Mukomuko police arrest at least 47 farmers within six months in Bengkulu – land conflict with PT DDP

The Mukomuko Resort Police have arrested at least 47 farmers from Malin Deman Sub-district, Mukomuko Regency, Bengkulu Province, within six months, from May to October 2022. The police often accuse the farmers who are members of the Association of Farmers Fighters Bumi Sejahtera (Perkumpulan Petani Pejuang Bumi Sejahtera/PPPBS) of stealing palm fruit belonging to PT Daria Darma Pratama (PT DDP and ignore the land conflict between PT DDP and the farmers. The police repeatedly made arbitrary arrests, detained the farmers without sufficient evidence, ill-treated them, and obstructed their right to meet with their lawyers.

Farmers have also repeatedly faced threats from the company and unknown people, house searches, theft of documents, and the burning of farmers’ houses on conflict land. The conflict land is the abandoned former HGU of PT Bina Bumi Sejahtera (BBS). The community has been working on the abandoned land since 1997. Since 2005 PT DDP began to enter and claimed that there had been a transfer of rights from PT BBS to PT DDP, so conflicts with farmers could not be avoided. The government never resolved the dispute, while PT Daria Darma Pratama (PT DDP) always used the police to pressure farmers. They repeatedly reported farmers to the police on charges of theft of palm fruit belonging to the company. Meanwhile, the police, always looking at the company’s license, do not want to know about the land conflicts.

Police arrested and arbitrarily detained 40 farmers

On 12 May 2022, at around 10:00 am, 40 members of the PPPBS were doing their usual activities, harvesting oil palm fruits on the land they cultivate. The land they farm is land that is currently still in conflict resolution efforts and de jure is the HGU of PT BBS, based on Decree No. 42/HGU/BPN/1994: 42/HGU/BPN/1995 with a land area of 1,899 hectares, located in Malin Demang District, Mukomuko Regency, Bengkulu Province.

After approximately 2 hours of harvesting, or around 12.30 pm, the residents rested and gathered on the land cultivated by Zarkawi. At that time, the police, namely Brimob, arrived in full uniform and weapons. The police surrounded the farmers. After being covered, the 40 farmers who were members of the PPPBS in Malin Deman sub-district, Mukomuko, Bengkulu, were arrested. The police stripped them half-naked and tied their hands with plastic ropes. Bengkulu Police Head of Public Relations Kombes Pol Sudarno said the 40 farmers were arrested for theft on land owned by PT Daria Dharma Pratama (DDP). He said the arrests were following standard operating procedures (SOP).

The 40 suspects were finally released after receiving sharp public scrutiny. The police removed them from custody after 11 days of detention on 23 May 2022. The police said the termination of the case was carried out after PT DDP withdrew the report, after a peace agreement that was also witnessed by elements of the local Government. Head of the Criminal Investigation Unit (Kabareskrim) of the National Police Commissioner General Agus Andrianto, stated that the farmers were released after their problems with PT DDP were resolved through restorative justice.

Police again arrested two farmers

On 27 May 2022, just four days after the release of 40 farmers, Mukomuko Resort Police again arrested two farmers from Malin Deman Sub-district, Mukomuko Regency, namely Damin and Suharto. In the letter requesting clarification, the police asked Suharto for information in connection with activities that unlawfully use, control, work on and or occupy plantation business land and harvest and or collect plantation products in the HGU location of PT BBS area 1 division 6 Block T. 16. Meanwhile, Damin was called with the same activities but with a different company, PT Daria Dharma Pratama (DDP).

Darmin has been working on the land since 1986. PT DDP has repeatedly tried to take over the land he cultivates. But until now, he has never handed over the 23 hectares of land he manages to anyone. Meanwhile, Suharto has been working on the land abandoned by PT BBS since 1997. When he started working on the ground, the condition of the land was unattended in the form of shrubs. Suharto is not alone. Hundreds of families from three sub-districts (Malin Deman, Air Rami and South Mukomuko) have been working on the former PT BBS land since 1997.

This is the first time Suharto has been summoned by the police, while Darmin has been called and questioned by the police several times since 2014. According to Darmin, since 2014, the company has stated that PT DDP should not cultivate the land cultivated by Darmin.

