Pulpwood company accused of committing abuse

EoF News / 11 June 2009

PEKANBARU (EoF News)—An independent fact-finding team set up by Riau community group, local students and non-governmental organizations urged the police Monday to probe thoroughly bloody incident between pulpwood company PT Sumatera Silva Lestari and Tangun villagers which killed three residents.

Riau Pos daily reported Tuesday (9/6/2009) that FKPMR (Riau Community Leaders Forum) had sought information and testimonies from Tangun villagers in Rokan Hulu district where incident erupted two weeks ago.

The team concluded that there is allegedly human rights abuse conducted by the company’s side which assigned security team to attack the villagers, Riau Pos reported.

At the meeting between FKPMR and Rokan Hulu police, Al-Azhar, the spokesperson, told that the death of three villagers is allegedly human rights abuse that committed by PT Sumatera Silva Lestari (SSL). The firm is an associated company to Asian Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL).

Al-Azhar said that the Tangun villagers only came to the company’s office to fight their rights for the land captured by PT SSL. The land takeover had brought about the locals losing their livelihoods and land, he added.

A 1,000-hectare land dispute between the community of Bangun Purba village, Rambah Hilir sub-district against security guards and staff of PT SSL occurred on 29 May 2009.

The escalation of conflict happened following the capture of two residents of Bangun Purba village by the company. At least 150 villagers then flocked to the company office demanding the release of the two men.

"During the clash, we also heard gunfire. We have no idea surely where the gunfire came from, Saud Silalahi, a resident said as quoted by Detik.com website (4/6/2009).

Meanwhile, Afrizon, manager of PT SSL, said that the villagers who first attacked the security personnel of company. He denied that the company side killing the three villagers and said that they died due to drowned on the canal following the dispersal by the police.

The fact-finding team also urged the police to detain the mastermind of assault to prevent the culprits fleeing and eliminating the evidences, Saturiau.com website reported Monday (8/6/2009).

“We urge the law enforcers to respond this matter immediately in a proportional way. Please do not detain and take action against villagers only, but name the company’s side suspects.

“The reason is there is allegedly human rights abuse and well-ordered assault occurred,” said Hariansyah Kaka Usman, Director Executive of Walhi Riau, an environmental NGO network, on Monday (8/6/2009) as quoted by Saturiau.

Rokan Hulu resort police chief Hersadwi Rusdiyono insisted that his organization did not side with the company as accused by NGOs. The police set up a special team to conduct preventive action, he said. Seven villagers whom detained had been released on 5 June, the chief added.