ODA WATCH : LAND GRABBING VICTIMS FILE LAWSUIT AFTER 30 YEARS by SAEKI Natsuko
投稿日時 2011-9-25 19:59:00 | トピック： 1. Aceh & Sumatera
|In September 2010, 85 households whose land was expropriated in 1979 for the construction of PT Asean Aceh Fertilizer (PT AAF) filed a lawsuit in the Lhokseumawe district court, demanding damages. How did a project funded by Japan’s Official Development Assistance become a subject of a lawsuit thirty years later? We take a look at what happened thirty years ago, and what has happened in the past thirty years.|
Dewantara Sub-district in North Aceh District is home to two key industrial plants, the PT Pupuk Iskandar Muda (PT PIM), and PT AAF which halted operations when natural gas, necessary for production, ran out. The hub port of Krueng Geukueh also lies in Dewantara.
Tari Pukat (fishing net dance) is a traditional Acehnese dance, the theme of which is dragnet fishing. While most of the North Aceh coast has become farming ponds for shrimp or milkfish, sandy beaches stretch in Dewantara. Visit the shore in the early morning and you may witness the dragnet fishing featured in the dance. As a long dugout boat approaches the shore, a dozen or so men race to meet it. Their pulling in the extremely heavy net is an impressive sight. Excitement fills the air once the net is hauled onto the beach. When there is a large haul, it is divided among the owner and crew of the boat as well as the men who pulled in the net. In the evening, one can get a glimpse of the local livelihood as the people put out the fish to dry or mend their nets.
Dewantara faces the Strait of Malacca, dubbed “the lifeline of Japan” because it is the route taken by tankers carrying crude oil from the Middle East. The water is oil-streaked and rather murky, but for the people living in this area, it brings abundant blessings of the ocean. Construction of the PT AAF plant deprived these people of their livelihoods in fishing villages.
Resettlement planned in haste
Details of land expropriation in connection with the construction of PT AAF are included in the “Plans for the Implementation of Resettlement and Development of Cot Mambong” (“Rencana Pelaksanaan Dan Pengembangan Resettlement Cot Mambong Dewantara”) compiled in 1980 by the Village Development Department of North Aceh District (Kepala Kantor Pembangunan Desa Kabupaten Aceh Utara). The document states that “because the construction of PT AAF is a national undertaking, land and crops of five villages in Dewantara Sub-district, where the plant will be located, must be expropriated, and residents must be resettled in an area that has potential to develop.” The original plan called for the expropriation of 265 hectares of land to make room for the plant, port, green zone, and living quarters for employees, affecting 395 households (2035 people). Based on this plan, in late April in 1979, the Governor of North Aceh established the Asean Aceh Fertilizer Resettlement Survey Committee (Panitia Tim Survey Resettlement), reasoning that “since the residents voluntarily and happily gave up their rights for the cause of development, it is deemed appropriate to provide them with just compensation and replacement land for resettlement and cultivation.”
The committee conducted its survey in a very short period in 1979, between May 4 and 10. The committee began by visiting the villages of Pasi Timu (slated to be destroyed by the construction of the plant), Keude Krueng Geukueh, Paloh Lada (site of employee living quarters), Tambong Baroh, and Tambong Tunong. At each village, residents were summoned to the meunasah (facility for prayers and meetings), where the committee presented them with information about two potential sites for their resettlement (relocation) that were being considered. The residents had a choice between moving to Cot Mambong in Nisam Sub-district or to Paya Cicem in Baktya Sub-district.
Then on May 6 and 7, representatives of residents in each village inspected the two locations. Even now with improved road conditions, it takes thirty minutes from their original villages to reach Cot Mambong, and perhaps two hours to Paya Cicem. Both were located inland and far from what the residents, used to living by the ocean, preferred, but they had no other choice. In the survey conducted after the inspection, 346 households (1306 people) chose Cot Mambong, while only 46 households (226 people) chose Paya Cicem.
Based on the report by the survey committee, on May 15, the Governor of Aceh Province, President of the National Syah Kuala University who was also the head of the Provincial Development Planning Agency (Bappeda), directors of other related agencies, and PT AAF held a joint conference at the North Aceh District parliament, and agreed that a resettlement site would be built at Cot Mambong.
Promises at the Cot Mambong resettlement site
Before the resettlement site was built, Cot Mambong was, true to its name (cot means “hills” in Acehnese), a forested area located about 14 kilometers from the Krueng Geukueh intersection on the Medan-Aceh road. Fifteen people in three households living within the area designated for the resettlement site as well as 105 people in thirty households living around the same area grew coconut palm, rubber, coffee, betel, banana and other crops for a living. The aforementioned “Plans for the Implementation of Resettlement and Development” reflects hopes that more paddies, farmlands and plantations would be developed through the resettlement of residents from the five villages in Dewantara.
