Indonesia: Hundreds leave home in palm oil conflict | Land Portal

By: Severianus Endi
Date: August 2nd 2016
Source: The Jakarta Post

Hundreds of residents from several hamlets in West Kalimantan have fled their homes to avoid arrest over their alleged involvement in a conflict with an oil palm company operating plantations in the area.

The residents from the area around the village of Olak-Olak in Kubu district, Kubu Raya regency, have reportedly escaped to regions in and around Pontianak City.

In search of support, around 50 of them approached the West Kalimantan chapter of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in Pontianak on Monday to report the case. Some women were crying while carrying their children, who have not attended school for nearly a week.

Olak-Olak village leader Musri said the conflict had erupted on Feb. 24, when the community held a rally against the company, PT Sintang Raya, to proclaim their land rights in the concession areas. On July 9, the community protested again, this time by harvesting oil palms in the plantation area, reportedly under the eyes of the police.

“On July 23, the residents held a peaceful rally by occupying the company’s concession area and setting up camp there. Their goal was to draw the sympathy of the government to immediately resolve the dispute,” said Musri.

The rally turned violent, however, as they pushed and shoved with police. A police member fell to the ground, and residents were accused of assaulting him.

“The residents returned home after the incident, but on July 25, police raided our village and arrested four residents, treating them like terrorists,” said Musri.

Apparently fearing further arrests, villagers fled from their homes. Olak-Olak village public affairs head Sunarno estimated that almost 300 villagers had left as of Monday.

Meanwhile, PT Sintang Raya legal affairs head Harlen Sitorus called the oil palm harvest by residents theft and said the same perpetrators were indicated to have participated in the rally on July 23. The company filed reports with Mempawah Police over theft by residents alleged to have taken place on July 9, 10 and 17.

“Police have seized 62.8 tons of oil palm fruits as evidence,” said Harlen, adding that the rally on July 23 had been motivated by a number of NGOs the company regarded as provocateurs.

Harlen also mentioned a lawsuit filed by residents with the aim to nullify the company’s land use rights to the area of 11,130 hectares. After passing through the entire appeals process, the lawsuit ended with the Supreme Court ordering PT Sintang Raya to give up 5 hectares of its concession area for local residents.

“The area of land that we must release is only 5 hectares, not the whole concession area, as demanded by the residents,” said Harlen.

West Kalimantan Police chief spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Suhadi SW said police personnel had been at the scene of the rally to prevent conflict.

He denied that the officers had tried to arrest all residents involved in the rally.

“If there were unlawful actions there, police must provide security,” said Suhadi.

He also denied accusations that police were siding with the company.

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Photo source: Asian Development Bank via Flickr/Creative Commons (CC By-NC-ND 2.0). Photo: © Asian Development Bank

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