Mesuji: Tip of the Iceberg of Peasants Rights Violations in Indonesia

JAKARTA. At the end of 2011 one horrible news struck Indonesia. A total of 30 Mesuji farmers in Lampung and South Sumatra fell victims of violence due to conflicts with corporations. Violations have happened for a long time, but had remained hidden especially by local authorities.

According to Henry Saragih, Chairperson of the Indonesia Peasant Union (SPI), deaths of farmers are caused by the increase in agrarian conflicts all across Indonesia. SPI recorded 20 death (from 120 cases of agrarian conflicts) in 2011.

Meanwhile data from the National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM) said that out of 6,000 cases of violations occurring each year, 1,000 are committed by plantation companies. Many conflicts between companies and communities have happened since the New Order era.

Henry also lashed on Plantation Law No. 18/2004. “The Law provide a very strong preference to companies to grab land from the people. Some articles in it also provide space for companies to continue to criminalize farmers and indigenous people,”

In article 20, Companies are allowed to conduct security operations in coordination with security forces and the local communities. The article was later used to establish special security teams or better known as “Pam Swakarsa” (paramilitary) supported by the security forces who later became the main weapon of many plantation companies.

“Intimidation, forced evictions, torture and even actions that can lead to death is often perpetrated by the paramilitary,” said Henry.

” Mesuji case is only a tip of the iceberg of human rights violations that keep occurring in the country. There are still thousands of cases that have not surfaced,” added Henry.

In relation to the incident in Mesuji, SPI immediately called for:

  • A special committee in the parliament to be formed in order to investigate and conduct a fact finding mission;
  • Revoke the license of PT. Silva Inhutani and SWA as well as other plantation companies involved;
  • Investigate and prosecute members of the police and the other parties involved in Mesuji case;
  • Evaluate the role of police officers in plantations;
  • The abolition of Plantation Law No. 18/2004;
  • The establishment of an ad-hoc body on agrarian conflicts resolution in order to rapidly resolve existing agrarian conflicts;

Immediate implementation of the agrarian reform program promised by the current President administration through the National Agrarian Reform Program (PPAN) as mandated by the Basic Agrarian Law No. 5/1960.

Further contact:

Henry Saragih – Chairperson of Serikat Petani Indonesia ( +62811 655 668, email )

Agus Ruli Ardiansyah – Chair of Dept. of Political, Legal and Security Serikat Petani Indonesia ( +62878 2127 2339, email )