Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – Dozens of indigenous peoples of Kampung Durian Selamak, Langkat regency, North Sumatra were injured in a clash with security forces on Tuesday after attempting to block state-owned plantation company PT Perkebunan Nusantara II (PTPN II) from occupying their customary land.
Those injured, mostly women, said they were hit by PTPN II security guards who were assisted by local police and Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel.
Nur'ainun, one of the injured, said local residents were trying to block PTPN II's heavy machinery from entering the land but were unable to do so because they were outnumbered.
"We tried to block them, but we weren't strong enough so we were stampeded by PTPN II forces, even my child was stepped on," Nur'ainun told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday while holding back tears due to the pain she felt from her injured leg.
Fauzi, another one of the injured, said he was beaten up by five people wearing PTPN II security guard and TNI uniforms when he tried to stop them from damaging a post set up by a local nongovernmental organization.
"They were very brutal," Fauzi told the Post. "I saw many indigenous peoples being chased around and hit with bricks, wood and fists."
Fauzi sustained injuries to his head, lips and forehead due to the beating.
Wina Khairina, a member of the Kampung Durian Selemak advocacy team, condemned the actions of the security forces and said the team had reported the incident to the police.
"We hope our report is processed immediately because many people have been victimized," Wina said, adding that she hoped the government would support the residents in this land dispute.
Langkat Police intelligence division head Adj. Comr. Suherman Siregar declined to comment on the incident when contacted by the Post.
Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) North Sumatra branch head Ansyurdin said the clash was a warning from PTPN II for the local residents to immediately vacate the 117-hectare area of land on Sept. 24.
"PTPN II offered to pay residents Rp 2 million [US$134] per hectare and Rp 20 million for each house, but the indigenous community rejected their offer," Ansyurdin said. "Maybe because they were frustrated, PTPN II threatened to destroy all the houses of the indigenous peoples of Kampung Durian Selemak."
Ansyurdin said 500 families currently lived in the village and had cultivated the land there for decades, planting vegetables and fruits such as oranges. He said each resident made around Rp 2.5 million per month from the crops.
"That income is very important for them to fulfill their daily needs," he said.
Amnesty International Indonesia deputy director Ary Hermawan also spoke out against the incident, saying it was the latest in a string of clashes between indigenous peoples and companies looking to evict them from their land.
"The government and security forces have to understand that land is a living resource that many indigenous communities use to fulfill their socioeconomic rights, including food, water, work and shelter," Ary said in a statement on Wednesday. "Many of these rights cannot be enjoyed without access to land."
When contacted by the Post about the clash, PTPN II lawyer Ali Yusran Gea declined to comment. "Sorry, I cannot comment on that issue," he told the Post on Tuesday night.
A day before the clash, PTPN II lawyer Sastra had announced that the company would seek to clear land in several locations, including Kampung Durian Selemak, to accelerate national sugar production.
"The clearing of all land owned by PTPN II must be conducted immediately in order to fulfill and support national sugar production that has been planned by the government and the PTPN II management," Sastra said on Monday. (kmt)