidemic.
According to the Conservatory for Agrarian Reform (KPA), an NGO that advocates for increased activity despite the economic slowdown due to the government’s response.
And suggested that companies take advantage of the situation to claim that the disputed area was collecting Por rights to rural land.
In its year-end report, the KPA recorded land conflicts above 133 in the same period of 2019 between April and September 2020. The 2019 cases occurred during a strong economy, when GDP grew by 5.01 percent. percent.
While the 2020 cases were recorded during Indonesia’s first recession in two decades, when the economy declined 4.4 percent. KPA Secretary General Davey Karthika said that while the increase in the number of disputes is small.
It is highly unusual given that such cases tend to decline during a weak economy when companies stop their investment and expansion plans.
For all of 2020, the KPA recorded 249 land disputes involving 359 villages and spanning an area of 624,272 hectares (1.54 million acres). In 2008, during the last global recession, the KPA identified only 24 land conflicts in Indonesia, Dewey said.
The increase in violence is ironic as we are currently facing many crises due to the Covid-19 epidemic. Social unrest [measures] do not prevent violence and are not effective in preventing violent and oppressive actions on the ground.
Devi Karthika, Secretary General, Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA)
“We concluded that there was a massive land grab in the middle of the epidemic,” he said at the report’s launch. She said that companies took advantage of disruptive social measures imposed by the government.
Which restricted protests such as riots and restricted gatherings that are a key component of defending rural land rights.
This is especially evident in the area of plantations (mainly palm oil) and in the area of pulpwood and logging, commonly known as forestry, which has long been associated with deforestation and large-scale land grabbing in Indonesia.
The negative economic downturn of 200 percent [in 2020] would have no implications for these industries, particularly the plantation and forestry sectors, Dewey said. Because plantations and forestry].
Which have become a classic source of agricultural problems in Indonesia, were actually a significant increase [in conflict in 2020]. The plantation area is very hungry, he said.
And often collides with the settlements of the people.
The agricultural land and the plantations of the local population. Controversies have also been fatal. Eleven people died, 19 experienced some form of physical violence, and 134 faced criminal charges.
Almost all the Indians were farmers or workers. As for the increase in violence, it is ironic because we are currently facing a lot of crises due to the Covid-19 epidemic, Dewey said.
Social unrest [measures] do not prevent violence and are not effective in preventing violent and oppressive actions on the ground.
Trouble On The Farm
The center of rival claims with local communities who accuse them of occupying communal or ancestral territories, with local communities claiming land.
The plantation sector accounted for the majority of these disputes, 122 cases in 2020, with a KPA report or a 28 percent increase from the previous year.
In 101 of these cases, the companies were palm oil companies. The forestry sector accounted for 41 conflicts in 2020, up from 20 in 2019. Together, these two regions were at the center of 69 percent of all land conflicts in Indonesia in 2020.
“This drawing of agricultural conflicts reminds us once again that the large-scale plantation system and practices in Indonesia have many structural problems that are acute and systemic,” Dewey said.
This is evident from the fact that it is not only in 2020, but the plantation sector has contributed to the largest number of consecutive agricultural conflicts in the last five years.
He said plantation companies were able to seize land thanks to favorable laws and regulations.
Dewey noted that many plantation companies involved in the conflict have also partnered with major Indonesian and foreign groups as subsidiaries or suppliers or partners.
Affiliate groups mentioned in the KPA report are Sinar Mass Group, Salim Group, Surya Dumai Group, Darmax Agro Group, Sampurna Agro, Triputra, Gudang Garam and Texmaco from Indonesia.
Wilmer, First Resources and APRIL, based in Singapore; UK-based Unilever and main oil shale between the UK and the Netherlands; Kargil, the American commodity trading giant.
The South Korean-Indonesian joint venture Corindo; Garine Development of Hong Kong and Willie Wood Investments; And the Japanese trading house Marubeni.
Several similar companies have been involved in conflicts in the forestry sector, such as SAPRIL, Sinar Mas, Marubeni and Texmako, together with the Indonesian state forestry company Perum Pututani.
Dewey said: “The companies that committed the most violence with the escalation [of conflicts] in 2020 are the affiliates of the Sinar Mass Group, launched by its subsidiary PT Virarikya Shakti [WKS] in Zambi.”
Residents of Lubuk Mandarsa village in Jambi’s Sumitran province have been embroiled in a dispute since 2007 over more than 2,000 hectares (4,940 acres) of ancestral lands claimed by the WKS, growing acacias to make wood pulp and paper.
Villagers are alleged to have committed violations by the company in March last year. When WKS allegedly flew a drone to spray herbicides on villagers’ crops.
That same month, the company filed a police complaint against one of the villagers, accusing him and other locals of trespassing on company land.
At the same time, villagers said they faced threats from WKS representatives, along with two unidentified individuals, to hand over their land. In April 2020.
A soldier with WKS personnel fired two warning shots in the presence of a farmer. According to the KPA report, in September and December 2020, WKS razed residents’ fields.
Dewey said: We noticed that from the beginning of the epidemic from March to September, [WKS] often carried out repressive actions and land grabs against farmers in Zambi.
Therefore, the attention of the Ministry of Environment and Forests is necessary.
