The Jakarta Post
Customary communities in 61 villages in Padang Lawas and North Padang Lawas regencies, North Sumatra, have strongly opposed the government's plan to repossess and take over the management of 47,000 hectares of land.
They claim the take over is driven by the interests of particular parties who wish to repossess and seize the management rights to the customary land, which is also known as the Register 40 area.
The communities' coordinator Tongku Lubuk Hasibuan said they would fight should the government forcefully seize their land because the area was part of customary land that they had occupied for generations, since the time of their ancestors.
Tongku added that around 30,000 residents currently living in the area were part of the seventh generation.
'We don't recognize Register 40. It's part of our customary land which has been converted into private ownership land certificates [SHM], currently reaching 1,820 SHMs. We pay land tax every year,' said Tongku in a hearing with Commission A of the North Sumatra Legislative Council (DPRD), which ended on Monday afternoon.
Tongku added that residents had been given permits to manage the land, which turned into a part of the case based on Forestry Ministerial Letter No. 1680, dated Sept. 26, 2002, with periodicity until 2017.
Tongku said the communities had formed the Bukit Harapan Oil Palm Plantation Cooperative as a legal body to manage the land, approved through State Administrative Court Decision No. 134K/2007.
Tongku claimed the communities had successfully managed the land and proven themselves able to improve their wellbeing.
'But why does the government wish to seize the land which the communities have successfully managed and [used to] improve their welfare? Where's the conscience of the government?' asked Tongku.
North Sumatra Prosecutor's Office spokesman Chandra Purnama said as executor, the prosecutor's office had completed its task to seize the 47,000 ha of land in Register 40 in 2009.
He added that the land had then been handed to the North Sumatra Forestry Office, which handed it to the North Sumatra governor, who later handed it to the Environment and Forestry Ministry, which eventually appointed state-run forestry firm Inhutani IV to manage the land.
However, added Chandra, despite being taken over by Inhutani, the 47,000 ha were still being managed by a private company.
Chandra said the government, through the Environment and Forestry Ministry, had formed a joint team, involving the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), to take over the management of the land from the private sector.
North Sumatra DPRD member Sutrisno Pangaribuan said the protest by the traditional communities would be a topic of internal discussion.
Sutrisno said that in the near future, the DPRD would visit the concerned areas of contention in the regencies.
'We will visit the locations. The issue must be immediately resolved as it involves people's lives,' he said.
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