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Land rights activists call in Prabowo's election pledge to return land holdings to state

CNN Indonesia - December 29, 2020

Jakarta – The secretary general of the Agrarian Land Consortium (KPA), Dewi Kartika, has called in a pledge by Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who said during the 2019 presidential election that he would return land over which he has land use rights (HGU) to the state.

Kartika raised the issue in response to a recent statement by Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs, Mahfud MD, in relation to the issue of HGUs.

"Before, right, it once came up, one of the [presidential] candidates declared he would return (land over which he has HGUs) if asked, return concessions held by his group [of companies] to Jokowi [President Joko Widodo], in response to an accusation by President Jokowi. Now he must set an example, because both of them are now in power", Kartika told CNN Indonesia on Monday December 28.

Kartika believes that such a move by Prabowo would demonstrate the government's good faith in resolving agrarian problems. According to Kartika, the government has never seriously attempted to fix over-lapping land problems.

Kartika also criticised Mahfud for saying that the problems with HGUs was a legacy of the previous administration, rather than attempting to fix the issue. She said that Mahfud can no longer keep blaming the previous administration.

"Because he (Mahfud) is part of the administrative system which holds the power and authority. He can no longer keep passing the buck, [claiming] it's a legacy of the past", she said.

Aside from setting an example by returning the land he owns, Kartika said that other public officials should endeavour to realise the pledges they have made to resolve agrarian conflicts.

Such as by restructuring control of overlapping land, releasing land which is monopolised by a handful of companies, land which has been left unused or land whose permits have expired.

According to Kartika, up until now the government has not announced any developments in resolving the problem. She added that it is difficult for the public to monitor this because there is no transparency on the data on HGU ownership.

The current administration, said Kartika, should be able to resolve the agrarian problems inherited from the previous regime because the data is currently held by the Ministry for Agrarian Affairs and Special Planning and the Agricultural Ministry.

Kartika however does not see any seriousness on the part of the government to resolved agrarian problems transparently. Including resolving the 7 million hectares of abandoned land discovered since the previous administration of president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"It would be best if public officials in power, both corporations as well as the business cronies close to those in power, set an example. Not just throwing it onto the public so it becomes a discussion and debate when there is not resolution [being offered by the] government", she said.

Earlier, Mahfud said that the control of hundreds of hectares of land with HGUs is held by business groups who have obtained permits from different administrations over the years. This has made resolving land problems quite complex.

"This is leftover waste from the past which is complex to resolve because it's covered by formal laws. But we must be able to", said Mahfud.

Cases of company concessions which overlap with community land have become one of the agrarian problems which have often been found in the field. According to the KPA, the problem originates with the government's data on land ownership which is not synchronised with the actual situation on the ground.

In the end, the government often gives land permits to corporations on the assumption that the land is not owned by communities. Yet the land which for which a permit has been issued is already a cemetery or plantation belonging to local people.

The KPA has recorded that there are more than 20,000 villages in Indonesia which are located on land the government claims is forest area. (fey/fra)


During the 2019 presidential election, loosing presidential candidate and now Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto – who is known to hold land use rights (HGU) over thousands of hectares in Aceh and East Kalimantan – promised to return the land to the state within 10 days after being inaugurated as president.

"But now I have decided that within 10 days at the latest after I'm inaugurated, I will hand over the majority of shares in my companies which hold HGU to the RI [Republic of Indonesia]", Prabowo said in a speech in front of election campaign volunteers at the Beautiful Mini Indonesia Park Self-Defense Retreat in Jakarta on Friday March 15 (https://www.indoleft.org/news/2019-03-15/prabowo-pledges-to-return-massive-land-holdings-if-hes-elected-president.html).

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Mahfud Singgung HGU, KPA Tagih Janji Prabowo Kembalikan Lahan".]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20201229063932-20-587220/mahfud-singgung-hgu-kpa-tagih-janji-prabowo-kembalikan-laha