Jakarta – The police have been cited as the principle actor in incidents of violence when land conflicts have broken out throughout 2019. These findings were based on an annual report by the Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA). Some 279 agrarian conflicts occurred in 2019, although this number is lower than last year which saw 410 cases.
Although the number of cases declined in 2019 compared with last year, KPA National Committee Chairperson Iwan Nurdin said that the level of brutality increased. This was shown by an escalation of violence in handling land disputes and the number of people arrested for defending their land.
"Important to note in 2019 is the level of brutality. So there were extraordinary levels of brutality, which occurred both as a consequence of agrarian conflicts, [by] government officials and so forth, what is important is that we pay attention to this so such a situation is not repeated", said Nurdin in the Menteng area of Central Jakarta on Monday January 6.
The domination of the police as the perpetrators of violence was shown in 37 cases. The other perpetrators were company security personnel in 15 cases, members of the TNI (Indonesian military) with six cases and Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) officials with six cases.
Although the total number of cases declined, unfortunately, according the KPA Secretary Dewi Kartika, the brutality and acts of repression by officials did in fact result in a rise in the number of victims. In 2018 there were ten victims who died while in 2019 this rose to 14 people.
"The involvement of security forces, the police, the TNI, Satpol PP and company security contributed significantly to the many victims of arbitrary violence, arrests and criminalisation by officials", said Kartika.
KPA data also showed that the hundreds of land conflicts over the last year resulted in 258 farmers and agrarian activist being criminalised, 211 being assaulted and 24 people being shot.
"For example, the case of the evictions on traditional land in Sigapiton Village, Ajibata sub-district, Toba Samosir regency, North Sumatra. When a clash broke out between the Sigapiton community and police and Satpol PP which proceeded the entry of the BPODT (Lake Toba Tourism Authority)", said Kartika.
In general, there were 109,042 family heads spread across 420 villages in Indonesia who were affected by agrarian conflicts. In 2019 the largest number of cases occurred in West Java with 28 conflicts, followed by North Sumatra with 24 conflicts, Central Kalimantan with 23 conflicts, East Java with 21 conflicts and Jambi with 16 conflicts.
Nurdin is urging the government to immediately formulate a plan to comprehensively resolve agrarian conflicts in a structured way.
"Because of what, because agrarian conflicts are a sign of injustice. A small number of people own large amounts of land, there a great many people who do not have land and what little land they have continues to be threatened with being stolen", he reiterated.
Responding to the claim that the perpetrators of violence are dominated by the police, National Police Criminal Investigations Directorate Sub-Division Head Senior Commissioner Endar Priyanto claimed that they are open to input on the handling of agrarian conflicts. He also claimed that police policy is to prioritise a humanitarian approach.
"Basically, all police officers remember this, how to handle problems without confronting them with violence. Basically they're all like that, the police are tired of it too", said Priyanto.
Priyanto said that the National Police support what was conveyed by the KPA and are open to receiving reports and following up on land conflicts that have ended in violence. (ika/osc)
[Abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Catatan KPA 2019: Polisi Aktor Utama Kekerasan Konflik Lahan".]