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Jakarta Post

The endless fight for land in Indonesia

  • Muhammad Ikhwan

Jakarta   /   Sat, September 24 2011   /  10:18 am

Indonesia will commemorate the 51st National Farmers’ Day on Sept. 24. Over the years, we have witnessed the same demand from the farmers on the street: The right to land.

For many decades, farmers have lost in what I have called the fight for land. History tells that our farmers were brutally exploited in the cultuurstelsel era. Farmers were forced to plant export commodities like coffee and sugarcane. For those who owned land, 20 percent of it should be allocated for those aforementioned commodities. Those who did not, they had to work 75 days in a year for Dutch estates.

After independence, farmers still had to fight for land — especially against big foreign companies. The fight sparked various movements aimed to reclaim land.

In 1960, a big boost came in the form of the enactment of Basic Agrarian Law, which supports redistributive land reform for farmers. I...