Perhutani violence in Blora & Banten

Down to Earth No 55 November 2002

The events outlined below show that state-owned forestry company, Perhutani, remains an unreconstructed Suharto-era company, using violence and intimidation to deal with community opposition to its plans. They undermine the company's attempts to present itself to foreign buyers as a socially and environmentally progressive producer.

Perhutani has already run into trouble over certificates issued by the international eco-labelling organisation, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). In August 2001 Smartwood, an FSC-accredited certifier, suspended certificated for timber from four Perhutani plantations in Java (see DTE 51 for background). This year, the Indonesian forestry NGO LATIN pulled out of its relationship with Smartwood over problems with certification of Perhutani units. The latest violence and destruction in Blora and Banten will do nothing to improve Perhutani's record.


Torture death in Blora

A 40 year-old villager has died after being tortured by a Perhutani official. According to a local media report circulated by the NGO ARuPA, Wiji, from Jomblang village, (Jepon sub-district, Central Java) was arrested in October by Perhutani staff while on his way home from buying timber in Payaman - a village which lies in forest land in Jiken sub-district. After being tortured by a Perhutani KPH Cepu official for three hours, Wiji fell into a coma and suffered bleeding from his ear. He was taken to hospital but died a few days later. His family have demanded compensation for the hospital and medical fees and damages, and want the man responsible to be sacked.

In response, the Blora District Association of Village Heads issued a list of demands including an immediate end to violence and the torture of villagers in Blora; prosecution of those responsible; reform of forest management in Blora in order to benefit forest-dependent villagers, and the setting up of a working group to monitor actions taken by Perhutani to address conflicts over forests. (Source: Radar Bojonegoro 14/Oct/02; ARuPA 20/Oct/02 and others.)


Banten: victimisation of peasants continues

Perhutani staff, have carried out more arrests and house-burnings in Cibaliung village, Banten, in an attempt to evict farmers from land claimed by the company.

In a series of incidents in September and October 2002, the Perhutani men burned or destroyed at least 56 houses, destroyed crops and burned down a village meeting hall used by the farmers. The men also issued threats against farmers and their families who refused to stop planting crops on the land.

In late October, two Cibaliung farmers were arrested. One of them, Roji (45), was arrested by Perhutani staff and police, who fired shots in the air when other farmers tried to find out why he was being arrested. The second detainee, Durahman (85), was arrested by police. Roji had earlier been told by Perhutani staff, that he must plant teak on the land if he wanted to continue farming.

The burnings, arrests and threats are a continuation of Perhutani's campaign of violence and intimidation against the Cibaliung farmers. Last November, 47 farmers were rounded up in a pre-dawn raid on the village. Some were handcuffed and beaten during the raid, which involved armed members of Brimob and military. While in detention their homes and possessions were burned. The farmers were arrested because they had reoccupied their own land, which had been taken over by Perhutani in 1980 (see DTE 52 for more details).

Nine of these farmers, all but one of whom are members of the Banten Peasants' Union, remain in detention. They were charged with timber theft and forest destruction under the 1999 Forestry Law and in May this year were sentenced to between one year and one year and ten months. A further member of the union, Dasa (54), was arrested in June 2002.

The Banten land conflict was one of two cases investigated in April this year by an international fact-finding team from human rights organisations and farmers' movements from 6 countries (Germany, Japan, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and East-Timor) and members of peasant organisations from several provinces of Indonesia. The mission was carried out as part of the Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform, launched by FIAN International and La Via Campesina.

In February, the two organisations issued a call for concerned citizens to write to President Megawati, urging her to investigate the matter and ensure that the land be returned to the peasant farmers.

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(Source: SP-Banten 4/Jul/02, 10 & 29/Oct/02; Via Campesina/FIAN Hotline 0204HIDO 22/Feb/02)