Two indigenous women from Sihaporas Lamtoras injured due to joint forces intervention in customary land dispute in North Sumatra

On August 22, 2022, hundreds of members of the Police from the Simalungun Police and members of the TNI from Kodim 0207 Simalungun carried out repressive actions against the Sihaporas indigenous community in Pematang Sidamanik district, Simalungun Regency, North Sumatra Province. The indigenous people of Sihaporas Lamtoras were protesting the business activities of PT Toba Pulp Lestari (PT TPL) in their ancestral territory and aimed to stop them until the land dispute is settled. The brutality of the joint security forces in Simalungun resulted in a woman being injured by a rubber bullet.

Dozens of Police cars with the Simalungun Police Chief, the military district commander (Dandim), and 250 joint security forces entered the customary area without prior notification on August 22, 2022, at around 12.00. They aimed to open the road blockade by the indigenous people in Buttu Pangaturan, Pamatang Sidamanik Simalungun. The community refused to open the blockade until there was recognition of the Sihaporas’ traditional territory occupied by PT TPL.

At around 1.00 pm, the Police forced their way through the blockade and fired warning shots, resulting in a rubber bullet hitting a 48-year-old indigenous woman named Juliana Siallagan. Another indigenous woman, Mulina Simbolon, 34, was pushed or hit and fainted during the clash. The Sihaporas Indigenous Community asked the police chief for negotiations to avoid any more victims. Around 3.00 pm talks were held by a representative from the governor, Binsar Situmorang, the Simalungun Police Chief, and the Dandim 0207 Simalungun. Until 3.40 pm, the Sihaporas indigenous people still stood in the customary area, hindering TPL activities in the area. Security forces we also still at the scene.

Background

The Sihaporas customary area of ​​2,049 ha is the ancestral land of Ompu Mamontang Laut Ambarita. The land has been hereditarily owned and managed sustainably. The Lamtoras Sihaporas indigenous people depend on agricultural products Meanwhile, the forest is preserved because it is considered sacred, a source of medicinal ingredients for rituals, and clean water.

However, since 1986, PT Inti Indorayon Utama, which has now changed its name to PT TPL, began operating in the customary land without notifying the community land growing eucalyptus. Customary areas containing forests, rivers, ancestral graves, cultivated areas, and villages have been destroyed by the PT TPL eucalyptus business.  Its activity impacts communities’ daily lives, for example by polluting clean water sources due to the use of pesticides by the TPL.

The community is still struggling to get their rights back. However, they are repeatedly subjected to violence, criminalisation, and threats because PT TPL has the police on its side.

The indigenous people of Lamtoras Sihaporas are not the only community in conflict with PT TPL and experiencing a series of violence. The following are other cases of victims of violence and criminalisation in the conflict with PT TPL in North Sumatra:

1. The Ompu Mamontang Laut Ambarita Sihaporas (Lamtoras) Descendant Indigenous Institution

Still, in the Sihaporas community, a month ago, on July 18, 2022, the Police also clashed with the community. According to the Sihaporas community, the clash occurred after the community tried to block the road so that PT TPL’s timber truck from entering the land. The blocking has been going on for several days. The peak was on July 18, 2022, at around 7.30 pm; hundreds of communities of Sihaporas Village posted signs on the land of Sihaporas Village belonging to the descendants of the Ambarita clan. That’s when dozens of trucks and police cars came and beat the indigenous community. PT TPL accuses indigenous peoples of burning pine forests, accuses indigenous youths of putting nails in the road, and says the customary lands guarded by the Sihaporas indigenous people are not ancestral lands.

From 2002 until last year (2021), there have been 5 Siporas communities that have been criminalised. Two of them were found guilty.

2. The Huta Natumingka Pomparan Ompu Punduraham Simanjuntak Indigenous Community

January 2021, PT TPL reported three members of the Huta Natumingka indigenous community (Anggiat Simanjuntak, Pirman Simanjuntak, and Risna Sitohang), Borbor District, Toba Regency on charges of destroying plants belonging to PT TPL. The Toba Police have named the three suspects on charges of committing criminal acts of vandalism on land claimed by PT TPL.

3. The Ompu Umbak Siallagan Dolok Parmonangan Indigenous People

In October 2019. PT TPL deployed the Police with weapons, and TNI officers intimidated the Ompu Umbak Siallagan indigenous people in Dolok Parmonangan, Dolok Parmonangan District, Simalungun Regency. At that time, the community carried out farming activities in customary areas. After that, PT TPL reported two people (Hasudungan Siallagan and Sorbatua Siallagan) on charges of occupying state forests.