The relocating residents, on the other hand, had serious concerns about moving to Cot Mambong as it lacked basic infrastructure. They demanded that at the very least the infrastructure they enjoyed (before relocation) be put in place at Cot Mambong, such as a village office, village meeting place, health center, elementary school, meunasah, mosque, soccer field, water well, and a market. In response, the participants at the joint conference held on May 15 at the District parliament agreed to split the costs of infrastructure development as below.
PT AAF: Construction of 400 houses, construction and paving of a 14-kilometer road from the Medan-Aceh road, construction of a bored water well
Central government: Construction of a health center, elementary school, meunasah, and mosque
Provincial government: Construction of a village office, village meeting place, soccer field, and market, as well as distribution of seedling (clove, coffee, coconut palm, peanut, etc)
District government: Transportation of residents, job training
It was promised that each household would receive one hectare of wet paddy and one hectare of farmland, in addition to housing.
According to the “Plans for the Implementation of Resettlement and Development,” the cost of construction of the resettlement site was 1,679,760,700 rupiah. ASEAN member countries were to assume 23% of the costs, and Japan’s Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) was to assume the rest.
Resettlement site unfit for settlement
According to testimonies of residents, land surveys, payment of compensation, and relocation began in 1979. The rate of compensation per square meter was 180 rupiah for wetlands and 280 rupiah for buildings or farming ponds. Residents had to relocate within three months of receiving compensation even if their house at the resettlement site was not completed, in which case they had to stay with relatives or friends. The number of households whose land and houses were expropriated was 500, larger than originally planned, but resettlement plots were prepared only for the 415 households that relocated in Phases 1 and 2. 85 households slated for relocation in Phase 3 were dispersed. We will come back to the plight of these 85 households that would eventually file a lawsuit in 2010 to demand damages.
Life after relocation was difficult. “Plans for the Implementation of Resettlement and Development” states that most of the land at the designated resettlement site was state-owned, but because it was in fact owned by residents in neighboring villages, some relocating residents never received the paddy and farmland that was promised. Jamaliah of Krueng Geukuehvillage received 1.47 million rupiah as compensation for his house in 1979 and moved to Cot Mambong in 1981, but he did not get the one hectare each of wet paddy and farmland that had been promised. There was no transportation for the relocation, and no electricity.
Jamaliah made sweets to sell, and her husband, who used to be a fisherman, found a job crushing rocks. He earned 3000 rupiah for crushing one cubic meter of rock for construction material. Even after three years of crushing rocks, with four children, it was hard to make a living. Says Jamaliah, “It was all we could do to buy half a bamboo measure (0.75 kilograms) of rice. We thought we would starve.”
In the end, Jamaliah and her family had no other choice but to return to Bangka Jaya village, which was close to Keude Krueng Geukueh, the village they had left. Since then, they help with dragnet fishing and earn 5000 to 10,000 rupiah. 5000 rupiah might buy some salted fish, half a bamboo measure of rice, and water spinach, just enough to feed the family.
“We are used to sea water, so it was not easy to live with fresh water,” Iliansyah, the leader of the residents, laughs. Most relocated residents left the resettlement site and returned to areas by the ocean near their original villages. Only 65 households remained when Vice President Adam Malik (1978-83) handed the residents title deeds to the land at the ceremony to open the resettlement site.
Difficult life at Cot Mambong
What is life like for those who still live in the resettlement site at Cot Mambong?
Ibrahim, originally from Pasi Timu village, moved to the resettlement site in March 1980. He did not receive the promised one hectare of wet paddy. Instead, he was given one hectare of land that was still forested. This he cleared over three months, and planted more than a hundred candlenut and thirty oil palm trees that he bought out of pocket. While the trees grew, and even until now, he has had to earn money through crushing rocks and logging. Back in his original village, he was only a small-scale fisherman who did not own a boat, but he still sighs, “I prefer the ocean. But there is no place for me to live.”
M. Daud married a woman from Keude Krueng Geukueh village in 1957 and lived there since 1972. He says that he received compensation of about 700,000 rupiah for his house (on rented land) and his fifty palm trees (150 rupiah per tree) around 1980. In 1983, they moved to the resettlement site on a car arranged by the head of Dewantara sub-district. He is one of those that relocated in Phase 2. Like Ibrahim, all he received was one hectare of land that was still forested. As he had no money, he was unable to plant anything, and was forced to give up that piece of land. For a while he worked as a day laborer on a plantation, but because the plantation owner has since sold the plantation, M. Daud is now out of work. From time to time he plants chili pepper on someone else’s land and earns 10,000 rupiah at most, and his wife peels pecans (500 rupiah per one kilogram). “People here are like Boh Rom Rom (dumplings covered in grated coconut, an Acehnese sweet). We are just rolled around.”
Military operations exacerbate the situation
Nisam Sub-district, where the Cot Mambong resettlement site is located, was a scene of some of the worst human rights abuses in North Aceh Province. The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) generally hid in the forested inland regions, carrying on guerilla warfare as they moved, and the Indonesian army and police conducted daily anti-insurgency campaigns in Nisam District. In February 1999, on my first visit to Aceh, the first victim of military operations that I met was a woman whose husband was killed by special forces in 1990. His body was dumped at Cot Mambong. Incidentally, I was not able to visit Nisam Sub-district after that until the peace agreement was signed in 2005.
