Ivany Atina Arbi, Jakarta – The Central Kalimantan Police reportedly arrested the customary leader of the Laman Kinipan community, Effendi Buhing, on Wednesday in relation to a years-long land dispute between the indigenous group and palm oil company PT Sawit Mandiri Lestari (SML).
The National Committee on Agrarian Reform (KNPA) said in a statement that at least six of the community members had been criminalized by the company and the police so far, including Effendi.
"Today we witness again the criminalization of a Laman Kinipan public figure who has been struggling to defend and protect his customary land from eviction," the KNPA said Wednesday, adding that tensions had escalated recently prior to the arrest.
The community members had also experienced intimidation from the company, who made use of the security personnel to "end the indigenous community's fight over their land", the committee went on.
The Laman Kinipan community was expelled from their land in Lamandau regency in 2018 as SML claimed to have obtained permits to manage around 19,000 hectares of the land.
The first permit, No. 1/I/PKH/PNBN/2015, was issued by the Environment and Forestry Ministry in March 2015, while the second was issued by the National Land Agency in 2017 under registry number 82/HGU/KEM-ATR/BPN/2017.
The KNPA said the permit issuance was "legally flawed" because the process had neglected the consent of the Laman Kinipan community who had lived in and managed the land for generations. The KNPA had further urged the government to stop the plunder and criminalization of the indigenous people.
The Central Kalimantan police separately claimed that Effendi was found to be the mastermind behind a violent theft inside the SML plantation area in June.
Effendi, the police said, had ordered four other members of the community named Riswan, Teki, Embang and Semar to take a chainsaw from workers at the plantation by force.
"Riswan, Teki, Embang and Semar said during questioning that Efendi Buhing had masterminded the robbery," the police spokesperson said, claiming that all procedures of the arrest had been properly conducted.