Police arrested another farmer

On 29 September 2022, the Mukumuko Resort Police arrested Rahmad Sidi at his home in Talang Baru village, Malin Deman sub-district, Mukomuko District, Bengkulu Province. Mukomuko Resort police officers forcibly picked up Rahmad Sidi for the alleged crime of theft of oil palm fruit bunches. At around 11.30 pm, five unknown people wearing plain clothes came to Rahmatsidi’s house. They asked Aminah (Rahmatsidi’s wife) about Rahmatsidi’s whereabouts and forced their way in to search his house.

Police arrested Hamidi and three workers harvesting palm oil on his land.

On 5 October 2022, three of Hamidi’s oil palm harvesting labourers (Randa Fernando, Muhtar, Dosi Saputra) appeared before Investigator Aiptu Madyana, S.Ap in the General Criminal room of the Mukomuko Resort Police at 4.15 pm. They were immediately questioned as witnesses to PT DDP’s report.

At 4.15 pm, the General Criminal Unit asked Hamidi to enter the investigator’s room to be questioned as a witness to the PT DDP report. At around 10.30 pm, Madyana S.Ap called the four examinees and the farmers’ lawyer, Saman Lating, into the room. The Public Prosecution Unit then conveyed the results of the case title that the four of them had been named as suspects.

Human rights violations surrounding the arrest of Mukomuko Farmers

1. Arbitrary Arrest and Detention

In the three arrests, the Mukumuko Resort Police acted arbitrarily. During the arrest process, they confiscated the land without a court order and without being witnessed by residents. During the arrest of Rahmad Sidi, for example, his wife (Aminah) did not allow the police to enter without any witnesses from the Talang Baru Village Government. Because of Aminah’s protest, one of the five people who claimed to be from the police called Tukin, the head of Talang Baru Village. The village head arrived after about 20 minutes and witnessed the arrest and search of Rahmad Sidi’s house. Before making the arrest, the police showed a letter declaring to be a wanted list (DPO). However, the village head could not read it carefully because the note was not given but only shown in passing. According to the suspect’s lawyer, there was no publication from the public relations of Mukomuko Police or Bengkulu Police Public Relations and other Police under the jurisdiction of Mukomuko Police and Bengkulu Police regarding the issuance of the DPO letter. 

The police, without sufficient preliminary evidence according to the law, detained both Rahmad Sidi and 40 farmers. The 40 farmers were deprived of their freedom for eleven days before being released due to close public attention. The farmers’ lawyer, Saman Lating, in the case of Hamidi’s arrest, also questioned the basis for naming the farmers as suspects and the legal standing of PT DDP as the complainant. According to Saman, the land belonged to Hamdi and had been cultivated since 1999, before PT BBS, let alone PT DDP. However, the police did not answer his questions.

2. Ill-Treatment

Police stripped forty farmers half-naked and tied their hands with plastic rope. The video of the arrest of the farmers went viral on social media. The public who watched the video criticised the police. The National Commission on Human Rights called the police’s actions, which stripped the farmers naked and committed acts of violence against them, violating human rights. Commissioner of Komnas HAM, Choirul Anam, said that the stripping of the chest by the police had nothing to do with security. “If people are lined up enough, they are lined up enough. why are they stripped. Being told to strip naked has nothing to do with officer security,”. He also urged the Profession and Security Division of the Bengkulu Police to examine the case. The National Police Commission (Kompolnas) also asked Bengkulu Police to suspend the detention of 40 Mukomuko palm oil farmers.

3. Obstructing the rights of suspects to be accompanied by a lawyer

The police examined the suspects without being accompanied by a lawyer. The police deliberately obstructed the access of lawyers to meet with the farmers. The police also did not give freedom to lawyers and suspects to speak. There were always police escorting the suspects, so they could not speak freely. In the case of the arrest of forty farmers, the police brought the forty farmers to the Mukomuko Resort Police Office at around 4 pm. The lawyer arrived at 10.26 pm, as it took 8 hours to travel from Bekungkulu town to Mukomuko. When the lawyer arrived, the examination process was still ongoing, with three farmers remaining. However, the police prohibited the lawyer from entering to accompany the suspect. The lawyer was still not allowed to enter. Only after the examination process had been completed was the lawyer permitted to enter, and even then, he was escorted by five police officers.

