Conflict between palm oil company PT FPIL and community of Sumber Jaya Village in Jambi Province leads to the criminalisation of small farmers

On August 4, 2022, hundreds of peasants from Sumber Jaya Village, Kumpeh Ulu District, Muaro Jambi Regency demonstrated in front of the Agrarian and Spatial Planning/National Land Agency of Jambi Province (ATR/BPN) office. The peasants, who are members of the Kumpeh Farmers Union (Serikat Tani Kumpeh (STK)), a member of the Jambi Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA), voiced their rights regarding the 322 hectares of land currently claimed by the palm oil company PT Fajar Pematang Indah Lestari (PT FPIL) and protest the criminalisation of peasants in Sumber Jaya Village.

PT FPIL accuses peasants of starting to occupy land legally included in the company’s Cultivation Rights Title (HGU) area and stealing their palm fruit in that area. Meanwhile, peasants feel they are entitled to the land because it was always their land, passed down for generations until a plantation company named PT Purnama Tausar Putra sized it in 1998 before being taken over by PT FPIL in 2015.

Efforts to criminalise peasants started in October 2021 by reporting peasants to the Police for illegal activity in the disputed land. PT FPIL also reported Mr Bahusni, the Head of STK, to the Jambi Regional Police on December 12, 2021, with the police report number: LP/-227/XII/2021/Ditreskrim. Mr Bahusni was accused of the crime of “any person illegally working, using, occupying, and/or collecting plantation products” as referred to in Article 107 letters a and d of Law Number 39 of 2014 concerning Plantations. Apart from Bahusni, there are eight peasants reported by PT FPIL.

Based on the report, nine people from Sumber Jaya Village received a summons from the Jambi Regional Police in December 2021. Police questioned them on January 20, 2022. At that time, peasants demonstrated at the Jambi Regional Police office to oversee the examination process. They asked the Police not to side with the company because the land conflict between the residents and PT FPIL had not been resolved. The Police had agreed not to arrest and detain the peasants at that time.

Mr Bahusni himself does not own land in conflict areas or areas being reclaimed by peasants. His land is outside the conflict area. He is just an individual whom Sumber Jaya peasants trust to lead their struggle as TSK Chair. Surprisingly, he was named as a suspect by some of the peasants during police examination. On 13 July 2022, the Jambi Regional Police declared Mr Bahusni a suspect based on decree Number S.Tap/P2/VII/RES.5/2022/Ditreskrimsus regarding the determination of the suspect. The following day, 14 July, Bahusni was summoned by the Police to be examined as a suspect through summons number: S. Pgl/485/VII/2022/Ditreskrimsus.

The identification of Bahusni is very questionable, considering that PT FPIL’s claim of ownership of land rights is debatable. PT FPIL formally claimed to have a Hak Guna Usaha (HGU) dated 2008, the HGU of PT Purnama Tusau Putra before PT FPIL took it over in 2015. However, the concession area for the 2008 HGU does not include land in ​​Sumber Jaya Village. Reportedly, there was a permit by the government to increase the size of ​​HGU in 2020 to three villages, including peasants’ lands in Sumber Jaya Village. However, the Sumber Jaya community did not participate in the process to obtain the permit and was not informed about it.

Accusing Mr Bahusni, a person representing the peasants on Sumber Jaya Village, of acting illegally seems an attempt to weaken or influence the struggle of the peasants who are currently fighting to regain control of their land. Bahusni is a target because of his position as head of STK.

Background

The peasants of Sumber Jaya Village have conflicted with the Plantation Company since 1998. The initial conflict was between the peasants and PT Purnama Tusau Putra, which was taking over peasants’ rice fields and community forests at that time. This caused a strong reaction from the peasants, which led to the burning of the company’s housing. As a result of this incident, several peasants faced legal processes, which weakened the community’s struggle. The company then succeeded in taking over peasants’ lands, cultivating palm oil illegally, without a plantation business permit or HGU.

A legal document produced by PT FPIL confirms that there has never been a waiver of rights from the Sumber Jaya community. The company’s document includes a waiver to PT Purnama Tusau Putra from a community with register No. 871/KU/1998 dated July 13, 1998. However, the waiver belongs to another village, Teluk Raya Village, not Sumber Jaya Village.

