Taking Back the Stolen Land

May 3, 2019

By Indonesia Corruption Watch


Open Contracting is crucial in natural resources sector. This effort would open doors to monitor public service delivery while, at the same time, manifesting government accountability on 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 PT. Perkebunan Kaltim Utama (PT. PKU) at the regional office of National Land Agency (BPN) in East Kalimantan. The request was submitted after forced evictions by PT. 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 exempted from public information. The dismissal prompted JATAM to file for information dispute at Provincial Information Commission of East Kalimantan. After a full year of dispute process, it is adjudicated that the land-cultivation permit is public information.

When JATAM finally obtained the documents, it was revealed that the area under PT. PKU’s were never yielded 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 lands that were forcefully taken away from them. They refused negotiations with the company that promised them concocted welfare schemes while at the same time criminalizing many farmers. In addition to that, there are two farmers at the moment who are undergoing trials at the State Court of Tenggarong, Kutai Kertanegara.

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