Legal confusion sparks nationwide land dispute

Tifa Asrianti, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 12/27/2011 10:35 PM
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Legal confusion surrounding the management of land resources has resulted in conflict between businesspeople and locals, which at times has ended bloodily, agrarian experts have said.

Arie Hutagalung, the University of Indonesia’s expert on agrarian affairs said that when deliberating the 2004 Law on Plantation, the 2009 Law on Mineral and Coal and the 1999 Forestry Law, the government and the House of Representatives had failed to make reference to the Agrarian Law of 1960.

“For instance, the Plantation Law opens the door for the local administration to give a permit for private companies to manage up to 100,000 hectares. The Agrarian Law meanwhile stipulates that it should be no more than 20,000 hectares,” she said.

Arie said that there was also a clash between the Agrarian Law and the three laws on the issue of rights for indigenous communities. “The Forestry Law does not recognize the rights of indigenous communities, something that has been clearly regulated by the Agrarian Law,” she said.

Iwan Nurdin, campaign deputy for the Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA) said that the three new laws were endorsed to secure the interests of the business community.

“Agrarian politics in those three laws is based on the interests of investors. Those laws close access to land for the local people,” he said.

He said that the Forestry Law was clear in its stipulation on what the central government and local administration could give as compensation to companies.

The same also went for both the Plantation Law and Mineral and Coal Law, he said.

“When the two laws allow for the forest to be given as a concession, they fail to take into account the presence of the local community that relies on the forest for their livelihood,” he said.

As a solution, Iwan said that instead of appointing big companies to manage the concessionary land, the government should start trusting local communities to manage them.

Data from the KPA said that there were 163 agrarian conflicts during 2011.

Two weeks before the Bima riot on Saturday, the public was shocked by the alleged mass killing in Mesuji, Lampung, allegedly over the encroachment of traditional land by private companies.

Of the 25 million hectares of productive forest concessions (HPH), more than 8 million hectares were under the industrial forest concession (HTI) scheme and 12 million hectares were given to palm oil companies.

Arie said that to prevent future conflicts, local administrations should show more accountability to the local community.

Private companies should also fulfill their obligations in finding new lands for local people whose land would be occupied before the companies started their operations.

In the mining sector, companies should also reclaim land, upon which they would run their operation.

She also said that it was not always a sad story for local communities.

She said that in Bengkulu, a private company only needed to make a verbal request to locals who would later give up their land for commercial projects.

“It depends on the political will of politicians and government officials. They should work together to carry out agrarian reform,” she said.

Iwan said that the government should refrain from issuing new agrarian-related regulations before conducting a thorough review on the four laws.

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