A letter to Perhutani...

Down to Earth No 60  February 2004

The following position statement by KAKKaPP was sent in January 2004 to the forestry authorities in Randublatung and the head of police in Blora, with copies to the head of Indonesia's Chief of Police, the chair of the National Commission for Human Rights, the chief executive of state forestry company Perhutani, all police chiefs and governors in Java and the district administrator and head of the district assembly for Blora.

It concerns human rights abuses by Perhutani against local people related to the use of forests. Many of the old teak and pine plantations on Java were established on local communities' lands many years ago and/or incorporate the vestiges of much older natural forest. Perhutani has, at best, only allowed local people limited access to these forests. At worst, communities have been excluded from these forests by forest guards and police - usually Indonesia's special forces police (Brimob).

The Indonesian government has refuted the human rights abuse allegations in a statement presented to DTE in February by a forestry department delegation visiting London. This states that Perhutani workers were acting in self-defence.


Position Statement
The Advocacy Coalition for the families of shootings and 
gross violence by Perum Perhutani (KAKKaPP)

"No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".
(Article 5 Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile".
(Article 9 Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."
(Article 25 Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

"In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence". 
(Article 1 Clause 2 International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights

28th June 1998: The winds of reform whistle through Randublatung, Blora (Central Java). The fall of Suharto has freed all the community's long repressed feelings of anger. Hundreds, even thousands, of people set off to fell trees in 'state forest land', completely ignoring the old rules: state forest belongs to Perhutani and no-one else is allowed to fell it. That day, and the months that followed, the forest belonged to the people. The community had claimed the forest and there was nothing the security forces could do to stop it. Some of them were even involved in this illegal logging.

Darsit, Rebo and Kasmin were three men in the crowd of thousands. Seeing the possibility of making a bit of extra money, they left their work weeding in the paddy fields and went off to the forest with an axe. They hadn't even felled one tree, when they were attacked by the mobile police brigade and forest guards who fired warning shots.

The gunfire frightened the men who ran helter-skelter out of the forest, pausing to catch their breath once they had nearly reached the paddy fields. They thought that the security forces would not pursue them as far as the village - outside the forest: the area which they had authority over. Suddenly they heard more shots. The three of them set off again running to the fields around the village of Mendenrejo. The gunfire followed them. Darsit was hit. The bullet went through the left side of his back and came out through his chest. Rebo was brought down by a shot in the guts. Kasmin was shot in the lower back.

All three men were shot from behind. Darsit died there and then. Rebo, 11 days later. Kasmin has never set foot in the forest again. Dawit's wife, Sawi was also Rebo and Kasmin's older sister. She lost two of her loved ones that day.

4th November 2000: That morning, Jani, a landless peasant from Cabak village in Blora district was walking to the fields carrying a hoe - not an axe. His path took him past state forest managed by Perhutani's Cepu unit. A tree had fallen across the road. As Jani stopped, some members of the mobile police brigade and forest guards suddenly started firing. Jani was surprised and ran as fast as he could. But he was stopped, not by any fallen tree, but by a bullet through his back that came out through his stomach. He fell down and died.

Dry season, 2002: Supadi and Pasir went off to hunt birds in the Randublatung teak plantation. Birds are an additional source of protein for farmers who cannot support themselves by cultivating plots under 0.25 hectares. Near the place where they had set their nets, some elephant grass was on fire. Some Perhutani forest guards were convinced that the fire was no accident - it must have been started by local people. But who and why?

The bird hunters Supadi and Pasir who were walking near the burning forest became the suspects and were judged guilty and sentenced on the spot. The evidence was that both the men had black hands - as if they'd been touching burnt wood. Their punishment was a savage beating by a group of Perhutani guards - a punishment not contained in any of their rules or regulations. The two thin men were unable to defend themselves.

Supadi and Pasir's hands were black because they coated their nets with the contents of batteries mixed with sap from a banana tree. The Perhutani guards did not know about this traditional method of camouflaging birding nets. They could, of course, have just asked the men. Their victims painfully limped home, battered, bruised and bleeding. About one month later, Pasir died.

13 November 2002: Widji, a farmer and wood trader, bought a block of wood in Payaman village and put it on his bike. It was a routine trip for him whenever he needed a bit of extra money as the harvest from his small plot of land was not enough to make ends meet. But, unknown to Widji, his family and friends who were cycling along with him, this was to be his last journey.

About halfway home, Widji was intercepted by a joint patrol of mobile police and forest guards from the Cepu forest unit. They fired warning shots. Widji's friends managed to escape. No-one knows what happened to Widji who was left alone in the middle of the forest near Payaman.

Back home, Widji's wife waited until nightfall with increasing anxiety. At 11pm, Ningwati decided to look for her husband in the forest. It was only the following morning that she found out Widji was in hospital in a coma. His face and body had been beaten so badly that Ningwati hardly recognised him. Blood was coming out of his ears. Widji never came out of the coma: he died 10 days later on 18th October 2002.

