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Academics urge Indonesian President to end agrarian conflict

Rosewood logging in Belize. Photo by: Will Maheia.
The Indonesian Forum for Agrarian Justice was formed to address agrarian and natural resource conflict. Photo: Sapariah Saturi.

Academics have called on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to resolve agrarian conflict in the country. Around 130 academics and researchers from around the country presented a petition to the president last Thursday, urging him to take action and outlining steps he should take to address the problem at its roots.

The group put forward 11 proposals for the president, and announced the formation of the Indonesian Forum for Agrarian Justice, a coalition of Indonesian academics and other experts who will continue to push for an end to agrarian conflict.

Recommendations included the establishment of an independent organization to resolve past and current conflicts and a review of all laws related to land and natural resources. The process for issuing land permits, they said, must also be revised, as the current system is riddled with corruption and does not recognize the rights of indigenous people and local communities. The forum urged the president to issue a moratorium on issuing new permits while the system is under review.

“This is already an extraordinary conflict, which will require extraordinary measures to solve it. It is the president who must resolve this,” said Myrna Safitri, one of the petition organizers and head of the Epistema Institute, a legal and environmental think tank in Jakarta.

According to data from Indonesia’s National Land Agency (BPN), there are around 8,000 conflicts in the country that have yet to be resolved. NGOs have also been documenting incidents of agrarian conflict. The Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA) has discovered around 1,700 agrarian conflict cases. Sawit Watch, a palm oil industry watchdog, reported around 660 conflicts involving palm oil companies alone. And the Coalition for Fishery Justice (Kiara) reported that around 60,000 fishermen were affected by conflicts in the fisheries sector last year.

Violent responses by the military and police have escalated the problem, the forum said. The academics urged the president to order police and military leaders to investigate violence by security forces against civilians and NGO activists and to free activists, farmers, fishermen, and members of indigenous communities who have been arrested and detained by the police over land conflicts.

Last year, around 156 farmers were detained without due process, 55 people were injured, 25 farmers were shot, and 3 people were killed in clashes linked to agrarian conflict.

Source: Mongabay-Indonesia ( Akademisi Bikin Petisi ke Presiden Serukan Penyelesaian Konflik Agraria)

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