Criminalisation and discrimination of Nagari Aia Gadang indigenous farmers – Conflict with PT Anam Koto

Five Minangkabau indigenous farmers in Nagari Aia Gadang (Aia Gadang Village), Pasaman District, West Pasaman Regency, West Sumatra Province, were sentenced to prison by the West Pasaman District Court on 19 September 2022. The court found them guilty of mistreating employees of the oil palm plantation company PT Anam Koto, as referred to in Article 351 paragraph (1) in conjunction with Article 55 paragraph (1) 1 of the Criminal Code. The court sentenced Ms Wisnawati, 32, to one month and 15 days. The other four, Mr Idamri, 39, Mr Safridin, 41, Mr Rudi, 31, and Mr Jasman, 45, were sentenced to two months and 15 days in prison.

This case began with a report by the plantation company PT Anam Koto to the West Pasaman Resort Police (Polres) regarding an incident on 18 May 2022. That day at around 9 am, PT Anam Koto entered the land that indigenous peoples had reclaimed. The company initially sprayed poison on the grass. However, they also sprayed and damaged people’s crops. The community found this unacceptable and approached the workers who, at that time, were poisoning plants. They tried to get the workers out of their land, resulting in a physical confrontation. PT Anam Koto reported the incident to the West Pasaman Polres.

The police immediately summoned the five people for questioning on 14 July 2022. On the same day, at around 8 pm, the police named them suspects of committing violence as stated in Article 170 paragraph (2) of the 1st KUHP subsidiary Article 170 paragraph (1) or second violated Article 351 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code in conjunction with Article 55 paragraph (1) of the 1st Criminal Code. The five were immediately arrested. Wisnawati is the mother of two young children. Idamri has a wife and five children, Safridin has a wife and three children, Rudi has a wife and two children, and Jasman has a wife and three children. Wisnawati then received a transfer of detention as a city prisoner after being held in the custody of the West Pasaman Resort Police for 24 hours. Meanwhile, four other people are being held in the state detention centre.

The company’s actions to destroy people’s crops are only one of a series of violence and intimidation by PT Anam Koto against the Aia Gadang community. The community has also reported this action several times to the police, for example, the police report number: LP/B/90/IV/2022/SPKT/Res Pasaman Barat dated 13 April 2022, regarding the alleged destruction of the huts that the Community has just built. Most recently, on 1 August 2022, the community complained to the company to the West Pasaman Polres for damaging the community’s crops by spraying poison. As a result, the community’s produce, such as beans, peanuts, corn, cucumbers, cassava, and eggplant, is damaged. Company workers (DW as reporting witness and security coordinator for PT Anam Koto, AZ as a security guard for PT Anam Koto, and AS as worker) at the Trial Wisnawati and friends on 14 September 2022, admitted that they were indeed ordered to by the company to poison all those in the location. And security guards were asked to document the incident before entering the site.

However, the community reports have never been processed by the police. And never will as long as the police only see that PT Anam Koto has a Right to Cultivate (HGU) and does not care that there are community rights on the HGU lands of PT Anam Koto in the form of plasma plantations that the company should provide.

PT Anam Koto has been taking from the community and enjoying the benefits from the natural resources of the indigenous peoples’ customary lands. If calculated since the issuance of the HGU certificate on 7 July 1999, the company has benefited from community land for 23 years. However, until now, PT Anam Koto has not carried out its obligations to indigenous peoples, namely to realise plantations for the community (plasma), thus triggering conflicts since 1992.

If this conflict is not resolved immediately, it will continue to criminalisation and community arrests. As long as the community struggles to get their land back, the prison looms over them. In addition to the five people who have been convicted, eight others have the status of suspects at the West Pasaman Resort Police on charges of committing, ordering, or participating in illegally working on, using, occupying or controlling PT Anam Koto’s HGU land.

Background

The conflict between the Minangkabau Indigenous People in Nagari Aia Gadang and the plantation company PT Anam Koto has been going on since 1992. Initially, the cooperation went smoothly. Both parties agreed to cooperate using the core and plasma partnership pattern or foster father and adopted child, which is mutually beneficial. Indigenous peoples agreed to relinquish 5,000 hectares of their customary land in 1990 to develop an oil palm plantation in PT Anam Koto. Meanwhile, the company must establish a plasma which means a plantation for a community covering an area of ​​10% of the land area. The main contents of the 1990 agreement are as follows:

  1. The land that is handed over (to the company) is in a state where there are no occupants; if the land handed over has occupants, it is the responsibility of the Ninik Mamak (customary leaders) to move the occupants
  2. Everything in the land handed over belongs to PT Anam Koto
  3. Ninik Mamak cannot hand over the land that was handed over, transferring the rights to another
  4. Plasma at least 10%; beyond that, if anyone wants to join as an ‘adopted child’ or plasma can be accepted.

