Activists call for completion of indigenous rights bill

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan

Indigenous rights activists have called on the government to immediately complete the drafting of a long-awaited indigenous people’s rights protection (PPHMA) bill to prevent social conflict from arising as a result of disputes over land.

The chairman of the Alliance of Indigenous People (AMAN) in North Sumatra, Harun Nuh, said land disputes that claimed many lives were rampant in the province because there had not been any legal certainty for indigenous people about their rights over territory.

“Land disputes have been going on for so long and are still happening every day now. Often, the dispute ends with a clash between the indigenous people and the security officers of a company that is sometimes backed up by the authorities or thugs,” Harun said.

“If no serious measure is taken, the dispute can lead to a serious social conflict,” he said.

The government is currently revising the PPHMA bill, taking it over from the House of Representative after the House did not list the bill as national legislation program (Prolegnas) this year, despite it already having been included in the 2015 to 2019 program.

The current PPHMA bill will cover, among other things, the definition of an indigenous community, its rights, a much-needed procedure to settle customary land disputes and a task force that will handle the issues of indigenous people at the central and regional levels.

The Constitutional Court ruled in 2013 for the annulment of state ownership of customary forests.

AMAN deputy secretary-general Arifin Saleh said the absence of regulations that validated the borders of customary lands had pushed out indigenous people from their own lands, provoking disputes.

“The clashes that take place between corporations and indigenous communities happen because there was no concrete action from the government to determine customary lands,” he said.

The head of the Lumban Sitorus Tribal Community (PMALT), Sanma Sitorus, said they had reported a recent seizure of customary land to the Provincial Legislative Council, but no measures had yet been taken.

A 42-hectare plot of land belonging to the Lumban Sitorus clan had been lost to a pulp company, although the land had been passed on within the clan for 15 generations, Sanma said.

Sanma said people had been protesting about land grabs frequently, but instead of finding solutions, they were intimidated by those who supported the companies.

Harun also gave similar examples of land disputes that had not been solved for many years in North Sumatra, including a dispute between a traditional community in Deli Serdang regency and PT Perkebunan Nusantara II in 1979 and a dispute over 4,100 hectares of land in Pakkat subdistrict in Dolok Sanggul between a pulp company and the indigenous community.

SUMBER : The Jakarta Post