16th December 2003: Musri and four friends were cutting up a teak tree trunk in section 26 of the Sugih part of Randublatung forest unit. He was shot in the leg by a joint mobile police brigade and forest guard patrol in the state forest. The news that Musri had been shot spread fast and soon reached his family.

The family went to the hospital where they found Musri's body. He had bullet wounds in both calves and a dark lump on the back of his head. What caused Musri's death? Did he bleed to death from the gunshot wounds? Was it a blow to the back of his head? Had he fallen down a steep slope? Had he hit his head when he fell down after being shot?


...at least 12 people have met their end as a result of being shot or suffering violence at the hands of the security forces who patrol state forests which are all controlled by Perhutani… At least 36 people have been wounded....


The whole of Java 1998-2003: at least 12 people have met their end as a result of being shot or suffering violence at the hands of the security forces who patrol state forests which are all controlled by Perhutani. At least 36 people have been wounded. The victims' families have never been given satisfactory explanations.

What investigations have been carried out into these incidents? Is any legal action to be taken against those responsible for using such unacceptable and excessively violent actions? Is a fallen tree, a piece of timber tied to a bike, a nearby fire or a chopped up tree trunk sufficient evidence for employees to take the law into their own hands - including imposing the death sentence? Why are these simple farmers always accused of acting against the company? What sort of opposition by one or two people is so dangerous to a trained guard armed with a rifle? Is this the most effective means of protecting pieces of wood from state forests which fetch such high prices? Is it right to terrorise communities living near forests to stop them from doing anything to the forest?

And is it right to settle all these violent incidents with a contribution of Rp5-10 million (around US$1,000)? Is the price of life so cheap? Is the price of a life and the price of a teak log the same? And should state revenues be protected by a 'shoot to kill' policy?

To this day, not one of these acts of violence has been settled fairly.

Is it not enough that communities have been condemned for hundreds of years to being deprived of access to or profit from these teak plantations? From these forests which have been planted, tended, grown and harvested by Perhutani in their own villages? Is it not sufficient that local people's human rights are violated because they have been denied their social and economic rights for centuries? Because they have been denied access to these abundant natural resources since the Dutch colonial period? The rights to use the land around their own villages? Must they still be haunted by other human rights violations - the lack of freedom from torture, violence and inhumane treatment - when they have been forced to use a few trees to meet their needs, now their tiny plots of land are no longer enough to support them?

Why do we never hear of the shootings of big timber merchants, industrialists and exporters who connive with corrupt forestry officials and security forces? Why are the very people who greedily carry out most forest destruction so often above the law? Is there any justice in Indonesia? We are sick and tired of the arrogant attitude of forest security forces who think they can act outside the law!

We are sick and tired of the conceit of forest security forces who always think they can do whatever they like to villagers living around the forests!

We are sick and tired of seeing the violence and harsh treatment used by the forest security forces who spill the blood of the poor in the name of forest conservation!

We are sick and tired of seeing the perpetrators of violence and murder left untouched by the law. We are sick and tired of seeing big-time criminals - corrupt people who destroy forests - going around untouched by the law while the rural poor are sacrificed on the altar of forest conservation.


Violence is not the answer! It must stop!

We demand that the central and local governments & elected representatives, law enforcement agencies and Perhutani immediately press for a thorough investigation of all the above cases where violence, maltreatment and shootings have been used against forest communities.

We demand that the central and local governments and elected representatives, law enforcement agencies and Perhutani push for all those who carried out acts of violence, maltreatment and shootings against forest communities to be subjected to the due legal process.

We demand that the central and local governments & elected representatives, law enforcement agencies and Perhutani promise that acts of violence, maltreatment and shootings against forest communities do not occur in future.

The use of excessive violence, maltreatment and firearms against forest communities in the name of forest protection merely demonstrate that Perhutani is not capable of carrying out its forest conservation mandate. Such actions are evil and cowardly.

In its incompetence and stupidity, Perhutani hides behind firearms to terrorise the poor and keep them away from what it continues to maintain is its property.

It is not! The forests belong to the Indonesian people. And Perhutani is killing the 20 million or so rightful owners one by one quickly or slowly: by poverty or bullets.

The Advocacy Coalition for the Families of Shootings and Gross Violence by Perum Perhutani (KAKKaPP) consists of :

  • Pujiyono (Relative of Musri bin Santam, Blora) 
  • Karang Taruna Bayu Putra (Blora) 
  • Lembaga ARuPA (Yogyakarta) 
  • Forest Watch Indonesia Simpul Jawa (Yogyakarta)
  • WALHI Eksekutif Nasional (Jakarta) 
  • WALHI DIY (Yogyakarta) 
  • WALHI Riau (Pekanbaru) 
  • LAPPERA (Yogyakarta) 
  • KELOLA (Manado) 
  • KOMPLEET (Purwokerto) * ForSAM FH-Unair (Surabaya) 
  • Jaringan Advokasi Pengelolaan Sumberdaya Alam-JAPESDA (Gorontalo)
  • JKPM (Wonosobo) 
  • LBH-Semarang (Semarang)

(Translated from Indonesian by DTE)