Forest clearing for an oil palm plantation.
Local thugs, allegedly linked to an oil palm plantation company, attacked a group of villagers in Indonesia’s Gorontalo province on the island of Sulawesi last week, injuring eight people, including a woman and a small child.
The attack took place at the company’s log pond in Pohuwato district, where villagers have been staging an ongoing protest against the company. Zainudin Lasimpala, a victim of the attack, said a group of around 10 attackers drove up to the pond in black Strada vehicles, believed to be owned by PT Sawit Tiara Nusa, which holds a concession in the area.
“It happened at around 2:30 pm. They carried machetes and immediately began slashing and hitting [the protestors]. I was hit and beaten until I fell in the ditch,” he told Mongabay-Indonesia last Thursday.
Zainudin said that he was well acquainted with the attackers, who are known to be “preman” (local thugs) from the area. He said he also recognized the cars they were driving, which belong to PT Sawit Tiara Nusa and frequently pass through the area.
Anshar Akuba, head of the Insan Cita Pohuwato Foundation, an environmental organization, said that PT Jaya Anugerah Delima Mas was behind the attacks. The company was granted a timber harvesting permit (IPK) for the area by PT Sawit Tiara Nusa early last year.
“We very much hope that the police will provide protection and a sense of security for the residents [of Pohuwato] and will fully investigate the attack, which was masterminded by the license holding company”
The head of the Pohuwato Police crime unit, Adj. Comr. Zainal Hamzah, said they are still investigating the attack.
The incident is the latest in a series of conflicts related to land disputes in Indonesia. In February last year, five villagers were shot in Indonesia’s Riau Province on the island of Sumatra during a clash in a land dispute over an oil palm plantation in the area. Another bloody conflict occurred in July last year, when a child was shot dead and five people were injured in a clash between police and residents in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra over a land conflict linked to the Cinta Manis sugar plantation.