UCA News

Indonesia

Indonesian rights groups call for release of farmers

Kalimantan farmers were arrested at the behest of a palm oil firm in a land dispute with villagers, they say

Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Indonesian rights groups call for release of farmers

Families and friends of the three detained farmers hold a protest in Palangka Raya in Central Kalimantan on April 6. (Photo courtesy of Save Our Borneo)

Share this article :
Dozens of rights groups have called on the Indonesian government to free three activist farmers from Central Kalimantan arrested last month in Jakarta — and to protect tribal people from repressive acts by local police.

Police stormed the office of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) in Jakarta on March 7 and arrested the farmers — Dedi Susanto, Untung, and James Watt — from an indigenous Dayak community in Central Kalimantan’s Kotawaringin district.  

They are being held in the provincial capital Palangka Raya after being accused of inciting others to steal palm fruit from a plantation owned by a palm oil company.

The three had gone to Jakarta for meetings with the National Human Rights Commission and other groups to garner their support in a land dispute between the farmers and the company Hamparan Masawit Bangun Persada.

The dispute began in 2006 when the company allegedly seized around 117 hectares of their land.

“These arrests were engineered by Hamparan Masawit Bangun Persada to break people’s resistance,” read a statement signed by 20 human rights and environmental groups including Amnesty International Indonesia, the Mining Advocacy Network and Human Rights Working Group.

“President Joko Widodo should instruct the national police chief to stop violence against farmers who are being denied their rights over land, plantations and rice fields, the source of their livelihoods,” the groups said.

“The government should not ransack and relocate people on behalf of investors as that will worsen people’s social and economic situation.”

Usman Hamid, director of Amnesty International Indonesia, told UCA News that the police chief should instigate disciplinary action against officers for what was an act of intimidation.

Father Sani Lake, director of the church-run Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation group in the Kalimantan region, said the company had used police as a tool to get what it wanted.

“The three farmers were arrested because they had been accused of [leading] the fight against the company in their community,” he told UCA News. 

He said they went to Jakarta to seek help. “However, police supported by the company chased and arrested them in Jakarta,” the priest said.

The palm oil company and police could not be reached for comment.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
 
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM

Publisher

Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."