Konradus Epa, Jakarta – An indigenous community in Indonesia's East Kalimantan province has launched a campaign seeking more than US1 million in compensation from a palm oil company by blockading its plantation.
Members of the Dayak indigenous group from Long Bentuq in Kutai Timur district have sealed off the entrance and exit to the plantation owned by Subur Abadi Wana Agung, a subsidiary of Tri Putra Group, for more than a week now.
The protesters accuse the firm of damaging and polluting at least 4,000 hectares of tribal land and denying them access to water and food sources.
"The company must pay us US$1.1 million in compensation for what it has taken from us," the indigenous group said in a Feb. 5 statement.
The group said it has been battling against the firm for the last 13 years since members were evicted from their ancestral lands.
The Dayaks have also demanded the firm restore the forest and cultivate coconut, coffee and cocoa.
"We blocked the access so that it had to be responsible for environmental destruction," said Daud Lewing, one of the protest leaders.
Various civil groups, including Samarinda Archdiocese's Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission, the Dayak Custom Council in East Kalimantan and the Indigenous People Alliance for the Archipelago, have voiced support for the blockade.
Divine Word Brother Julius Sudir, chairman of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission, urged the company to clean up its act and reach a settlement with the Dayaks.
"Intimidation and riding roughshod over indigenous people are not the way to go about things," he told UCA News.
This company has seriously impacted local people as it is responsible for floods, dry wells and waste thrown into rivers, he said. The pollution is so bad people cannot use river water to bathe in, let alone drink.
Angga Rachmat Perdana, general manager of Subur Abadi Wana Agung, disputed claims the Dayaks were evicted.
"We did pay compensation before beginning operations, so we will not pay it again," he said, adding legal action would be taken if the Dayaks refuse to end their blockade.