Land grabbing by PT Mamuang and criminalisation of indigenous community in Kabuyu, West Sulawesi

On 9 March 2022, the Pasangkayu Police arrested five peasants who belong to the Kaili Tado indigenous community in Kabuyu Hamlet, Martasari Village, Pasangkayu Regency, West Sulawesi. The five peasants were previously reported by a truck driver of PT Mamuang, Andi Alamsyah, in a case of alleged criminal threats.

This arrest took place after the police issued a second summons to the five peasants, although they did not receive the first police summons. The five peasants were intercepted on their way to get legal assistance. They were taken to Pasangkayu Police Station at 10:00 a.m. under the pretext that they would undergo a BAP (Berita Acara Pemeriksaan) process on the report of the criminal act of threatening. The five peasants’ names are Dedi Sudirman Lasandidi, Agus, Nyoman Suarka, Lodra, and Halima.

After a lengthy BAP process Dedi, Agus, and Suarka were named as suspects. Dedi was tried in the Pasangkayu District Court, West Sulawesi. The panel of judges sentenced Dedi Sudirman Lasandidi on 8 September 2022 to five months imprisonment for the crime of threatening (Article 335 paragraph (1) to 1 Criminal Code.

The threat crime allegedly committed by Dedi occurred on 24 February 2022. That day at around 11:00 a.m. the employees of PT Mamuang were arranging the palm fruit that was about to be loaded and moved from one Place of Transportation of Products (TPH) to another TPH. It was then that Dedi, together with Agus, Nyoman Suarka and several other people approached the car that was being loaded with palm fruit. Dedi approached Andi Alamsyah, a PT Mamuang employee and the complainant in this case. Dedi asked him to stop loading the palm fruit. Some of the people who came surrounded the car. When Andi Alamsyah was about to get into the car, Dodi hit the car hard and asked him to drop the palm fruit. Andi then climbed on top of the car and unloaded the palm fruit from the car. After that, Dedi told him to go home.

Putri, a lawyer for the Kabuyu Community Alliance, said, “If seen from a legal perspective, Dedi’s actions are considered to fulfil the elements of the criminal act of threatening, but the police should not continue to take a criminal approach to cases of tenurial conflicts like this. Dedi and the people of Kabuyu are still victims of criminalisation by palm oil companies. The government has ignored the land conflict between Pasangkayu peasants and PT Mamuang, and the police have turned a blind eye to the conflict”.

History of land conflict between Pasangkayu Peasants and PT Mamuang, Astra Group

PT Mamuang is a PT Astra Agro Lestari subsidiary, the second-largest palm oil company in Indonesia. The tenurial conflict between the Kabuyu community and PT Mamuang has been longstanding. Since the entry of PT Mamuang in their area in 1991, the lives and social institutions of the Kabuyu community have drastically changed. Initially, the people in Kabuyu Hamlet managed their ancestors’ land for productive agriculture. The community grew rice, corn, cocoa, coconut, and other crops to support their livelihoods. However, since PT Mamuang came, the community lost their management area because PT Mamuang took over. For almost 32 years, 107 households (KK) in Kabuyu have lived during a crisis of limited living space. They live and farm on the banks of the Pasangkayu river. The land claimed by PT Mamuang is the customary land of the Kaili Tado community.

Since entering 1991, PT Mamuang has planted 100 hectares outside their HGU. It is evidenced by oil palm plantations planted along the Pasangkayu watershed at a distance of fewer than 50 meters from the riverbank. This action violates the law. According to Government Regulation No. 38/2011 on Rivers, oil palm companies cannot plant within the boundary line 50 meters from the riverbank.

Resistance by the Kabuyu hamlet community

Since 2003 until today, the Kabuyu community has been struggling to reclaim their land when they realised that PT Mamuang had planted outside their HGU, such as oil palm located along the Pasangkayu watershed, which is less than 50 meters from the riverbank. Since then, the Kaili Tado community has slowly occupied the oil palm land planted by PT Mamuang and managed the land around their area. Resistance was also expressed by taking action against the company and local government to demand the return of their land. In 2006, the company then mobilised police and company thugs to oppress and intimidate the community to silence the resistance that had been going on for three years.

In early January 2022, the Indonesian government issued Decree No. SK.01/MENLHK/SETJEN/KUM.1/1/2022 on the Revocation of Forest Area Concession License, although PT Mamuang’s concession was not included in the list of companies whose forest licenses were revoked despite its problems, the Kaili Tado indigenous community took a moment to reclaim their land. After the issuance of the Decree, they re-occupied another area previously planted by PT Mamuang, which they believed to be customary land and outside PT Mamuang’s HGU area.

After two months of occupation, on 27 February 2022, PT Mamuang, escorted by the Pasangkayu Police, isolated Kabuyu Village by cutting off several access roads for the Kaili Tado community by making ditches to close the road. They also intimidated the Kaili Tado indigenous community by mobilising several thugs.

WALHI, in its release on 22 March 2022, urged ASTRA to return the community land that had been seized and stop all efforts of criminalisation and intimidation of residents. WALHI also urged the government to reconstruct and audit all ASTRA’s land licenses in Central and West Sulawesi.

Criminalisation by PT Mamuang

Astra Group, through its subsidiaries, is not the first time it has committed bad practices in running its business. In the same company, PT Mamuang has also criminalised Hemsi, a peasant from Lalundu, Rio Pakava sub-district, who has conflicted with the company since 2006. Hemsi has been imprisoned three times on charges of stealing by PT Mamuang. According to WALHI’s records, since 2017, PT Mamuang has criminalised seven farmers who have lived in the plantation area for a long time, fighting over their homes because PT Mamuang confiscated them.

PT Mamuang controls land in two provinces, Central Sulawesi and West Sulawesi. Meanwhile, the Kamuyu community claims their land is in West Sulawesi, precisely Pasangkayu Regency. The community has been reclaiming the land since April 2021. They built huts and planted crops. They have often experienced intimidation from the company. However, on 27 February, the company with a police escort cut off several access roads for the Kabuyu community and intimidated them by deploying several thugs. “The police should be fair with security. Not just arresting residents,” he complained.

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Kabuyu Hamlet (-1.2749406561371737, 119.42837369594947)
administrative region: Indonesia, West Sulawesi Province, Pasangkayu Regency, Pedongga District, Martasari Village
total number of victims: dozens
period of incident: 09.03.2022
perpetrator: police, company
perpetrator details: PT Mamuang
Issues: indigenous peoples, cultural rights, criminalisation, food
Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolation
1Dedi Sudirman Lasandidimale30indigenouscultural rights, food
1Agus Rmale66indigenouscultural rights, food
1I Nyoman Suarkamale66indigenouscultural rights, food
1Lodramale58indigenouscultural rights, food
1Halimafemale55indigenouscultural rights, food
dozensunknownunknownunknownindigenouscultural rights, food