4. The Indigenous Peoples Descendants of Ompu Ronggur Simanjuntak Sipahutar

PT TPL is suspected of criminalising the Ompu Ronggur Simanjuntak Indigenous community members in the Sampangan Ni Huta II village, Sipahutar District, North Tapanuli Regency.

On December 15, 2020 PT TPL reported five indegenous community members (Dapot Simanjuntak, Maruli Simanjuntak, Pariang Simanjuntak, Sudirman Simanjuntak, and Rinto Simanjuntak). The five of them were accused of committing crimes against the use of state forest areas, even though they were only working on/cultivating customary areas that were inherited from generation to generation from their ancestors.

5. The indigenous people of Tor Nauli Parmonangan

In June 2020, PT TPL reported that 5 Huta Tornauli Indigenous community members (Buhari Job Manalu, Manaek Manalu, Nagori Manalu, Damanti Manalu, Ranto Dayan Manalu) who were in Tornauli Hamlet, Manalu Dolok Village, Parmonangan District, North Tapanuli Regency. They were reported on gardening charges without a permit in the Forest Area.

6. The Indigenous People of Pandumaan Sipituhuta Humbang Hasundutan

PT TPL workers planted eucalyptus in customary areas on Monday, February 25, 2013, even though there was an agreement between the community and the company that there was no activity on the land. The indigenous community protested against the company’s activities, resulting in clashes with masses of TPL employees. As a result, the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) guarding the company arrested 31 indigenous community members; 16 people were named suspects, and 15 were released.

On December 30, 2016, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) finally acknowledged and submitted a Decree on the Recognition of Customary Forests to 9 Indigenous Peoples spread across several regions in Indonesia. One of them is the Pandumaan Sipituhuta Indigenous Forest covering an area of ​​5,172 hectares. But unfortunately, the realization was reduced to only 2,393 hectares in January 2021.

Agustin Simamora from the AMAN Tano Batak’s Advocacy Bureau revealed that from 2013 to 2021 alone, there were 50 indigenous people from indigenous communities spread across Humbang Hasundutan, North Tapanuli, Toba Samosir, and Simalungun regencies, who experienced violence, criminalisation, and intimidation in community conflicts with PT TPL. These incidents point to the fact that the police side with the company and actively carried out violence and criminalisation to secure the company’s activities.

The urgent action on August 22, 2022, called for by the Association of Defenders of the Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (PPMAN) and the Alliance of the People’s Movement to Close TPL urges:

  1. Polri and TNI to withdraw their members from the territory of the Sihaporan Indigenous Peoples;
  2. Police and TNI must immediately stop repressive actions and other criminalisation efforts against the Sihaporas indigenous people
  3. The National Police Chief and the Commander in Chief immediately take firm action against the Simalungun Police Chief and Dandim 0207 Simalungun, who ordered human rights violations by their members.
  4. The Minister of Environment and Forestry (LHK) immediately revoke the license of PT TPL and immediately return the Sihaporas customary area to the community.

Detailed Case Data
name of the location:  The customary territory of the Sihaporas indigenous people (2.734135, 98.892870)

administrative region:  Indonesia, North Sumatra Province, Simalungun Regency, Pematang Sidamanik district, Sihaporas village

total number of victims: dozens
period of incident: 22.08.2022
perpetrator:  police, military, company
perpetrator details: Simalungun Police, TNI from Kodim 0207 Simalungun, PT. TPL
Issues: cultural rights, food, freedom of expression. 
Sources: https://betahita.id/news/detail/6211/aman-sudah-50-warga-jadi-korban-kekerasan-kriminalisasi-pt-tpl.html.html, https://aman.or.id/regional-news/tanobatak.aman.or.id, Wanita Masyarakat Adat Sihaporas Kena Tembakan Peluru Polisi saat Berebut Lahan dengan PT TPL – Halaman all – Tribun-medan.com (tribunnews.com), Masyarakat Lamtoras Sihaporas Desak Perlindungan Wilayah Adat – Mongabay.co.id : Mongabay.co.id

Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolation
1Juliana SiallaganFemale48IndigenousIll-treatment, cultural rights
1Mulina SimbolonFemale34IndigenousIll-treatment, cultural rights
dozensunknownunknownunknownIndigenousCultural rights