Based on the agreement, the HGU certificate was issued in the name of PT Anam Koto, Number 11, covering an area of ​​4,740 hectares. The registration is based on the Decree of the Minister of Agrarian Affairs/Head of the National Land Agency Number 62/HGU/BPN/99 dated June 1, 1999, measuring letter number 02 dated August 28, 1997.

However, until now, the company has not fulfilled its obligation to provide plasma. It makes it difficult for the Community’s economy to develop. 

Since 1992, the Community has made various efforts to urge PT Anam Koto to fulfil its obligations. But these efforts always fail. The company argued by interpreting the agreement differently. The agreement letter dated 19 November 1990, in number 4, said, “plasma is at least 10%; beyond that, if anyone wants to join as an adopted child or plasma can be accepted”. According to PT Anam Koto, this sentence means that the company can develop plasma plantations for Indigenous Peoples if the Indigenous Peoples can provide land outside the customary lands that are handed over. It is the reason that is always put forward by the company. Meanwhile, according to indigenous peoples, 10% in the agreement means 10% of the customary land area handed over to the company in 1990. It is really manipulation.

The company even considers the compensation money as a substitute for plasma. That compensation money is “waiting for money” before the plasma is realised.

Community’s continued and yearlong struggle

In 2000, during demonstrations demanding the fulfilment of plasma, the company deployed officers to deal with demonstrators. The Police fired tear gas at the community, and then the Police fired bullets into the air. There were 25 people from the Aia Gadang community shot by the Police using rubber bullets. A total of 40 public vehicles were confiscated. In fact, at that time, there were already letters of recommendation from the regional and provincial governments. After the incident, the Community complained about the arbitrariness of the apparatus and the company to the Governor and the Regional People’s Representative Council of West Sumatra Province. But until now, this case has just disappeared without any law enforcement.

The government only makes promises to the Aia Gadang people. After the demonstration, the Regent did write to the Camat and Village Heads throughout the Pasaman Regency regarding the list of plasma recipients. However, this is just a suggestion that has not been followed up. The mayor of Nagari Aia Gadang, on 20 February 2003, sent a letter to the Regent regarding the names of the proposed plasma recipients, as many as 742 people. However, the district government did not realise this (Bupati Baharuddin).

On 11 October 2005, through Decree No. 188.45/306/Bup-Pasbar/2005 concerning the Establishment of the Aia Gadang Community Plasma Problem Resolution Team with PT Anam Koto. The team consisted of the Regional Government, elements of the Regional House of Representatives, the Nagari Government, Ninik Mamak, Community Leaders and Youth Aia Gadang. This team is tasked with collecting data and information on the problems of the Aia Gadang community plasma, holding discussion meetings, conducting research and studies on the aia Gadang community plasma issues, reviewing the location of the aia Gadang community’s plantations and plasma, providing input and consideration for the Regent’s decision making, preparing a report to the Regent of West Pasaman. Unfortunately, there is no clear timeframe for when the team will work. And the fact that the letter stated that PT Anam Koto bore all costs made this team’s independence in doubt. As a result, there is no clear follow-up from this team.

In November 2005, the conflict escalated. Farmers are accused of stealing palm oil and criminalised. Around 15 farmers were sentenced to 5 months and 17 days in prison, even though they had never committed the alleged act.

From 2014-2019 village roads used by farmers to transport crops from community-owned gardens were controlled by the company. The company only allows the public to pass through the street on Mondays and Thursdays. With this implementation, the Community is often interrogated and intimidated by plantation security. To tighten the road, the company applies a ticket system to every community that wants to pass through the route controlled by the company.

From 2005 to 2006, the Regent of West Pasaman wrote to PT Anam Koto many times, but the letter’s contents did not imply the firmness of the local government. The contents of the letter are very normative. Both in the Regent’s letter number 130/10/Pem-2005, the Regent’s letter No. 130/692/Pem-2006 dated 29 June 2006, and through the letter number 130/1246/Pem-2006 of December 2006 addressed to PT Anam Koto regarding PT Anam Koto against the demands of the Aia Gadang community. The Regent only reminded PT Anam Koto to provide immediate answers to the needs of the Aia Gadang Community. This letter does not explicitly instruct PT Anam Koto to carry out its obligations, but only asks PT Anam Koto to answer the Community’s demands in the form of 10% of the 4,740 ha of land in the form of plasma plantations, 10% of the vacant land that PT Anam Koto has abandoned, if not worked on and returned to the Aia Gadang community. The regent gave the company until 23 December 2006, to respond to the community’s demands to avoid the possibility that the community would claim the existing plantation.

