Thousands of residents from 11 villages rallied outside the local office of state-owned plantation firm PT Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) VII Bunga Mayang in North Lampung on Monday, demanding the return of hundreds of hectares of farmland.
The demonstrators were met by about 1,000 officers from the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) special operations units of the North Lampung and Way Kanan Police during the protests.
Meanwhile, farmers wielding bamboo sticks also blocked access to the Bunga Mayang sugar mill, the third protest at the mill this month.
“We will continue protesting and blocking the access to the sugar mill until our rights have been returned,” rally coordinator Antoni said on Monday.
The land in question is in the villages of Kotanapal, Sukadana Ilir, Sukadana Udik, Negara Tulangbawang, Tanahabang, Negarabatin, Haduyangratu, Gedungbatin, Ketapang, Karangrejo and Sidodadi.
“PTPN VII has dominated our farmland, spanning hundreds of hectares, for the past 30 years,” Antoni said.
The firm had not employed local residents on the plantations established on the land and had brought in workers from Java instead, Antoni added.
The farmers also visited the office of the North Lampung administration to urge Regent Zainal Abidin to mediate talks with PTPN management in Bandar Lampung.
Zainal said that he would intercede in the dispute. “I promise that I will coordinate with PTPN VII’s directors. I also plan to meet with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to report on the current situation,” Zainal said.
“If the land is owned by the farmers, it should be returned to them. I have asked the farmers, who have claimed that their land was dominated by PTPN VII, to gather evidence that proves that the land belongs to them,” Zainal said.
PTPN VII representative Satria Tama said the company would consider the protestors’ demands. “We must discuss this with the company directors in Bandar Lampung. The requests cannot be immediately granted before we carry out an in-depth assessment. Residents must also be able to show their ownership documents,” Satria said.
The incident in Bandar Lampung follows the death of a 12-year-old boy on Sunday in a land dispute between PTPN VII Cinta Manis with local residents of people Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra.
Ifdhal Kasim, the chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said on Monday that a team had been sent to investigate the death of the boy, identified as Angga bin Dharmawan.
A spokesman for the National Police, Sr. Comr. Agus Rianto, previously said that the boy had been wounded by a sharp object, although officials could not confirm that he had been shot, as no projectile had been discovered during the initial autopsy.
Contacted separately, Hadi Jatmiko from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said that he hoped that the commission would be serious in its probe. “We found evidence that Brimob members fired real bullets. We retrieved the evidence from the gunshot wound to the shoulder of Jasman, a farmer who was shot and later treated at the Bhayangkara Police Hospital in Palembang, South Sumatra.