We have complained many times to the Ministry.
He said that the land conflict with the pulpwood industry is still plagued, there is an urgent need for improvement. The practices of these companies have led to land monopolies by large-scale corporations, Dewey said.
For example, Sinar Mass Group controls more than 26,000 hectares [64,200 acres] of land in Jambi alone, resulting in land grabbing, manipulation of permit sizes and violence.
Push The Infrastructure
Infrastructure is another factor in the high number of territorial disputes in the last year.
On 30 infrastructure-related dispute centers projects, which the government has promoted as of “national strategic importance,” including airports, toll roads, dams and ports.
This infrastructure, known as the “ubiquitous job creation law” because of the controversial deregulation list, is expected to be passed last year amid universal criticism from Parliament.
Activists say the law favors commercial interests and bypasses rural communities and indigenous peoples, among other things, extending government power to areas designated as special economic zones, tourist zones and industrial areas.
The bus law also limits the opportunities in an area to ask the public to approve infrastructure projects. “In the future, it is anticipated that [land disputes] will continue due to the omnipresent law,” Dewan said.
A “national strategic” project that hopes to provoke conflicts over land is the “Food Estates” program, through which the government intends to establish large-scale agricultural properties throughout the country to boost national food production.
Areas expected to become agricultural centers under this program include North Sumatra and South Sumatra provinces in the west of the country, central Kalimantan in the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, and Nusa Tenggara and Papua in the east .
Currently, the government is prioritizing the program in Central Kalimantan and North Sumatra, identifying 60,000 hectares (415,100 acres) of potential areas in the East and 60,000 hectares (148,200 acres) in North Sumatra.
In South Sumatra, the government plans to establish food properties on 235,351 hectares (581,500 acres) in nine districts and cities. In eastern Nusa Tenggara, an area of 5,000 hectares (12,300 acres) will be converted to an agricultural plantation in the central district of Sumba.
In Papua, the government is studying properties on 2 million hectares (4.94 million acres) in Merucay, Buwen Digoel and Mappi districts. Dewey said: The program is much faster in the process of acquiring land than the slowness of providing land for farmers.
The land of these farmers is small, while the consolidation is very fast for the purchase of land for food farms. Due to the provision of land on such a large scale, the food farm program has become a new threat in the form of large-scale land grabbing.
The activists have also expressed concern over President Joko Widodo’s decision to charge his Defense Minister Prabowo Sabianto for the program, and have raised the possibility of security in civil protests, disagreeing with such a move. Program.
Prabowo is a former Special Forces commander implicated in the disappearance of pro-democracy activists in the late 1990s. Dewey said:
It is ironic that the Food Wealth Program means that agricultural reform once again is not the main option to strengthen agriculture and the ability of Indonesian farmers to be the main food producers.
All that continues is food security through food corporations, forcing the army to participate in the clearing and acquisition of land.
‘You need strong leadership’ Sugeng Purno, Deputy Representative of the Coordinating Minister for Policy, Law and Human Rights, acknowledged that conflicts over land are an ongoing problem in Indonesia.
He said that 60 percent of the conflict reports submitted to the ministry are related to land. He said this shows that the agrarian struggle is still going on. But if we want to compare it with the 1998 figures.
We cannot do it because the background of the economic recession of 1998 and 2020 is very different. The Deputy Minister of Lands and Zoning, Surya Tjandra, attributed the conflicts to large disparities in land ownership between large companies and communities.
Maybe we haven’t touched on the issue of landlord access, he said. Why is it difficult to resolve conflicts? Because it requires very strong leadership. Surya said the administration would not be able to resolve all matters until the end of President Vidodo’s second term in 2024.
But that it could at least begin laying the groundwork for a dispute resolution mechanism. So our job is to prepare [the scheme] first, and the people who execute it will be the next ministers and deputy ministers.
A recurring theme in land conflicts in Indonesia is the role of the security forces, which essentially side with companies against communities.
Arif Rahman, director of Sociological Affairs at the National Police Intelligence Department, refuted the notion that the police were bidding for companies.
He said the police were only working to maintain security amid stressful conditions, and any police action against indigenous groups, small farmers, protesters and activists should not be seen as an attempt at “criminalization.”
The perception that the police are not fair depends on who they see, he said. In fact, the police are as neutral as we are with the law, but those who misbehave and feel unfair do not consider the police neutral.
Arif said: The police will be safe in everything that is legal [on the ground]. But, he said, Indonesians “do not have a good knowledge of the law and therefore they often make laws to maintain the existence of the law or not to favor the common people.”
Arif asked to remove the lack of clarity on land ownership. Dewey criticized this approach to maintaining property rights without considering other factors. If the perspective is based solely on the legitimacy of land ownership.
It is very dangerous because there are many farmers, villagers and farmers. Who have not been recognized [by the government] for decades, he said. It is this view that leads to a lot of evidence.
Because from the beginning, people’s lands are not being registered by the government. Dewey said that addressing conflicts over land in a meaningful way.
Some of which have raged for decades, would require more than a one-size-fits-all solution. A change is needed to see the rights of the people on their own land and correct the concept of state-owned land, he said.
And also to fix the way the government and security officials deal with agricultural conflicts on the ground.