Dozens were hospitalized after hundreds of farmers clashed with riot police at the governor’s office in Medan, North Sumatra, on Monday, after they failed to meet with acting Governor Gatot Pujo Nugroho.
Johan Merdeka, who coordinated the demonstration in observance of National Farmers Day, said the clash was triggered by the arrogance of security personnel who beat and kicked two women protesters after protesters forced their way into the governor’s office compound and he refused to meet them.
“We waited more than two hours, but the governor did not respond and we therefore had to force our way into his office to convey our aspirations [… ]A clash was inevitable,” he said.
Johan said the protesters went to the governor’s office with good intentions and to convey their aspirations and felt disappointed with the governor’s refusal to receive them and hear their demands.
Medan Police chief Sr. Comr. Monang Situmorang said the police used force only after demonstrators pelted stones at police and several personnel fell into trenches.
In Bandar Lampung, thousands of farmers blockaded the Trans-Sumatra East Highway near the city for 10 minutes in an attempt to attract attention to the unresolved land conflict in Mesuji, North Lampung.
The demonstrators demanded that the government execute seven recommendations made by the presidential fact-finding team regarding Moro-moro Way Serdang’s ownership of the disputed land, a thorough investigation into the bloody clashes between farmers and security personnel and a stop to security personnel deployment in land conflict settlements.
Association of Moromoro Way Serdang Farmers (PPMWS) secretary Syahrul Sidin said the rights body’s fact-finding team made seven recommendations to settle the Mesuji land conflict but none had been implemented.
“Of the seven recommendations, the government should respect the farmers’ constitutional right to the land that they have farmed for dozens of years. We have been denied identity cards and our voting rights in local and general elections,” he said, adding that the farmers’ rights to a large tract of land that was illegally acquired by the government and private plantation companies was guaranteed by the 1960 Agrarian Law.
Mesuji Regent Khamanik said his government had implemented several recommendations, including the withdrawal of security personnel from the disputed land and the trial of militiamen allegedly involved in the killing of several farmers in clashes.
Hundreds of farmers also staged a demonstration in front of the governor’s office, condemning Governor Sjachroedin ZP, who they said had given no indication of implementing the recommendations and settling land conflicts in the province.
In Makassar, hundreds of students, activists, fishermen and farmers hit the streets to condemn government acquisition of land for business purposes without fair compensation.
They said many farmers no longer had a farm after their land was illegally acquired and handed over to private companies for business utilities and plantations.
The protesters mentioned two major land conflicts between farmers and private and state-owned companies in Bukukumba and Takalar regencies.
“We oppose the land reform introduced by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono because it is falsified. In the reform program, the government has no plan to return the land occupied by force to the people. Millions of farmers are living in poverty because they no longer have any plots of land to earn a living,” said Reza Putra, who coordinated the street demonstration.