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A questionable land bill

Tempo - September 27, 2019

Jakarta – The House of Representatives (DPR) should delay the ratification of the Land Bill at the end of this parliamentary session. It has many problems: not only it is at odds with the constitution, it's also contradicting other laws and not in line with the agrarian reform.

The motivation behind this new law, as stated in the considerations, is actually good. Among the aims is to provide legal certainty for land ownership, prevent an ecological crisis, overcome agrarian conflicts and reduce economic disparity. But these noble aims are not reflected in the wording of the bill.

For instance, the bill does not specify the mechanism for comprehensively resolving agrarian conflicts. The regulations simply shift the problem to land courts, which have limited authority to deal with complex land problems.

The Dutch principle of domein verklaring, which was rescinded by the Agrarian Law, has been revived. This means that land without proof of ownership cannot be proved will be claimed as state land. This concept, which was applied by Stamford Raffles during the period of British rule in Indonesia, is clearly at odds with the Constitution. Many individuals and traditional groups that do not have land certificates for various reasons will lose out.

This law also appears to take the side with those with large funds and corporations. For example, Article 26 provides impunity to companies who have acted in breach of the leasehold regulations. Corporations that should be punished for taking control over too much land will be given absolution.

Many of these leasehold locations clash with permits for mining, the plantation industry, natural forests or protected forests. Some of the companies owning these concessions are currently being investigated by the Corruption Eradication Committee (KPK). Absolution will remove the criminal and civil problems that might appear as a result of breaches of regulations.

The major impact of this absolution will be the disappearance of millions of hectares of forest, turned into oil palm plantations. And this bill will also give not provide satisfactory social and ecological protection. If this all happens, President Joko Widodo will be compared to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who allowed the clearing of the Amazon for plantations, industry and mining without considering the environmental impacts.

Another weakness is that this bill also gives considerable authority to the minister for agrarian affairs in managing state land. The minister will be responsible for matters ranging from leaseholds and building permits to use permits and management permits. This extensive authority comes without control or a proper oversight mechanism. This will open the opportunity for abuses.

The same is true for the rules about the establishment of land banks – special bodies tasked with managing and distributing land. Like the authority of the agrarian ministry, the extensive powers of this body are not balanced with a detailed mechanism for establishment and oversight. This bill hands over the regulation of this important manner matter to the government.

The DPR should reexamine the land bill, and should not be in a rush to finish the deliberations of it before the end of its session. Meanwhile, the government should not allow this problematic bill to be ratified by the DPR. President Jokowi together with the House needs to ensure that this bill properly regulates the use of land for the interests of public welfare in line with the mandate of the Constitution.

Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine: https://magz.tempo.co/read/35941/a-questionable-land-bill

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1253052/a-questionable-land-bill