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PT PSA Oil Palm plantation conflict, Sumatra, Indonesia


Description

Oil palm is today the fastest growing monoculture in the tropics. Indonesia is the largest producer. The country has witnessed a massive conversion of customary (adat) land to oil palm (and fast-wood) plantations. Between 1967 and 2007, oil palm monocultures have increased about 50 times and the government is planning to expand the area under plantation.

In 2004, thousands of villagers of Tambusai, Rokan Hulu District, Riau province, Sumatra took part in a demonstration to protest about PT PSA’s continued occupation of customary land, seemingly with the tacit acceptance of the district authorities. During the demonstration, a group of militia members, allegedly armed by and working for the company, attacked protesters. Two villagers were cut and stabbed to death by private militias, armed with spears, arrows and swords. Another five men were wounded and one of them died of his wounds several months later. Local police allegedly looked on while the attacks took place.

The case was rooted in forced land appropriation which began in 1995 when PT PSA obtained a land use permit over 10 600 ha of land from the Minister of Agrarian Affairs/Head of National Land Agency. An investigation by a government team in 2001 into PT PSA’s plantations found that the company was developing oil palm plantations without any formal license over a further area of 2900 ha [2]. The team recommended the return of this land to the villagers, and asked for smallholdings to be developed. District authorities decided to stop the land from being used either by the villagers or the company from 2002 onwards. However, PT PSA continued to harvest the plantations on this land, causing resentment amongst villagers. In 2005, the Farmers Association for Justice rejected a company-government offer of a smaller area of land on a neighbouring village’s land since they believed this would cause further conflict between communities. In May 2005 another protest was reported at the Governor's house. When demonstrators were turned away they broke in and damaged property. [1] They have continued to demand that those responsible for the deaths of the three men be brought to justice.

Basic Data

NamePT PSA Oil Palm plantation conflict, Sumatra, Indonesia
CountryIndonesia
ProvinceSumatra
SiteVillage of Tambusai, Rokan Hulu District, Riau province
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Specific CommoditiesPalm oil

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsPT PSA obtained a land use permit over 10,600 ha of land from the Minister of Agrarian Affairs/Head of National Land Agency. An investigation by a government team in 2001 into PT PSA’s plantations found that the company was developing oil palm plantations without any formal licence over a further area of 2900 ha.
Project Area (in hectares)10,600 ha concession + 2,900 further being used without permission
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date1995
Company Names or State EnterprisesPT Panca Surya Agrindo (PT PSA) from Indonesia
PT Fangiono Perkasa Sejati from Indonesia
Surya Dumai Group from Indonesia
Relevant government actorsMinister of Agrarian Affairs/Head of National Land Agency

Governor of Riau Rusli Zainal
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersFarmers Association for Justice (KAPUK)

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Landless peasants
Forms of MobilizationStreet protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Refusal of compensation
in 2005 they forced their way into the office of the Governor of Rusli Zainal [1]

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseDeaths
Repression
Violent targeting of activists
No new extension.
Irfan Rangkuti, aged 41, and Amran Lubis, aged 35, both of Tambusai Timur village, were cut and
stabbed to death by private militias on 24 November 2004. 5 other demonstrators were injured, one of whom, Usman Siregar, died of his wounds several months later [2]
Development of AlternativesAgrarian reform.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Nothing has been solved, but at least there is no new extension of the plantation. In 2005, the Farmers Association for Justice rejected a company-government offer of a smaller area of land on a neighbouring village. They have continued to demand that those responsible for the deaths of the 3 men be brought to justice.

Sources and Materials

References

Julien-François Gerber. A political ecology of industrial tree plantations with special reference to Cameroon and Ecuador. Ph.D. Thesis
https://www.educacion.gob.es/teseo/imprimirFicheroTesis.do?fichero=15965

[2] Marti, S., 2008. Losing ground – the human rights impacts of oil palm plantation expansion in Indonesia. Friends of the Earth, London; SawitWatch, Bogor.
http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/palmed_off.pdf

Links

[1] Article about a demonstration at the Governor's house: Wednesday, May 4, 2005 (In Indonesian)
http://news.liputan6.com/read/100808/demonstran-menjebol-pagar-rumah-gubernur-riau

Meta Information

ContributorJ.-F. Gerber
Last update03/05/2014