Indonesia’s National Peasant Day 2017 – A Plea to the President for Agrarian Reform

Thursday, 28th September 2017

Rain was pouring down from Jakarta’s sky that morning, Wednesday, 27th September 2017. Nevertheless, it did not stop thousands of activists and peasants in swinging their legs to the State Palace, to urge the President in accelerating the Agrarian Reform.

The 24th September is known as National Peasant Day in Indonesia, as mandated under the President Decision No.169/1963, but also marks the day where UUPA (Agrarian Primary Law) was born in 1960. This law emphasizes further on land reform, which means to eliminate all colonialism over the land rights and to strengthen land ownership rights for peasants in the country.

Nonetheless, the Government is criticized that in spite of the legal stipulation, the peasants’ lives are being led further into poverty and marginalization from the celebration of “legalized” land grab on behalf of development and foreign investment.

    

In celebrating the National Peasants’ Days activists and peasants under the Agrarian Reform National Committee (KNPA) held a long march to the Presidential Palace, on Wednesday, 27th September 2017, to deliver their aspiration for the President to immediately fulfill his land reform promises of 9 million hectares land redistribution under the Land Object for Agrarian Reform (TORA) system and 12.7 million hectares of land to be managed by Indigenous Peoples. These promises were delivered during his election campaign and was seen as a key to elevate people’s welfare and to reduce economic inequality.

Through this moment, they urge the Government to stop any criminalization action against the farmers and to start putting the people in the centre of any development plan and natural resource management.

A peasant from Serang, West Java, who also joined in this rally, conveyed his hopes to meet with the President, to directly deliver his issues about his land which was grabbed and now owned by the Indonesian Military.

Another peasant from Indramayu, West Java, also revealed his purpose in joining the rally, he would like to meet with Mr. President, to simply request that the land where he works on to not be supposedly ruled by private companies. He really hopes that someday he can benefit from what he plants on the land, and no longer obliged to deliver the land resources to the company.

And thousand more peasants are having the similar condition, wishing to see their leader, and hoping that a light could emerge as the solution.

Regrettably, the President was committed to another agenda, and unable to see the rally or even capturing the aspirations of the people marching for their rights. Deputy II of Presidential Executive Staff, Mr. Yanuar Nugroho tried to amend the disappointment by approaching them and receiving their yearnings. He also promised that a schedule will be set up for the peasants’ representative meeting directly with the Government.

These are the demands read out during the rally:

  1. The President is expected to immediately implement the agrarian reform principle align with Law Article 33, UUPA 1960 and Parliament Decision No.11 /2001. An agrarian reform principle which aims to reduce inequality, to eliminate agrarian conflicts, and enhancing the people’s welfare. 

    2. The President and the Indonesian Parliament must immediately review and correct the Law implementation which not align with the UUPA.

    3. The President is expected to immediately take a stern action to solve all agrarian conflicts occurring throughout regions.

    4. To immediately conduct investigations on all corruption cases occurring in Agrarian, especially those working in plantations, forestry, and mining sectors, which had caused huge land grabbing problem, environment destruction, and agrarian conflicts.

    5. To have a new license moratorium in the forestry, plantation, and mining sector, and also to conduct a review of the existing licenses which are proven on violating the law. To enforce the law toward the corporations which violating the human rights and destroying the environment.

    6. President must encourage the corporations of plantation and forestry to focus their business on the post-harvest technology development, and allow the locals and the farmers to own the land. 

The rally went in order and finished right after the Presidential Executive Staff representative responded to the mass.

The farmers were seen leaving the location with a glimpse of hope, that the Government will be on their side this time, and they would have a bright future where their grandchildren could independently manage the natural resources from their own land.

Cover photo by Betty Nababan (NES Indonesia Facilitator)