Thursday, 15 December 2011

Indonesian Farmers Shock Lawmakers With Alleged Massacres

Ezra Sihite, Arientha Primanita & Anita Rachman | December 14, 2011

Lawmakers were aghast on Wednesday as a group of farmers from Lampung told them about the alleged killing of a large number of their colleagues by a plantation company this year. 

The farmers, from the Megoupak area of Lampung’s Tulang Bawang district, were accompanied by a retired general, Saurip Kadi, during their meeting with House of Representatives Commission III, which oversees legal affairs. 

Besides the horrifying tale, the farmers showed what they said was video evidence of several murders. 

The killings are believed to have been carried out by hooded men clad in black. 

“We are surprised and concerned by the case of the Tulang Bawang farmers in Lampung and will ask the government to coordinate with law enforcers on this,” said Azis Syamsuddin, deputy chairman of Commission III. 

Another commission member, Bambang Soesatyo, said they would also question National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo at a hearing later on Wednesday. 

“There appears to have been a massacre, conducted by PT Silva Inhutani and its henchmen,” Bambang added. 

Silva Inhutani is a plantation company involved in a dispute with the farmers over land in Megoupak. The company exports wood but also plants oil palms and rubber trees. 

Timur told lawmakers that the video footage was from two different events. The first, he said, happened in Mesuji subdistrict in South Sumatra on April 21 and the second in Lampung’s Mesuji district on Nov. 11. In the first case, police have already identified six suspects, Timur said. 

Saurip, the retired general, said, “There has been an extension of the plantation but it has encroached on land that is owned by locals.” 

He also said the company had sought the help of the police to help evict the farmers as well as to form militant groups. “When the people complained, the security personnel turned to intimidation,” he said. 

The National Police’s chief of detectives, Comr. Gen. Sutarman, said a team had been formed two days ago to investigate the case. 

The chairman of the Presidential Working Unit for Development, Supervision and Oversight (UKP4), Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, said that although he had not yet heard of the alleged massacre, the claims should be investigated. 

“This is a serious matter and cannot be handled like an ordinary case. Even more so when there are videos,” he said. 

Ridha Saleh, from the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said that his institution had already reported the case to the Lampung Police in November but that nothing had happened. 

“We are going to remind them, and ask them to soon resolve the case,” he said.

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