Three dead in Lampung shrimp violence

Down to Earth No. 45, May 2000

One farmer and two policemen were killed when violence broke out at a shrimp farm operated by PT Dipasena Citra Darmaja in the southern Sumatran province of Lampung

The three people were killed on March 1st when the owner of PT Dipasena Citra Darmaja (DCD) visited the factory and got into an argument with shrimp farmers who work for the company under the exploitative nucleus estate/small-holder (PIR) system.* One of his bodyguards shot a farmer in the head and a riot broke out in which two bodyguards were killed. They turned out to be plain-clothes members of the notorious police mobile brigade. Following the riot, thousands of farmers were evicted and several were imprisoned. Local people condemned the army for the way the situation had been handled.

Protest actions against the company started in October last year when around 3,000 PIR farmers camped outside the Lampung provincial parliament. They were protesting against the unfair terms of their contracts with the company and the way the company's debts were being offloaded onto the workforce. The governor and local parliament promised action on their grievances but, upon returning to their villages, about 200 farmers were barred from their jobs. They were intimidated, their children expelled from the farm school and their houses burned down. Protests were lodged at the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) in Jakarta and once again action was promised. In February this year, about 170 farmers travelled to protest at the national parliament in Jakarta and the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency which now controls the company. The Agency agreed to provide information on the farmers' progress in paying back the debts they owe under the PIR credit scheme and promised to issue ownership certificates for their shrimp ponds. The date set for their delivery was March 5th, just four days after the violence at the site.

PT Dipasena Citra Darmaja is the sister company of PT Wahyuni Mandira which has a large shrimp farm in neighbouring South Sumatra province. This operation has been the scene of mass protests too, for very similar reasons, which led to the imprisonment of farmers leaders last year. (see DTE 40:14). Most of these detainees have now been released, but six remain, serving sentences of 4 or five years.

PT WM has been expanding the extent of its shrimp farm, most recently bringing it into a land dispute with around a hundred small-scale shrimp farmers.



There are strong similarities between the violent incidents at PT WM and PT DCD's farms: in both cases violence occurred while the farmers were waiting for a negotiated solution. According to a report by environmental organisation WALHI, there is "some indication that the company deliberately planned the confrontations in order to blame the farmers for violence and arrest their leaders...".

Both companies are in the top three shrimp farms operating under the PIR system, both are owned by the Gajah Tunggal Group and both have been in the hands of the Bank Restructuring Agency since Gajah Tunggal decided to use the shrimp farming assets as collateral for its collapsed BDNI banking operation. The farms cover 16,500 hectares in South Sumatra (PT WM) and 30,000 ha (6,000 active) in Lampung (PT DCD).


Shrimp farmers visit Europe

A shrimp farmer affected by PT WM's operations is visiting Europe (including the UK) in May, along with shrimp farmers from Bangladesh and the Philippines, to publicise the negative impacts of large-scale shrimp farms.

Despite the human rights violations associated with PIR projects and the environmental impacts of intensive aquaculture, the enthusiasm for shrimp farming as a revenue earner persists in some parts of the government at least. The Research and Technology Board (BPPT) estimates that the potential for shrimp aquaculture is 830,000 hectares - only 300,000 ha have been established so far. It said that half a million hectares of shrimp farms at 4 tonnes/ha and US$ 10 per kg. would bring in more than US$ 15 billion.

(BPPT's Dr Indroyono Soesilo in Republika 10/Nov/99; 29/Feb/00. Other sources: WALHI, WALHI Sumsel, SKEPHI, reports and pers. com.)

*This combines a 'nucleus' farm and processing facility run by the operating company with a 'plasma' area of small-holder farms tied in to the project. The credit terms for small-holders - who are often transmigrants from other parts of Indonesia - are notoriously unfair.