It was impossible for the relocated residents not to be affected by a situation so tense. Between 1989 and 1998 while Aceh was designated as a Military Operation Area (DOM), Ibrahim says that he was forced to keep moving, to the ocean and to the forest. When military operations intensified again after 2000, he fled into the jungle and was not able to return to the resettlement site. The plantation where he had planted candlenut and oil palm was abandoned and became a forest again. Now only twenty candlenut and thirty oil palm trees remain.
Ibrahim’s eldest son joined GAM. He was shot and killed in a cacao plantation on March 16, 2000. In 2003, Ibrahim himself suffered a broken bone when an Indonesian army soldier kicked him in the right chest. The soldier also tied his legs together and hung him upside down.
About 20 people were shot in the resettlement site during military operations after 2000. With the exception of the eldest son of Ibrahim, who was a GAM member, all were civilians.
Lawsuit unlikely to bring relief
The years between 1989 and 1998 were, according to the people, a “silent period.” They could not speak out about the problems they were facing in connection with the expropriation of their land. Shortly after Suharto stepped down in 1998, when the people of Aceh raised their voices about human rights abuses during military operations there, those whose land was expropriated sent a letter to PT AAF. PT AAF provided six million rupiah in assistance to the 415 households for whom resettlement plots were arranged, but no action was taken regarding the remaining 85 households that were not given such plots. Military operations intensified after 2000, followed by another “silent period.”
Five years have passed since the peace agreement in August 2005. Immediately after the agreement, people “were like birds freed from a cage and didn’t know which way to go,” but finally there is an environment in which they are able to bring a lawsuit about land that was taken away thirty years ago. In September 2010, the 85 households filed suit at the Lhokseumawe district court, demanding damages of 100 million rupiah per household as well as a resettlement plot. The defendants are PT AAF, Governor of North Aceh District, Governor of Aceh Province, head of Dewantara Sub-district, North Aceh District Land Agency, and PT AAF’s Land Expropriation Committee.
The lawsuit may not amount to much. Because PT AAF itself has shut down and is under the control of a liquidator, it is unclear who is accountable. After the peace agreement was signed, the Aceh self-government was established and many former members of GAM became leaders in the provincial and district governments, but they do not appear to be interested in land grabbing that happened thirty years ago or in taking responsibility for it. Many residents, while they say that they must not lose hope, have doubts: “The local government changed after the peace agreement, but what difference has it made? Things have changed only for GAM. We are safer and have freedom, but it is just as difficult as before to feed ourselves and to work.”
PT Asean Aceh Fertilizer (PT AAF)
PT Asean Aceh Fertilizer (PT AAF) was created as part of Japan’s assistance to the “ASEAN Industrial Projects.” With regard to Indonesia, Japan agreed to provide a JPY 33 billion loan (with 2.5% interest rate, 25-year repayment period, and a seven-year grace period) in October 1979, then a JPY 13.23 billion loan (with 2.5% interest rate, 24-year repayment period, and a six-year grace period) in March 1981 for the construction of an urea fertilizer plant in North Aceh District in Aceh Province. Construction was undertaken by Toyo Engineering (and completed in December 1983). PT AAF shares were held by five countries: Indonesia (through PT Pupuk Sriwidjaja) held 60%; Malaysia, Philippines, and Singapore each held 13%, and Thailand held 1%. The company exported fertilizer to ASEAN countries as well as to East and South Asia, and production peaked in 1997 at 698.8 tons. As natural gas reserves in Aceh dried up, however, the supply of raw material stopped, and PT AAF was forced to halt operation in August 2003. It remains closed today.
ASEAN Industrial Projects
ASEAN Industrial Projects aimed for each member country to set up a new large-scale project utilizing resources within the ASEAN region and contributing to collective import subsidizing industrialization. Member countries agreed on this initiative at the first ASEAN Summit in February 1976 and at the second ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting in March that year. Plans were made for urea fertilizer plants to be built in Indonesia and Malaysia, a superphosphate fertilizer plant in the Philippines, a soda ash plant in Thailand, and a diesel engine plant in Singapore. At the Japan-ASEAN Summit held in Kuala Lumpur in August 1977, Takeo Fukuda, Japan’s Prime Minister at the time, announced that Japan would cooperate with ASEAN as an established regional organization and promised to consider providing a total of USD 1 billion in assistance to the ASEAN Industrial Projects. The plan to build a diesel engine plant in Singapore, however, failed to obtain support from member states that were concerned about protecting domestic industries. Further, among the planned fertilizer plants, only the urea fertilizer plants in Indonesia and Malaysia, countries that promised sufficient domestic demand, were implemented, the other countries having decided that they would not be able to export to countries outside of ASEAN due to lack of price competitiveness.
Translated by AKIMOTO Yuki