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Agrarian Reform Priority Locations (Part-2)

Awaiting for Land Redistribution of Formerly Possessed Cultivation Right Land by Pakisadji Banjumas Inc. at Banjarnegara

Banjarnegara – Villagers of Puggelan, Banjarnegara District of Central Java have long since struggeling for the land they have already cultivated so that it is included in land redistribution program. The land was possessed by Pakisadji Banjumas Inc. under Cultivation Right, which has already expired in 2011. The company has a long history as plantation owner back into colonial era.

In the beginning, the land was first owned and cultivated by the villagers’ ancestors. It was then grabbed by the Dutch colonial government. They issued a policy to the villagers in which whoever unable to pay tax for the land they cultivated, in return their land would be taken by the colonial government. The policy was a tool to grabbed villagers’ land only.

In the independence era, the land has become state land controlled by village government. There was an indication that the village government then sold the land to Pakisadji Banjumas Inc., which managed the land until 2011, and passing through an extension of its Cultivation Right in 1986.

In the company’s record, in 1965 it conducted violence and criminalization acts against peasants around the area. The company often sent them to jail because they cut grass on the company’s land area. According to the villagers’ memory there were at least 10 peasants who had been sent to jail by the company.

In 1989, the company dealt with bankruptcy causing the land to be abandoned. It was then become forest area and home for agricultural pest surround the area. The villagers proposed to government of Puggelan subdistrict to resolve the problem. The following result was an agreement between villagers and the company to change the land use from coffee plantation, which was not succeeded and became forest area instead, into agricultural land managed by the villagers. The villagers who cultivated the area were asked to pay land rent as much as Rp 30 – 50 thousands, according to the land extent. They also had to paid as much as 50% of their harvest to the company, as an exchange for the land tax.

In 2011, the company’s Cultivation Right was expired, so the agreement should not be applied anymore. At that time the company tried to propose an extension, however it was rejected by the sub district head because the company did not manage and cultivate the land itself. The rejection letter was numbered  525.3/3134. The rejection was referred to the Government Regulation (PP) No. 40/1996 on Cultivation Right article 12, article 3 point (1) and (2), and article 17.

Referring to PP No. 11 of 2011, the land was then stated as abandoned land and its governance was returned to the state. Regional government then suggest the land to be an asset for Banjarnegara Regional Government, which will be projected to be agrotourism and conservation land.

The villagers did not consent to the government’s will. They wanted the land to be cultivated by them independently. It was not without any reason. They have already cultivated the land for twenty years. According to PP No. 224 of 1961, it should have been legally possessed by the villagers.

In 2013, the villagers established an organization called Banjarnegara Peasant Community (HITAMBARA). Its mission is carrying the villagers struggle in achieving legal acknowledgement upon the land.

HITAMBARA together with KPA conducted several steps in achieving their desire. Two of them were mediation for peasants in facing regional National Land Agency (BPN), Central Java Provincial Office for BPN up to Central BPN, and hearing with Banjarnegara regional government (eds: head of the district and special staff for regional government). However up until today, there has not been started any process in implementing land redistribution by the government.

The government itself had once thrown a discourse of transmigration as a solution for people who did not have any agricultural land. However, facts were presented that people has a lot of chance in acquiring the land. Therefore, people put a lot of expectation for the land to be redistributed among peasants who have been cultivating the land.

Today’s objective condition, there were 240 households who cultivate 80.01 hectares of land. They still live under poverty line. It was caused by injustice ownership of land in the area that formerly was controlled by Pakisadji Banjumas Inc.

There was also a disturbing situation in land ownership structure over formerly plantation area: around 20 percent of peasant households possessed eligibility over agricultural land ownership, about 10 percent did not possessed any eligibility over agricultural land, and about 70 percent did not possessed any land at all.

The majority of Puggelan villagers has daily work as peasant and land laborer. The number also significant of those whose daily economical life are producing Javanese sugar which was treated traditionally. However, their income does not equal with their production work and expenses.

The land which was opened (truka) by the villagers, has already been productive land. However it needs a lot of energy and capital, which has not yet returned equally because according to the peasants, its productivity has not yet achieved maximum level because there are a lot of problems exist. One of them is the unclarity of legal status over the land. Peasants have limited their activity in using agricultural land down to the minimum expenses, which of course has only resulted in minimum production. They still have fear that the land will be taken at anytime from them.

Considering those facts and situation above, in KPA’s opinion transmigration discourse could not be applied here. Referring to the applicable laws and government regulations, government should choose to redistribute the land instead. KPA urges government to immediately redistribute the land to the villagers, in responding the problem of injustice land ownership in Puggelan Village.

To be continued. . .

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