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Indonesian woman gets help to fight mining firm

Environment group pledges support in arson case

Indonesian woman gets help to fight mining firm
Nurjanjah Gazali (center) has been in prison for over three weeks (photo supplied by Indonesian Forum for the Environment)
Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

April 17, 2013

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An environmental group said on Tuesday that it will investigate the mining industry in Southeast Sulawesi province and provide legal aid to a community leader who is currently behind bars.

Nurjanjah Gazali was initially questioned as a witness on March 26 by police investigating a suspected arson attack at the PT Petambangan Bumi Indonesia mining site in Sambawa district.

Later that day day, police arrested and charged Gazali, who is also known as Bu Mimi.

Gazali is one of the residents who have opposed the firm and two palm plantation companies which have managed 12,000 hectares in Sumbawa since 2004. Locals say they are using ancestral land.

On February 4, the district head ordered PT Petambangan Bumi Indonesia to suspend its mining activities until further notice, an order which it reportedly ignored, prompting residents to allegedly attack the company’s property. Police suspect Gazali of leading the attack.

“Arresting her is a form of silencing indigenous people to stop fighting for their land,” said Zensi Suhadi of Indonesian Forum for the Environment.

The organization said it was seeking legal aid for Gazali and would investigate how mining operation permits were issued in the area.

This is not the first time she has faced legal charges over alleged damage of commercial property.

In 2010, a local court in Southeast Sulawesi ordered Gazali to pay a fine of 500 million rupiah (US$51,500). But a year later the High Court in Kendari, the provincial capital, acquitted her of all charges.

Kent Yusriansyah of the Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA) said that the latest case against Gazali indicated the severity of land disputes in Indonesia over the past few years.

“Conflicts often begin with the government’s annexation of land owned by local people and given to companies,” he said, noting that residents often do not have the paperwork to prove land ownership.

KPA reported that from 2004 to 2012 there were 618 agrarian conflicts in Indonesia, mostly in Sumatra, with 58 people killed over the disputes.

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