Palm Oil Taking Over Tribal Land, Dayaks Tell DPR

Selasa, 17 Januari 2012 | 07:43

BeRepresentatives of the Dayak indigenous group from Central Kalimantan on Monday said their ancestral land was being taken over by palm oil companies, becoming the latest group to air such grievances.

The group, from Seruyan district, met with a handful of legislators from the House of Representatives’ Commission III, which oversees legal affairs, to make their case.

Arkani, the head of the tribe, said the Dayak people were fast losing their land to palm oil plantations and that he and his people wanted the House to know what was happening in his district.

Budi Yardi, a member of the Seruyan legislative council who accompanied the Dayak representatives at the hearing, said the practice of land-grabbing had been occurring in the district since 1997, but had taken a turn for the worse in 2005.

To date, he said, more than 50 palm oil companies had laid claim to 500,000 hectares of disputed land there.

“There was no coordination whatsoever with the local people when local authorities issued permits for the plantations,” he said.

The Dayaks’ claim comes on the heels of allegations by villagers in Mesuji district, Lampung, about deadly attacks against them by security forces acting at the behest of palm oil companies there.

The Mesuji villagers’ case has been championed by a former military officer, Maj. Gen. (ret) Saurip Kadi, who also accompanied the Dayak representatives.

Syarifuddin Sudding, a Commission III member from the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura), said he would recommend that the government stop issuing plantation and mining permits until all such land disputes were settled.

“If we want to resolve the problem thoroughly, then the government must impose a moratorium on these land-grabbing permits,” he said.

The final decision, he said, could only be made during the next plenary meeting of the commission, which is scheduled for next week.

Eva Kusuma Sundari, a Commission III lawmaker from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), agreed that the chronic problem of land disputes required an immediate response and said legislators were trying to establish a House special committee to look into the issue.

She added that much of the support to date had come from the opposition PDI-P, with the ruling Democratic Party continuing to reject the idea.

Separately, Malik Haramain, a member of House Commission II, which oversees domestic affairs, said his commission had set up a working committee to deal with the cases. He added the committee would start calling in people to testify next week.

The committee will focus on examining five key cases, including Mesuji but not Seruyan. The other cases center on similar land disputes in North Sumatra, West Nusa Tenggara, Jambi and East Kalimantan.

Malik said the committee planned to summon officials from the local police and administrations, the Forestry Ministry and the Finance Ministry.

Land disputes were the number one factor in rights abuse reports filed with the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) last year, accounting for 738 of the 4,502 reports.