The conflict with PT Perkebunan Tusau Putra was ongoing when PT FIPL took over the management of PT Purnama Tusau Putra in 2015. The community has repeatedly tried to ask PT FPIL for clarification regarding the basis for PT FPIL occupying the land of Sumber Jaya Village, but PT FPIL never responded until a meeting, reportedly on 12 October 2021, facilitated by the Kumpeh Ulu District Head, where peasants and village government officials presented and showed proof of their land ownership while PT FPIL only verbally conveyed that the land already had an HGU. The first HGU was issued in 2008, and the second HGU in 2020.

However, the company never showed the HGU permit to the public. The government itself is also not transparent. Several court decisions have stated that HGU data should be public information. This is in line with the decision of the Central Information Commission Number 057/XII/KIP-PS-M-A/2015, dated July 22, 2016, which was confirmed by the Administration Court ruling, number: 2/G/KI/2016/PTUN-JKT dated December 6, 2016, and the cassation court ruling of the Supreme Court,  number 121/K/TUN/2017 dated March 6, 2017, and the supreme court review ruling, number 61PK/TUN/KI/2020 dated March 6, 2020.

The 2008 PT FPIL HGU does not mention Sumber Jaya Village but Teluk Raya Village. The problem then is that the government allowed to increase the area of ​​PT FPIL’s HGU, to land in three villages, namely Teluk Raya, Sipin Teluk Duren, and Sumber Jaya with HGU Certificate Number 00166 issued on 16 February 2020. The process of issuing this HGU never involved the community of Sumber Jaya. Since the issuance of the Location Permit for the construction of the Additional Expansion of the Palm Oil Plantation of PT FPIL on 20 January 2016, there has been no discussion with the community. The community has never relinquished their rights, let alone received compensation for their lands.

Thus, when the peasants tried to rework their lands that were confiscated by PT Purnama Tusau Putra and taken over by PT FPIL, the Police accused them of committing crimes of working, using, occupying, and/or collecting plantation products, even if as far as they are informed, the land is theirs. Even if the police hold on to the company’s 2020 HGU and ignore legal processes that are flawed in the issuing process, what is undeniable is that PT FPIL has been carrying out illegal activities from 2015 until at least 2019 because, on paper, the HGU was only issued in 2020. This is in line with the Decision of the Constitutional Court, number 138/PUU-XII/2015, which confirms that the business activities of Plantation Plant Cultivation and/or Plantation Product Processing Business can only be carried out by the Plantation Company if it has obtained land rights and Plantation Business permits. Thus, who should be legally processed is FPIL, which has carried out illegal activities on the land of the Sumber Jaya community after it took over PT Tusau Purnama Putra in 2015.

In this conflict context, the accusation of palm oil theft committed by peasants should be carefully examined by the police. The palm oil itself was not planted by PT FPIL but was illegally planted by the Tusau Putra Plantation in 1998. The membership of peasants of Sumber Jaya in the STK has revived their struggle by reclaiming or reprocessing lands belonging to them that were previously confiscated.

Demands

The STK, together with KPA, openly demanded:

1. PT FPIL terminated its plantation business operations which did not comply with the laws and regulations and harmed the STK.

2. The Governor of Jambi actively resolved the agrarian conflict between the STK and PT FPIL.

3. Police of the Republic of Indonesia stop all acts of intimidation, repression, and other criminalisation efforts in agrarian conflicts.

4. The Ministry of ATR/BPN complies with the Supreme Court’s decision by disclosing data on the company’s HGU that has caused misery to the people, evaluating and revoking PT FPIL’s HGU permit.

5. The Ministry of ATR/BPN immediately resolves conflicts in the Agrarian Reform Priority Locations (LPRA) areas

6. The President of the Republic of Indonesia carries out genuine agrarian reform.

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Sumber Jaya village
administrative region: Indonesia, Jambi Province, Muaro Jambi Regency, Kumpeh Ulu district, Sumber Jaya village
total number of victims: dozens
period of incident: 12.12.2021
perpetrator: palm oil company
perpetrator details: PT Fajar Pematang Indah Lestari (PT FPIL), Jambi Regional Police
Issues: cultural rights
Sources: https://jamberita.com/read/2022/08/04/5974522/petani-kembali-dapat-kriminalisasi-kpa-jambi–negara-stop-lindungi-korporasi; https://halosumatera.com/aksi-di-bpn-muarojambi-hingga-pantau-persidangan–di-pn-sengeti and https://kumparan.com/jambikita/kasus-penyerobotan-lahan-para-petani-demo-di-depan-polda-jambi-1xLOxWKfWEo 
Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolation
1BahusniMaleunknownPeasantsfreedom of association
8farmersMaleunknownPeasantsfreedom of association, cultural rights
dozensunknownunknownunknownPeasantscultural rights, food