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Resistance against Palm Oil – Unlawful Arrest of farmers’ resistance leader in Jambi, Indonesia

Berlin, 05 February 2009

Watch Indonesia! – urgent appeal

Karang_Mendapo

Landbesetzung in Karang Mendapo

Foto: Feri Irawan

Dear Friends, dear colleagues,

Watch Indonesia! and Rettet den Regenwald write to inform you about the unlawful arrest of farmers‘ resistance leader Muhammad Rusdi of Karang Mendapo village, Jambi province, Indonesia. This case is related to one of the countless land conflicts that occur in Indonesia due to the massive expansion of palm oil plantations. Rusdi’s arrest is seen as an attempt to silence the inspiring protest of Karang Mendapo-farmers that is becoming a precedent for victims of palm oil companies’ abusive land-grabbing practices elsewhere in Indonesia. We call on you to write to the Indonesian authorities and demand Rusdi’s release and a thorough investigation of the incident.

CASE DETAILS:

Muhammad Rusdi, who is also the mayor of Karang Mendapo, was arrested on 28 January 2009. Up until today, he remains in detention at the district police (polres) facilities of the Sarolangun regency. About 500 citizens of Karang Mendapo are camping outside the compound to demand his release, fearing for his safety. There have been reports of maltreatment during his interrogation. Local activists fear that Rusdi is being criminalized to suppress the protest of victims of abusive land-grabbing practices that palm oil-companies apply Indonesia-wide.

Rusdi has been at the forefront of the resistance against land-grabbing by PR Kresna Duta Agroindo (KDA), a subsidiary of the notorious business conglomerate PT Sinar Mas. Several years ago, KDA illegally cut down 600 ha forest and rubber plantations of Karang Mendapo citizens. The land became part of a larger palm oil plantation. Since then, KDA distributed a monthly fee of 58.000,- rp (3,50,- €) to each registered farmer. There has never been a clearly stated purpose of this payment.

In August 2008, the villagers seized the land – that in fact is their own – and harvested the yields of the oil palms there. Ever since, they have been subject to intimidation and maltreatment by unknown persons presumably acting on behalf of KDA. These incidents were reported to the police but to no avail.

As part of the protest, the citizens of Karang Mendapo decided to return the fee they had received from KDA in August. However, KDA refused to take back this money, so that it was entrusted on Rusdi until KDA would receive it. This appears to be the reason for Rusdi’s arrest. As became clear during his interrogation, Rusdi has is being charged with attempting to embezzle said money entrusted upon him by the citizens that elected him mayor.

Local activists and the population of Karang Mendapo fear that Rusdi is being framed by local law-enforcement authorities acting on behalf of KDA. While so far there is no direct evidence for this, the groundlessness of accusations against Rusdi, as well as the malicious practice of palm oil-companies all over Indonesia, to which Sinar Mas/ KDA is no exception, make this explanation plausible. They also fear for Rusdi’s physical safety.


SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please send a fax or sms to the relevant Indonesian authorities (contact information see below), especially the head of Sarolangun police resort, demanding
a) the immediate release of Muhammad Rusdi;
b) an investigation of the circumstances of his undue arrest;
c) the immediate return of land owned by citizens of Karang Mendapo that was fraudulently obtained by KDA,;
d) the investigation and prosecution of KDA’s fraudulent and abusive practices in Karang Mendapo.

SAMPLE FAX:

Re: Undue arrest of M. Rusdi, Mayor of Karang Mendapo village, Jambi province

Dear _________,

I am deeply concerned about the recent arrest of Muhammad Rusdi, Mayor (Kepala Desa) of Karang Mendapo, Sarolangun Regency, Jambi Province.

M. Rusdi was arrested on 28 January 2009 and is being held under detention at the district police (polres) facilities of the Sarolangun regency until today. There have been reports of maltreatment during his interrogation. Rusdi is being charged with attempted embezzlement and fraud, an accusation, for which there appear to be no factual grounds.

Rusdi has been at the forefront of local protest against the fraudulent and abusive land-grabbing practices of palm oil-company PT Kresna Dua Agroindo (KDA), by which his village was victimized. Last year, the citizens of Karang Mendapo successfully seized the land that had been stolen from them by KDA and harvested its yields. Ever since, they have been subject to intimidation and maltreatment by unknown persons presumably acting on behalf of KDA, a subsidiary of the Sinar Mas group. These incidents were reported to the police but to no avail.

The courageous and successful protest of the citizens of Karang Mendapo has become a precedent for victims of land-grabbing practices all over Indonesia. It is therefore feared that Rusdi is being framed by local law-enforcement authorities acting on behalf of KDA. While so far there is no direct evidence for this, the groundlessness of accusations against Rusdi, as well as the malicious practice of palm oil-companies all over Indonesia, to which Sinar Mas /KDA is no exception, give plausibility to this view.

I am deeply worried that Rusdi is being criminalized to instill fear among critics of these practices all over Indonesia. I acutely fear for Rusdi’s physical safety, too. I therefore urge you to ensure his well-being and immediate release. Further, the circumstances of Rusdi’s unlawful arrest should be investigated and prosecuted if necessary. Moreover, I call upon you to ensure that the land belonging to the citizens of Karang Mendapo is returned to its original owners and that the fraudulent and abusive practices of PT Kresna Dua Agroindo are subjected to a police investigation.

Sincerely Yours,


PLEASE SEND A FAX OR SMS TO:

1. Irawan Dapid Syah
Head of the Police Resort of Sarolangun
Mobile Phone: +62 811 7401990 or +62 811 748388
Fax: +62 74 122014 or +62 74 592500

2. Daud Dharsono
President Director
PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources & Technology Tbk
Fax.: +62 21 3181389

3. Zulfikli Nurdin
Governor of Jambi Province
Fax: +62 74 160400
Mobile Phone: +62 815 59803712

4. Mr. Hendarman Supandji
Attorney General
Kejaksaan Agung RI
Jl. Sultan Hasanuddin No. 1
Jakarta Selatan, INDONESIA
Fax: + 62 21 7250213
Tel: + 62 21 7221337 or +62 21 7397602
E-mail: postmaster@kejaksaan.or.id

5. Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri
Chief of National Police
Jl. Trunojoyo No. 3
Jakarta Selatan, INDONESIA
Fax: +62 21 720 7277
Tel: +62 21 721 8012
Email: polri@polri.go.id

6. Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudoyono
President Republic of Indonesia
Presidential Palace
Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara
Jakarta Pusat 10010, INDONESIA
Fax: + 62 21 231 41 38 or + 62 21 345 2685 or +62 21 345 7782
Tel: + 62 21 3845627 ext 1003

7. Mr. Ifdhal Kasim
Chairperson
KOMNAS HAM (National Human Rights Commission)
Jl. Latuharhary No. 4B Menteng
Jakarta Pusat 10310
INDONESIA
Fax: +62 21 3151042 or +62 21 3925227
Tel: +62 21 3925230
E-mail: info@komnasham.or.id

8. Mr. Ronny Lihawa
Chairperson
KOMISI KEPOLISIAN NASIONAL (National Police Commission)
Jl. Trunojoyo No.3
Kebayoran Baru
Jakarta 12110, INDONESIA
Fax: +62 21 7392317

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