It was also the case with Rahmad Sidi. On 30 September 2022, at around 1 pm, Rahmat Sidi was examined by the Muko Muko Police without being accompanied by his lawyer. After that, Rahmad Sidi was named a suspect and immediately put into a detention cell. Lawyers at Mukomuko Resort Police around midnight. The lawyer wanted to meet Rahmad Sidi, but the police did not allow it because there were no visiting hours, and the investigator was not available.

According to the law, lawyers can meet with clients at any time. The lawyer argued with the Mukomuko Police because they had prevented the suspect from getting legal assistance. The Mukomuko Police still did not allow Rahmad Sidi’s lawyer to meet directly. Still, the police gave a Power of lawyer prepared by the lawyer to Rahmad Sidi to be signed. The next day, 1 October 2022, the lawyer returned to Mukomuko Police Station to meet with Rahmad Sidi. The police gave them time to meet. But while the lawyer and Rahmad Sidi were talking, investigators from Mukomuko Police Station entered the room to monitor their conversation. The lawyer objected to the police presence in the middle of their conversation. However, the police officers still did not allow the lawyer and Rahmad Sidi to speak alone. The police said it was because of an order from the Head of the Criminal Investigation Unit of Mukomuko Police. The lawyer through the general criminal unit then asked to meet directly with the Head of the Criminal Investigation Unit, Susilo, S.H, M.H. However, Susilo, previously at Mukomuko Police Station, suddenly left.

4. Intimidation of Farmers

A day after Rahmatsidi’s arrest, his house was ransacked by unknown people. It was 30 September 2022, around 1 pm. His house was empty. Neliana, his wife’s aunt, explained she left his house at around 10.00 am, and I returned to the house at 2 pm to lift the clothesline. When she arrived home, the front cupboard was open, and papers were scattered on the floor. No money or jewellery was missing. The housebreakers seemed to be looking for something in the form of documents. The loss of several documents, such as land titles and motorcycles, evidenced it. While waiting for the settlement process, the community continued to work on their land. By March 2022, PT DDP’s security guards had burned down fourteen houses on the ground.

Uncertainty over PT DDP’s claim to the land

PT DDP arrived in 2006 and claimed they had purchased PT BBS’s HGU. Since then, PT DDP’s conflict with residents who work on the former PT BBS HGU land has been ongoing. Saman Lating, head of the farmer’s lawyer team, said that PT DDP’s claim on the abandoned former PT BBS HGU to this day could not be shown to the farmers, so the problems that occur in the field are protracted.

In 2016 Gatot Teja from BPN Mukomuko District said that PT BBS’s HGU was still under the name PT BBS and indicated abandoned. At the same time, the Mukomuko District Plantation Office explained that PT BBS’s commodity was cocoa, not palm oil. He was also unaware of PT DDP’s license over PT BBS. Then in 2017, Commission I of the Regional People’s Representative Council of Mukomuko Regency (DPRD) facilitated a hearing with PT DDP. In the meeting, the chairman of the DPRD stated that PT DDP controlled the former PT BBS land by not having a commodity transfer permit, made compensation not following the rules to the detriment of residents, and did not have formal legal legality to cause regional or state losses. The DPRD also formed a special committee to find the facts of PT DDP on the former PT BBS land. However, none of the Special Committee’s recommendations was implemented.

Police Siding with PT DDP

The Malin Deman residents arrested are farmers who have managed the land since 1997. According to AKAR Foundation, the HGU on the disputed land was PT BBS’s cocoa plantation. However, the land was then abandoned. About two years later, the community worked on the ground again. However, in 2005, PT DDP suddenly claimed that the 1,899 hectares of land had been transferred to PT DDP with a deed of borrowing and use. Around 187 resident members of PPPBS are trying to resolve the conflict through the Agrarian Reform scheme, a National Priority Program.

Meanwhile, the police always rely on company licenses. The police do not want to know if there is a conflict over the land, as conveyed by the Head of Bengkulu Police Public Relations, Kombes Pol Sudarno, “There is a conflict or not, until now the land has legality, namely PT DDP. The police have not even attempted to determine whether the process of issuing the company’s license was by the law. According to the regulations in force at the time (Government Regulation No. 36 of 1998 on the Control and Utilization of Abandoned Land) and more recent laws, the government should immediately designate abandoned HGU lands as abandoned land objects. Article 7, paragraph 5 of Government Regulation No. 20 of 2021 concerning the Control of Abandoned Areas and Land states that Land of Cultivation Rights becomes an object of abandoned land control if it is deliberately not cultivated, not used and or not utilised for two years from the issuance of the right.

