Indonesia torn by conflicts over environment

Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 3 Jun 16;

From Acehnese fighting to protect the Leuser National Park to Papuans resisting the expansion of palm oil companies, thousands of people across the archipelago are waging an environmental war.

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment ( Walhi ) has recorded 773 cases of environmental activists being unfairly charged in the past five years, with 233 being assaulted and 28 murdered.

“We can see that assaults against activists and people who fight for their rights is still rampant,” Walhi executive director Nur “Yaya” Hidayati said.

According to her, there is a contradiction when it comes to how the government treats environmental activists and local people in environmental conflicts.

“On the one hand, the government opens up room for the public to be involved in decision making but on the other hand, repression, such as arrests, is increasing,” Yaya said.

Walhi’s finding is in line with a 2015 report by the Agrarian Reform Consortium ( KPA ) on violence in agrarian conflicts.

In 2015, there were 35 cases of companies committing violence, followed by the police with 21 cases, the military with 16 cases, other government institutions with 10 cases, gangs with eight cases and local communities with three cases, according to the report.

In the past companies generally hired civilian security forces ( Pamswakarsa ), however, nowadays police and thugs are more likely to be hired to suppress people’s demands and resistance.

“In most cases, companies are the ones who file complaints [in agrarian conflicts]. Therefore, police personnel will come to assault local people. The police should be aware of the background of the problem before taking the easy way and harassing local people,” Yaya said.

She said that Walhi and other activists had talked to the police to persuade them to refrain from assaulting local people.

“But it’s difficult to change the way law enforcement personnel perceive local people. In their minds, local people are rebellious. They believe that the right side [in a dispute] is the side with money,” said Yaya.

However, in many agrarian conflicts, local people are usually the ones who are victimized.

“In many places. There are overlaps between concessions and community land. Therefore, local people try to defend their lands, which they feel are being seized. That’s when conflicts happen,” Yaya said.

Therefore, she said, it was important that security personnel took a more humane approach and tried to understand the nature of conflicts.

“It’s hard for local people because they usually don’t have legal ownership of their land, such as land permits. They have lived there for generations but their rights aren’t recognized by the government. And then the government issues permits to companies without considering the people who live there,” said Yaya.

According to Walhi spokeswoman Khalisah Khalid, companies have recently begun hiring members of mass organizations to do their dirty work, according to Walhi spokeswoman Khalisah Khalid.

“For example, in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, companies hire members of multiple organizations, instead of just one like they did in the past,” she said.

To change the mind-set of law enforcement bodies, which often side against local people, it is now necessary for President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to intervene, according to Yaya.

“The President has to be consistent in his commitment. He said that development had to start from the peripheral areas, but he neglects the land rights of people,” she said.

“On one hand, the government promised to designate 12.7 million hectares of customary forest as well as 9 million hectares of land for agrarian reform. But on the other hand, he lets the state apparatus assault local people.”

No comments:

Post a Comment