EoF News (PEKANBARU) — Bengkalis district government set up a team to verify land dispute in Rupat Island this week in attempt to mediate conflict between PT Sumatera Riang Lestari (SRL), a timber supplier associated to Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) against Rupat Island (Pulau Rupat) residents.
The mediation took place on 28 August did not involve Bengkalis Legislative Council (DPRD) which had established a special committee to seek solution for the conflict in the 15 square-kilometer outer island which bordered to Malaysia territory in east off Sumatra island.
Sugianto, an activist of Serikat Tani Riau (Peasants Union of Riau chapter), told the press that the meeting was attended by 35 participants from Bengkalis district administration, the community’s representatives, PT SRL representatives and the Bengkalis district police who took such an initiative.
Sugianto regretted the absence of DPRD Speacial Committee as key part to resolve the two-year standing conflict.
“Verification team will not achieve their goal if PT SRL is still operating. This [operation] drives conflict to community,” said Sugianto as quoted as saying by Mongabay.co.id.
A speaker of Special Committee who is a legislator of Bengkalis district, Misliadi, said he was not informed on the meeting led by the Bengkalis police chief. “I have no idead of that meeting. There is no invitation from Bengkalis police to Pansus HTI [special committee to industrial timber plantation issues] at Bengkalis legislative council,” he said as quoted as saying by Mongabay.co.id
Misliadi appreciated the initiative made by the chief of Bengkalis police, Tony Ariadi Effendi. He said that based on temporary observation, there is community’s land that included in PT SRL’s concession and the group of farmers had been working a long time before the company operated in the small island.
Village head of Sukarejo Mesim, Kasirin, said that he feared that the people would conduct violent actions if the conflict cannot be managed well.
Hariansyah Usman, executive director of Walhi Riau, said that the problem would not be solved solely by the verification team due to “the community are not happy to see PT SRL exist in Rupat island, as the residents have been living there for a long time as it is their settlement area.