Agrarian Issues in North Sumatra and Looking at Opportunities and Challenges of the Perpres 86/2018

Data Visualisation of agrarian conflicts in North Sumatra (click image to see map information in detail)

The agrarian conflict in North Sumatra is one of the largest in Indonesia, KPA noted that throughout 2017, there were 59 agrarian conflicts which broke out in this multi-ethnic province. In addition, North Sumatra also has a long history of land conflicts in general. Wina Khairina (et al) wrote in her book “Burung-burung Kehilangan Sarang”, the flow of capital through the Onderneming Company had gripped East Sumatra (which is now North Sumatra) since the 19th century. The Kolonial Agrarian Law (Agrarische Wet) required legal certainty for land to later become the Onderneming-onderneming concession for 75 years. Van Volen Hoven wrote in his book “Orang Indonesia dan Tanahnya” that the system of land ownership of indigenous people was based on customary law. The granting of the concession then stirred up land rights or agrarian rights of indigenous people.

Substitution of the Japanese Fascism regime to the Indonesian independence did not yet require agrarian solutions. As the Japanese colonized, the entire Dutch culture changed completely to food crops. Then Indonesia’s independence became a momentum for the people including plantation workers to work on or manage plantation lands. This became a problem in the eyes of local peasants and plantation labors at that time. Pelzer “Toean Keboen dan Petani” states in his book that a lot of cultivator groups were then labeled as “Wild Residents”. During the years of 1950-1960, the central government and the government of North Sumatra tried to solve the agrarian conflict. In 1958, the nationalization of plantations was carried out, and then the UUPA (Undang-Undang Pokok Agraria) was declared in 1960.

The core of UUPA is “reforma agraria” (agrarian reform), conducting the redistribution of land to the people. In summary, the UUPA originating from customary law, has several main points. Firstly, replacing the colonial agrarian law, secondly taking over foreign-owned land and concessions in Indonesia (plantation nationalization), thirdly renewing injustice land distribution and its legality, fourthly renewing and planning land management and natural resources, and finally ending gradually the feudalistic land tenure system. UUPA was followed by several technical regulations related to the implementation of agrarian reform. However, due to political events in 1965, a “New Order” government emerged which obscured the essence of the UUPA. In 1967, the “New Order” government then made sectoral laws related to forestry and mining. This became the doorway for large-scale foreign investment.

The proclamation of UU sectoral law on forestry and mining has the same essence as the agraris wet law, both facilitating investment. Through UU the forestry sector claims 70% of Indonesia’s territory as a forest area. In the North Sumatra highlands such as Toba Samosir, Tapanuli Utara, and Humbang Hasundutan Regencies, Undang-undang Kehutanan (UU sectoral law on forestry) claimed Indigeneous and peasant land. In fact, many Huta, Nagori, and Kuta and other community settlements areas are included in state forest areas. Then in 1983, the Indonesian state distributed concessions to industrial plantation companies (HTI) PT. IIU (Inti Indorayon Utama) which has now changed its name to PT. TPL (Toba Pulp Lestari). For non-forest areas, the “New Order” government developed a national program in 1981, the National Agrarian Operations Project (PRONA), which was basically a land certification program.

The totalitarian regime of the New Order has shackled agrarian movements for 32 years. In 1998, the regime came to an end. In North Sumatra, the momentum of reform simultaneously became the momentum of the people to carry out cultivation in the areas of concessions and expired concessions. The demands for agrarian reform have re-emerged, accompanied by the strengthening of peasant or other civil society organizations, that have encouraged the implementation of agrarian reform.

In 2001, TAP / MPR No. IX of 2001 concerning Agrarian Reform and Natural Resources was declared. However, the core of this regulation has no purpose at all to change the unbalanced agrarian structure. Instead of implementing agrarian reform, the regulation actually facilitates agrarian and natural resources exploitation. The failure to implement agrarian reform also continued during the two periods of the administration of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), which helped to facilitate investment interests. Regarding the agrarian reform agenda, the second period of the SBY period did not have the will to change the inequality of the agrarian structure. Precisely emphasizing the People’s Service program for Land Certification (Larasita) which is a replica of the moving land service office which in practice is the same as the Prona program conducted by the “New Order” government. The SBY government had the megaproject in 2011. The megaproject namely was MP3EI (Master Plan for the Acceleration of Indonesian Economic Development). North Sumatera became the corridor number 1 of this project, With enourmous palm oil planting in Simalungun (Development of the Special Economic Zone Sei Mangkei). The replacement of the government to Jokowi-JK in 2014 later made its promise committing to the implementation of the Agrarian Reform agenda.