According to AKAR, the proposal to make the 603 hectares of cultivated land an Agrarian Reform Object Land has been submitted to the Regent of Mukomuko on 4 September 2021 with copies to the Governor of Bengkulu, the Ministry of ATR / BPN, the Regional Office of ATR / BPN Bengkulu and BPN Mukomuko. The Manager of Legal and Policy Studies of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Satrio Manggala, believes that this case reflects the Government’s lack of seriousness in resolving agrarian conflicts. The state continues to use a security approach rather than conflict resolution.

Slow Government Response 

The government’s slow response to resolving the conflict between farmers and PT DDP has made farmers vulnerable to criminalisation. However, PT DDP’s license is not under the law.  

  • In 1986, before the HGU of PT BBS, the land in conflict was the traditional territory of the Malin Deman sub-district. The community used the land to grow rice, kopin and jengkol in Talang Arah village, Malin Deman sub-district. 
  • In 1991-1992, PT BBS began measuring the land and carried out unilateral evictions because farmers did not want to sell the land they had managed for generations.
  • On 1 August 1995, the North Bengkulu Regency National Land Agency (BPN) issued PT BBS an HGU certificate with number 34 covering 1,889 ha with cocoa/chocolate commodities. The certificate was issued based on the Decree of the Minister of Land Number 42/HGU/BPN/95 on 12 June 1995. PT BBS planted approximately 350 hectares with cocoa/chocolate and 14 hectares with hybrid coconut. Since 1997 PT BBS has stopped its HGU land management activities. The community then reclaimed the land abandoned by PT BBS. They planted oil palm, rubber, jengkol, durian and other crops.
  • In 2005-2012, PT DDP verbally told the community who worked on the former PT BBS that PT DDP had bought the former [PT BBS]. The company forced 24 farmers to accept compensation. PT DDP then evicted the land cultivated by the farmers and planted Palm Heads. It is a different commodity from the HGU Commodity of PT BBS).
  • In 2012, farmers who did not want to be compensated by PT DDP were forcibly evicted. 40-year-old Ali Martopo, 43-year-old Abdullah, 29-year-old Sendri and 65-year-old Darmin.

Farmers have tried to write to the Mukomuko District Parliament and were followed up by the Mukomuko District Parliament. The DPRD summoned PT DDP, Mukomuko District Plantation Office, and Mukomuko District BPN. The Chairman of the Mukomuko Regency DPRD said that PT DDP on the former BBS land was illegal, and PT DDP was asked to stop all PT DDP activities on the land. Unfortunately, in 2018 the Mukomuko Local Government issued a plantation business license on the former PT BBS land. Five village heads, namely Talang Arah, Talang Baru, Air Merah, Serambi Baru, and Lubuk Talang, stated that they never recommended PT DDP. The community has gone to the Regent of Mukomuko and questioned the basis for the local Government to issue PT DDP’s IUP on the former PT BBS land.

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Malin Deman (-2.9153075893539553, 101.75689459459308)
administrative region: Indonesia, Bengkulu, Mukomuko Regency, Malin Deman District
total number of victims: dozens
period of incident: 12.05.2022 – 05.10.2022
perpetrator: police, company
perpetrator details: Polres Mukomuko and PT Daria Darma Pratama (PT DDP)
Issues: cultural rights, food, criminalisation, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment
Sources: Further HRM News:

NumberName, Details  GenderAgeGroup Affiliation  Violation  
1Damin male 65 farmerarbitrary detention, ill-treatment, cultural rights
1Suhartomaleunknown farmerarbitrary detention, ill-treatment, cultural rights
1Hamdimaleunknownfarmerarbitrary detention, ill-treatment, cultural rights
1Randa Fernandomaleunknownfarmerarbitrary detention, ill-treatment, cultural rights
1Muhtarmaleunknownfarmerarbitrary detention, ill-treatment, cultural rights
1Dosi Saputramaleunknownfarmerarbitrary detention, ill-treatment, cultural rights
1Rahmad Sidimaleunknownfarmerarbitrary detention, ill-treatment, cultural rights
dozensunknownmixedunknownfarmercultural rights, food