Governor: APP, community stay away from dispute land

EoF News / 22 January 2008

Pekanbaru (EoF News)— Jambi Province Government determined a “status quo” to land situated in Bukit Tigapuluh forest landscape, Jambi, where Asia Pulp & Paper’s (APP) subsidiary PT Wira Karya Sakti (WKS) has conflicted with villagers of Lubuk Mandrasah of Tebo district in managing the 26,500 hectare area.

Kompas daily reported Tuesday (22/1/2007) that in an attempt to mediate the conflict between WKS and villagers, Governor Zulkifli Nurdin, invited and held talks with each disputing representative side on Monday.

WKS claimed the land planted by palm oil by community is its pulpwood plantation concession, where the community they have rights to manage the area as they have done for two years.

The conflict tense caused mayhem when the villagers burned several excavators belong to the APP’s subsidiary in the end of last year. Police have detained three alleged villagers being involved in the attack.

The villagers angrily reacted to the company who previously cleared their oil palm plantation that had been planted for two years, Jambi Ekpress daily reported last week (15/1/2008).  

“In period of status quo, I ask, either the company or the community, for not managing the land, except those [farmers] with paddy fields. I also hope there is no intimidation happens,” said Governor Zulkifli as quoted by Kompas daily as saying.

Speaker of Jambi Legislative Council’s (DPRD) Commission I, who attended the talks said that rallies against WKS by community takes place everyday. He believed that there is occupation and intimidation committed by WKS, the APP’s associated company, against the community (Kompas, 22/1/2008)

Operation conducted by the APP’s main timber supplier in Jambi, WKS, was not only complained by locals in Bukit Tigapuluh landscape, but also by endangered Orang Rimba, also called Suku Anak Dalam.  

The conversion from natural forest to pulpwood plantation would damage the ecology and biodiversity as well as threaten surviving Orang Rimba indigenous people, said Sugianto, vice speaker of Tebo District Legislative Council, Jambi Ekspres daily reported last week (16/1/2007).

“WKS license should be revised, we from PDIP faction have submitted the letter [to propose it] to Minister of Forestry, DPR [House of Representatives], and the Governor of Jambi,” Sugianto said.

Governor Zulkifli last week said that based on license issued by the Minister of Forestry, WKS is the holder of the concession in Bukit Tigapuluh forest, but due to the land has been managed by villager farmers for over two years, the ownership should be to the community.

“But the clear point is, if that [land] belongs to community, therefore it should not be bothered, yet if the plantation newly conducted by irresponsible people, moreover they are not native there, this is we don’t want to be,” the governor said last week (Jambi Ekspress, 15/1/2008).

Some local legislative councilors urged the government to accomplish land reform in the province in a bid to avoid more conflicts.

“It might happen in the field a company utilizing the land beyond the license it is granted, or otherwise it only manage the land less than it deserves,” said Sjafril Alamsjah, a Jambi DPRD legislator.

The daily said that WKS in 2004 received pulpwood plantation license (HTI) for 293,912 ha by the Minister of Forestry Decree --SK Menhut Nomor 346/Menhut-II/ 2004. The land is stretched over in five districts in the province where 20,453 ha of it is located in Tebo district where indigenous Orang Rimba are forced to leave the forests they live for generations.