Down to Earth No. 66, August 2005

New land regulation will inflict misery

Protests have greeted a new regulation on land issued by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in May.

The new Presidential Regulation on Land Procurement for Public Development, (Perpres No 36/2005) permits the compulsory acquisition of land for the public good. It lists some 21 types of public development, including toll roads and telephone networks. The regulation has been judged more repressive than Suharto-era legislation, which generated violent evictions and repressive measures by the security forces in countless land disputes across Indonesia.

A coalition of Indonesian civil society organisations, including environmental group WALHI and indigenous peoples organisation AMAN, have condemned the regulation (see statement below). They have mounted a judicial review at the Constitutional Court in an attempt to get the regulation withdrawn.

A parliamentary commission has also attacked Perpres 36/2005, calling for it to be reviewed, while the national human rights commission has written to the President calling for the regulation to be cancelled because of its potential to violate human rights. Indonesia's recently established Regional Representatives Council (DPD - see DTE 61) has also expressed concern. One DPD member, Laode Ida from Southeast Sulawesi, has pointed to evictions in Korumba, Kendari, where the regulation has already been used.

There have been street protests too. In June, more than a thousand members of the Urban Poor Consortium marched against evictions from slum areas in Jakarta and demanded that the government revoke Perpres 36/2005.

In West Kalimantan, students protested against the regulation during the President's visit in June. Indigenous Dayak communities meeting in Niut (see separate article ) demanded the regulation's withdrawal, because "it threatens our legal ownership over land and resources inherited from our ancestors."

NGO statement

The SBY-Kalla government reveals its true nature: putting the interests of capital before those of the people?

On May 3rd 2005, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed Presidential Regulation No 36/2005. This regulation replaces an earlier problematic piece of legislation (Keppres No 55/1993) on Land Procurement for Public Developments. The content of this new regulation, signed by SBY, is even more severe than President Suharto's edict.

Firstly, the new regulation is more repressive than the old one. This is obvious from the following stipulations:

Suharto's regulation only listed two methods of land procurement for public developments: relinquishing rights and handing over rights. The new regulation adds another: the president removing land rights.

Suharto's regulation clearly states that public developments are ventures "which are carried out and subsequently owned by the government and which are not profit-orientated". However, the new regulation does not state the limits or nature of what is meant by the public good.

Suharto's regulation only contained 14 types of public development. The new regulation adds another 7, making a total of 21. Yet some of the developments included in both regulations have been carried out completely by the private sector, for example the construction of toll roads and provision of telephone networks.

Suharto's regulation clearly laid down that there should be a Land Procurement Panel. The new regulation makes no mention of such a body. Although the old regulation did not specify that the panel must be made up of the military, it was precisely this body which spearheaded land release. The loose wording of the new regulation presents the very real possibility that the security forces (army and police) will once again be brought into force through land procurement.

Secondly, it seems to us that the 2005 Presidential Regulation is obviously intended to facilitate the outcomes of the 2005 Infrastructure Summit, where the Indonesian government invited foreign investors to find financing to make up the funding shortfall for infrastructure development of Rp1,305 trillion (over US$130bn). The co-ordinating minister for economics said that Rp810 trillion (over $81bn) would be sought from the private sector - with Rp90 trillion (over $9bn) from donor nations and international financial institutions and Rp750 trillion (over $75bn) from overseas and domestic private investors. It should be noted that, as an initial phase, the Indonesian government has already offered 91 projects worth Rp202.5 trillion (over $20bn) to investors.

In a follow-up step to last January's Infrastructure Summit, the government has promised to issue 14 regulations and policy decisions to support investment and convince potential overseas business partners to invest in Indonesia. Presidential Regulation No 36/2005 demonstrates the government's commitment to domestic and foreign investors. This new regulation does nothing less than provide a guarantee to investors/financiers that they will definitely get the land they want to carry out the projects that will bring them profits.

Thirdly, we should learn from the past. The previous regulation, with its less severe measures, resulted in 1,148 land dispute cases where people were forced to release their land. We promise you that the new presidential regulation signed by SBY this year will produce many more cases of forced eviction.

Fourthly, based on the above, we consider that this presidential regulation is wrongly based on a paradigm that prioritises the use of repressive, authoritarian powers to protect investors and that employs a development model of economic liberalism. The current system of governance has become a major tool for use by investors/financiers.

Finally, we are going to press for a judicial review in the Supreme Court on Presidential Regulation No 35/2005 as soon as possible as a means of using the law to reject legislation which inflicts misery on the people.

(Statement signed by Yayasan LBH Indonesia; Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia; Jakarta Post KPA (Konsorsium Pembaruan Agraria; ELSAM; Pokja PSDA; Sekreteriat Bina Desa; May 9/2005. Slightly abridged translation by DTE. Additional source: Sepiri Mupakot Niut 29/May/05, 6/Jun/05; Sinar Harapan 2/Jul/05).

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