Agrarian Reform in the agenda of the Jokowi-JK government stated there will be 9 million hec-tares of land as the object of agrarian reform. The essence of the Agrarian Reform has emerged 4 years ago. But if compared to the previous administration era, the Jokowi-JK regime are using diction “reforma agraria”, even though in practice, the implementation of “reforma agraria” has not yet described “reforma agraria sejati” (genuine agrarian reform). “Reforma agraria sejati” is overhauling the structure of agrarian inequality and redistribute land to peo-ple who really need land. Jokowi-JK government only has land registration program. However, at the end of his tenure, the Jokowi-JK government issued Perpres 86/2018 concerning Agrarian Reform. Is this an efficient regulation for implementing Agrarian Reform, Is Perpres 86/2018 merely a political interest to gain popular support?

Looking at Opportunities and Challenges of Perpres 86/2018

The process of realizing “Reforma Agraria Sejati” is still ongoing. But, at the end of his tenure, the government has tried to answer agrarian issues in Indonesia. At the end of last September, President Joko Widodo had issued Perpres No. 86/2018. The regulation was one of President Jokowi’s latest policies at the end of his administration.

These regulations are still very new and crucial for agrarian issues in Indonesia, especially in North Sumatra. Elements of civil society in North Sumatra consisting of HaRI, Bakumsu, Walhi North Sumatra, Bitra Indonesia, North Sumatra SPI, Elsaka, KSPPM, AMAN Sumut, Perempuan AMAN, KontraS, etc. discussed the regulation to clarify its content. The discussion followed up on the results of previous discussions at the Institute of People and Forest (HaRI) on October 6th 2018. The discussion entitled “Mencermati Peluang dan Tantangan Reforma Agraria” was held on Monday, October 15th 2018 at Bakumsu Office, Jl. Setia Budi Pasar II Kompleks Ruko Griya Pertambangan No. A7 (Front of ESDM Office of North Sumatra). In addition, this meeting is an attempt by civil society to push the implementation forward for future realization of Agrarian Reform in North Sumatra.

Discussion of Perpres 86/2018 at Bakumsu Office, Civil Society Movement, Peasants Group, and Indigenous People was involved the Discussion

This discussion attended more than 50 people. Many farmer groups, indigenous communities and civil society groups was came to follow the discussion. Wina Khairina (HaRI) opened the way for discussion, and Sandrak Lugo (Walhi Sumut) contributed as moderator. The discussion involved several speakers from civil society organizations such as Manambus Pasaribu (Bakumsu), Saurlin Siagian (HaRI), Roni Septian Maulana (KPA), Swaldi (Bitra Indonesia) and government representatives, namely Tumpak Siregar (Representative of North Sumatra Forest Service) and Sarma Hutajulu (Commission A North Sumatra DPRD).

Roni Septian Maulana, advocacy department of the Konsorsium Pembaruan Agraria (KPA) said that coinciding with the 58th National Farming Day celebration and the opening of the Global Land Forum (GLF) 2018. The government finally passed Presidential Regulation No. 86 of 2018 concerning Agrarian Reform. This is a step forward to solve the problem of implementing “reforma agraria”. KPA declared about Perpres 86/2018: 1) Media to enlarge the RA move-ment. 2) Legal opportunities and breakthroughs to improve the implementation of RA. 3) As a reinforcement of the proposed subject and object of “reforma agraria” from the community. 4) Binding the commitment of the provincial and district governments to immediately implement “reforma agraria”. 5) Tools for accelerating LPRA (location of agrarian reform priority) are ac-cepted and followed by the regional government. 6) Drivers of resolving agrarian conflicts. The Presidential regulation can be used as an entry point for community participation or farmer unions in implementing RA both at the central and regional levels.

Saurlin Siagian, coordinator of the International Land Coalition (ILC) added that the RA Regulation was born from a long struggle. “Civil society groups in Jakarta also contributed to the implementation as an authority body that handled agrarian issues directly under the president. At that time it was named BORA (Badan Otoritas Reforma Agraria). After being persecuted continuously as the agrarian conflict escalated, the president issued Presidential Regulation 86 2018 on Agrarian Reform.”

This discussion also makes various analyzes, including legal analysis. Manambus Pasaribu, Director of Bakumsu dissected or analyzed legally and concluded several matters related to the opportunities and challenges of Presidential Regulation 868 2018.

