Taking Back the Stolen Land

May 14, 2019

By Indonesia Corruption Watch

Open Contracting is crucial in the natural resources sector. Applying open contracting would open doors to monitor public service delivery. At the same time, it would become possible to hold the government to account in its management of natural resources.

Despite the government’s adoption of Public Information Disclosure Law No 8 of 2008, in reality it is nearly impossible to access contract documents. The Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM) in East Kalimantan had firsthand experience in this regard. In 2015, JATAM filed an information request for land-cultivation permits (Izin HGU) of the company Perkebunan Kaltim Utama (PKU) at the regional office of the National Land Agency in East Kalimantan. The request was submitted after forced evictions by PKU on agricultural land in 3 sub-districts in Kutai Kertanegara-Muara Jawa, Loa Janan, and Sanga-Sanga- as well as some parts of Sungai Nangka Teluk Dalam village.

The request was firmly denied by the National Land Agency who, as the respondent, argued with their interpretation that contract documents are exempt from public information. The dismissal prompted JATAM to file for an information dispute at the Provincial Information Commission of East Kalimantan. After a full year of dispute processes, it was decided that the land-cultivation permit is in fact public information.

When JATAM finally obtained the documents, it was revealed that the area owned by PKU had never been given up by land owners in the first place.

PT is the Bahasa term for Perseroan Terbatas, a business entity under commercial law.

The land owners are still fighting today to reclaim the land that was forcefully taken from them. They refuse negotiations with the company that promised them welfare schemes while at the same time criminalizing many farmers. Two farmers who are momentarily undergoing trials at the State Court of Tenggarong, Kutai Kertanegara.

Land grabbing and land seizing are some of the primary reasons why open contracting methods are crucial in the natural resources sector. An open and inclusive procurement process would provide space for the public to participate in monitoring government permits.