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Agrarian Reform Priority Locations (Part-7)

Governance Area Overlapping of Lubuk Mandarsah Villagers with WKS Inc. at Tebo

Jambi province is one of the areas with the highest number of land grabbing case in Indonesia. It is on the same level with Riau, Bengkulu, South Sumatera and Lampung provinces. A few decades before, Jambi had been experienced to be a location of production for large scale plantation companies. The situation put Jambi on susceptible situation of arising agrarian conflicts between people against the companies and/or government.

It was unavoidable situation. Agrarian conflicts have flourished in Jambi province like mushrooms in a rainy season. Lubuk Mandarsah village of Tengah Ilir subdistrict, Tebo district, is one of those areas experiencing agrarian conflict that has not yet found any light after land grabbing conducted by a private company.

The conflict began when Wira Karya Sakti (WKS) Inc., which is a subsidiary of Sinar Mas Forestry Group, entered the cultivated area of Lubuk Mandarsah villagers in 2006. People hired by the company were looting the land that covered an area of Bukit Bakar in Tebo District area, which is marking a border between Tanjung Jabung Barat District and Batang Hari District. At that time, WKS representatives guarded by an Operation Control Assistance (BKO) of Mobile Brigade and Army were sent to met a group of people called Alam Lestari in requesting a permission to build a road.

Instead of building a road, they evicted people who cultivated the area and destroy paddy plants belonged to them. Moreover, the discussion of the project was done with particular groups of people such was village apparatus and village elites.

In the beginning, the villagers acted against the company’s behavior and were trying to stop eviction process. However, they were blocked by the company’s security, which was assisted by police and army forces. The villagers continued their struggle in protesting the eviction, including by demonstrating on the gate of WKS Inc. and initiating a meeting at Tengah Ilir subdistrict office. The officers at the subdistrict office was instead stated that the land was included in WKS concession area.

On December 2007, the villagers’ anger reached its peak. They conducted a spontanious act of burning 11 heavy equipments and 2 Helen vehicles owned by the company. The situation suddenly became tense for the company responded by rallying 500 members of mobile brigade assisted by army forces fully equipped. Nine villagers were arrested then and accused to be the brain of mass mobilization. The incident frightened the other villagers. All men of Lubuk Mandarsah left their houses to hide in the forest. They were affraid to be the next victim of the arrest.

Before the conflict arisen, the villagers have already cultivated the land since a period of 1999 – 2002. They asked a permission before to ninik mamak (local traditional leaders) in Bukit Bakar area. People open the land using a way shown, called imas tubang, and on location appointed by ninik mamak. They established agricultural land of paddy plants collectively. The cultivation process was conducted by taking turns among them. They are also taking care of it together. They were joined an organization called Alam Lestari. On harvesting, they bring in some people from Tanjung Jabung Timur district, whose land is neighboring to them, to help them in the harvesting. After all work have done, usually those people are given some of their harvest.

The long conflict in Mandarsah is happened because the operation area of WKS Inc. on 380,000 hectares of land is overlapping with governance area of the villagers. The condition is worsen by the absence of the state in the case resolution. Up until today, the villagers have not yet ceased their fight and have kept cultivating their land, though it has been grabbed by WKS area. 291 villagers have already claimed their cultivated area located on Bukit Duri Dusun, Peralayang Tebat.

The situation described above called for immediate action of agrarian reform as a solution for the problem. The accusation thrown by the company to the villagers that said that they have taken its land is unjustified. The cultivation act of the villagers is clearly protected by articles 5 and 16 of 1960 Basic Agrarian Law (UUPA), therefore it is not a criminal act.

KPA urges government to implement land redistribution in Lubuk Mandarsah, as stated in Joint Regulation (Perber) of 4 Ministries No. 79 of 2014 on Procedures of Land Control Resolution in Forest Area, which is also strengthen by the Minister Regulation No. 10 of 2016 on Procedures of Deciding Communal Rights. There are no reason left for regional government to postpone land redistribution in Lubuk Mandarsah, which is aimed to increase prosperity of Lubuk Mandarsah villagers.

To be continued. . . .

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