1. Presence of Presidential Regulation No. 86 of 2018 is a legal basis that can be used in solving conflicts. This is a ‘good signal’ for resolving conflicts
2. Presidential Regulation No. 86/2018 as a political opportunity for the community in conflict over recognition, respect and protection of land tenure that has been carried out so far.
3. This Perpres brings hope. The ideal of equitable ownership of land as a perfect achievement to overcome the inequality that has occurred so far. This Perpres is an opportunity for the community / farmer to improve their welfare with land ownership. Farmers become subjects, no longer just objects. Because so far, farmers have only become objects of development and exploitation of the national development system.
4. This regulation progressively seeks to equalize the ownership (kepemilikan) of land rights and this is a step forward regarding rural development.
5. This regulation can advance the economy of rural communities and change the gap in the system of governance and ownership of land.

But according to him, the Perpres faces challenges and includes some weak points, namely:
1. The need to ensure land rights at the level of implementation and the need to strengthen capacities of conflict groups to access the Perpers 86/2018.
2. Alignment of Government apparatus (Tim Reforma Agraria dan Gugus Tugas).
3. The peasant community (or the other subject who can access land redistribution object in Perpres 86/2018) must understand the position and what to do to encourage the acceleration of “reforma agraria”so that, this Perpres can apply optimally to ensure land rights for the people.
4. There needs to be a political commitment from the regional government to resolve agrarian conflicts in their regions.
5. This regulation does not rule out the possibility of being misused by land mafia groups if civil society does not monitor it.
6 The regional government as part of the bureaucracy needs to transform itself into a development bureaucracy.
7. This regulation does not include indigenous peoples as the subject of land redistribution. Is the subject of a community group defined by indigenous peoples? This needs to be a material discussion for civil society.

Of course, experiences driving agrarian reform can have a learning mechanism. Swaldi, one of the activists who since the 1990s has been involved in the agrarian reform movement shared his experiences. “I have worked on this issue since the 90s, the important thing to resolving the agrarian conflict is conflict resolution scheme. This Regulation (Perpres 86/2018) does not fully explain how the government efforts to solve agrarian disputes and conflicts. When Perpres 86/2018 was promulgated at the end of Jokowi’s administration, I think this regulation and its implementation will be nonsense. This is based on my experience accompanying the problem of agrarian conflict so far. Now, only few people who actually care about this problem. So, the most important thing is to still strengthen our base (group), because the successful agrarian struggle determined by people’s power, “he concluded.

Many of the participants also responded to Presidential Regulation 86. Responses were related to issues of agrarian conflict in PTPN II. How and whether the Presidential Regulation 86 can solve PTPN II problems.

Arifin Saleh (Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago / AMAN) also commented, “I understand that what was stated before is a test. We certainly want the presence of the state di-rectly towards resolving agrarian conflicts. Mafias are getting ready, and we can not cooperate each others, we are late consolidating. We have no commitment as the people’s movement, such as selling land, has damaged the image of the people’s movement, while the mafia has consolidated and the government doesn’t care about agrarian problem.”

Perpres 86/2018 states that one of the objects of land redistribution is the release of forest areas. Tumpak Siregar as representative of the Dinas Kehutanan explained that the forest area in North Sumatra has a long history and has existed since the Dutch Colonial era. Dutch Colonial has made “Hutan Register”. Then Indonesian Government has changed “Hutan Register” to TGHK, then increasing forest area. In 2005, Government has changed TGHK to SK 44 then SK 579 in 2014, and SK 1076 in 2017 until now. In North Sumatra, there is an area of 207,869 ha of forest area included in the TORA indicative. The TORA indicative is in protection forest, limited production forest, production forest, conversion production forest, and non-forest area.

Sarma Hutajulu, member of the DPRD (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah/ Regional People’s Representative Assembly) North Sumatra, asserted “the Regional Goverment must be proac-tive, but, in fact, the district Government cannot work with the Dinas Kehutanan in Province. Bupati (The head of district) has not yet wanted to propose locations. If the provincial govern-ment and the city or district have no intention to solve agrarian conflict, it will be difficult, es-pecially to solve the of Ex-HGU PTPN II.”

At the end of the discussion, Wina Khairina conveyed conclusion. Firstly, the presence of Perpres 86/2018 was the momentum of civil society to push for agrarian reform in North Sumatra. Secondly, Civil society must be able to utilize and ensure subject and object administration and data access. And thirdly, Civil society in North Sumatra must advocate for provincial and district governments to ensure Civil society can involve and participate in the implementation of Perpres 86/2018. (RP) (DM)