Moch. Fiqih Prawira Adjie and Yulia Savitri, Jakarta – Activists have accused police of dragging their feet in an investigation into the murder of two farmers linked to a land dispute in Pagar Batu village, Lahat regency, South Sumatra.
The two farmers, 32-year-old Putra Bakti and 38-year old Aman Suryadi, were stabbed to death, allegedly by security guards employed by oil palm plantation company PT Artha Prigel on March 21.
The incident occurred when the company tried to evict villagers from the area, with company security guards and armed police officers arriving to enforce the eviction. The villagers resisted and violence broke out, resulting in the death of the two farmers.
The company and the residents have been in conflict for nearly three decades, starting in 1993, when the residents gave up their land in exchange for what they consider paltry compensation.
Pagar Batu residents advocacy team member Mualimin Pardi Dahlan said the local police should have identified all the perpetrators and the mastermind behind the murders by now.
So far, the Lahat Police have only arrested one suspect, a 38-year-old security guard identified by the initials UB.
"The local police are sluggish in investigating the case," Mualimin said at a virtual press conference on Tuesday.
He said UB had turned himself in to police and urged the police to develop the case further, saying there were suspicions that the violence had been planned.
He also claimed the police had been negligent during the incident, as officers on the scene had only fired warning shots after victims had fallen, adding that one of the three police officers had even pointed his gun at one of the local residents.
"We want to send a letter to the National Police chief, not only to ask for this case to be thoroughly investigated, but also to question the institutional responsibility of the National Police," Mualimin said, urging the National Human Rights Commission to probe the case.
Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) advocacy division deputy head Era Purnama Sari, who also attended the press conference, urged the government to stop "commercializing" the police as a security service in agrarian conflicts.
Lahat Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Irwansyah told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that the investigation was ongoing and would be developed, adding that the police had sent the case file to the Lahat Prosecutor's Office.
He also defended the presence of police officers during the incident.
"Our presence actually caused the company's security guards to withdraw from confrontation three times," he said.
Aside from watching over the investigation, Mulaimin said the advocacy team would protect witnesses and provide medical and psychological rehabilitation for them and other victims, as two were left injured after the incident.
"The injured victims are still being treated and still cannot provide for their families. One of the killed farmers also has a wife and small children that need certainty regarding their livelihood moving forward," he said.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the names of the killed farmers.