Amid the unresolved conflict in 2011, the Regent of West Pasaman issued a Decree of the Regent of West Pasaman Number: 188.45/221/BUP-PASBAR/2011 concerning the Granting of a Plantation Business Permit to PT Anam Koto covering an area of ​​2,285.1 hectares. On 4 April 2011, the Regent of West Pasaman (Baharudin) formalised a decree regarding adding an oil palm cultivation plantation permit (IUP B) to PT Anam Koto, West Pasaman Regency, which was 4,740. In contrast, the previous Regent only gave 2,285.1 hectares.

Conflict nowadays

Throughout 2019, the community again urged local governments to resolve conflicts and reported this case to the central government, such as the Presidential Staff Office and the Ministry of Agrarian/Spatial Planning and the Land Agency (ATR//BPN). As a result, on 30 April 2021, the Regent of West Pasaman issued a Decree of the Regent of West Pasaman number 188.45/254-BUP-PASBAR/2001 concerning the Establishment of the Agrarian Reform Task Force Team of West Pasaman Regency in 2021. This team is tasked with successfully implementing agrarian reform through asset management and restructuring. It facilitates agricultural conflict issues related to the proposed SPI West Pasaman district. The West Pasaman Agrarian Reform Task Force (GTRA) team consisting of the West Pasaman BPN, the Regent as the head of GTRA and the OPD in West Pasaman on October 27 2021, has set a conflict location of 711 ha. This location is designated as Land Object for Agrarian Reform.

Unfortunately, the process was prolonged, so the community reclaimed the lands the GTRA team had pegged. Since 21 February 2022, hundreds of farmers who are members of the Indonesian Peasant Union (SPI) based in Aia Gadang have planted several trees in that location (around block K of PT Anam Koto in West Pasaman). Not long after the reclaiming, the company damaged the huts and plants planted by the community.

The Aia Gadang community, who joined the Indonesian Farmers Union based in Aia Gadang, is still struggling to demand that PT Anam Koto Company realise the plasma plantation of the Aia Gadang community covering an area of ​​948 ha. The community will use the 948 hectares of land for:

a. Each community member must have a plasma plantation of 2 hectares, 310×2 = 620 hectares

b. Each community member must have 1/8 hectare of land for wages. 310×1/8=38.75 hectare

c. School area = 2 hectares

d. Sports field = 2 hectares

e. Traditional hall and youth centre -2 hectares

f. House of worship area = 1-hectare

g. Cemetery pump = 1-hectare

h. Village development reserve land = 100 ha

i. Estimated village road = 7 hectares

j. Indigenous rice fields = 75 hectares

k. Indigenous people corn plantation = 75 hectares

l. SPI demonstration plot = 11.25 hectares

m. Other land use of 20 hectares

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Around PT Anam Koto’s office and community land (0.17443980266728887, 99.76766627126669)
administrative region: Indonesia, West Sumatra Province, West Pasaman Regency, Pasaman District, Aia Gadang Village
total number of victims: hundreds
period of incident: 18.05.2022-30.10.2022
perpetrator: police, judiciary
perpetrator details:
Issues: cultural rights, indigenous peoples, right to food
Sources: Padang Legal Aid Institute (LBH Padang) and Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI), https://langgam.id/konflik-agraria-di-pasbar-terus-bergulir-masyarakat-datangi-komnas-ham-terkait-dugaan-intimidasi/

Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolation
1Wisnawati, farmerfemale32indigenous peoplescultural rights, food, equal treatment before the law
1Idamri, farmermale39indigenous peoplescultural rights, food, equal treatment before the law
1Safridin, farmermale41indigenous peoplescultural rights, food, equal treatment before the law
1Rudi, farmermale31indigenous peoplescultural rights, food, equal treatment before the law
1Jasman, farmermale45indigenous peoplescultural rights, food, equal treatment before the law
8unknownmaleunknownindigenous peoplescultural rights, food
hundredsunknownunknownunknownindigenous peoplescultural rights, food