Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – More than a year after the passing of the Village Law, village administrations around the country remain in the dark over the legal status of the village-run businesses mandated by the law.
The Yogyakarta-based Institute for Research and Empowerment (IRE) blamed the Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Ministry for the lack of progress, accusing it of failing to provide clear and specific guidelines regarding the ownership and management of village assets operated for village-owned enterprises (BUMdes).
IRE researcher Sukasmanto, a specialist in management and social entrepreneurship, said that the new law and follow-up regulations from the ministry had created confusion among villagers and village administrators, who were uncertain if they legally owned assets such as rivers, water and mountains, or if they could only manage the assets.
"This could be dangerous because if villagers have no legal status over the assets that they manage, private entities or corporations can arbitrarily lay claim to the assets, leading to land conflicts," Sukasmanto said, adding that villagers often lacked knowledge of legal issues, preventing them claiming their rights.
Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Minister Marwan Jafar last year issued Ministerial Regulation No. 4/2015 on the establishment, management and dissolution of village-owned enterprises in an attempt to accelerate village development.
The regulation, however, does not touch on asset ownership, simply giving vague explanations on procedures to establish BUMdes, previously stipulated in Home Ministerial Regulation No. 39/2010 on BUMdes.
Marwan previously said that the regulation was part of a target to build 5,000 new BUMdes in five years, adding to the 11,945 BUMdes in 28 provinces. Aceh has the most, with 6,474. Last year, the ministry registered 2,000 new BUMdes, and plans to register another 3,000 this year.
Triharjono, a resident of Bleberan village in Gunung Kidul Regency, Yogyakarta, who is involved in the management of the Gunung Kidul tourism area that constitutes the village's BUMdes, said that the ministry had the right intention to empower villages, but had failed to provide clear guidelines.
"The ministerial regulation continues to confuse us. Most of the business units that we consider BUMdes in our village have no legal status, while the regulation says that a BUMdes should have one," Triharjono said.
Kenere village in East Flores regency, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), where BUMdes activities are dominated by three sectors – micro finance, production and distribution of agriculture commodities and services – are experiencing the same problem.
"The BUMdes really do boost livelihoods and add to our incomes, but we have no idea who owns our natural assets used as BUMdes. As such, it's difficult for us to feel free to manage and develop them," said Rubanus, a villager from Kenere.
Ahmad Erani Yustika, the development and empowerment of rural communities director general at the ministry, acknowledged that the ministry had failed to come up with clear definitions.
"We want the villagers to fully own the assets and manage the BUMdes. However, it needs a long discussion because of the major impacts the issues could have," Ahmad said. "We want to help villagers to run BUMdes properly and efficiently," he said.