Sumatran tribe say lands stolen for palm oil

Published on Food Crisis and the Global Land Grab, by Fidelis E. Satriastanti & Camelia Pasandaran, Sept. 19, 2011.

The Wilmar Group,  (see also on fr.wikipedia and en.wikipedia) one of Asia’s largest agribusiness companies, claims to lift people out of poverty and respect indigenous peoples’ land rights.

But protesters from the Anak Dalam Sungai Beruang tribe from Jambi in Sumatra demonstrating outside the state palace in Jakarta on Monday said a Wilmar Group subsidiary, Asiatic Persada, had forced them off their ancestral homelands … //  

… Roni said tensions between the tribe and AP began on Aug. 10 when men claiming to be agents of the firm came into their village and began forcibly evicting them.

“We don’t know why they did that,” he said. “But some time before it happened, there were reports that outsiders had been camping on the periphery of the existing plantation and stealing the oil palm fruit. We explained to the company that none of us were involved in that, but they didn’t respond.”

He added that three hamlets in the village, housing a total of 82 families, were evicted.

“We’ve been living there since 1920, and the company only came in 1986. We were there first, yet our ancestors’ graves now fall within their concession,” Roni said, adding that the Anak Dalam Sungai Beruang’s entire 5,100 hectares of ancestral land had been given over to palm oil companies.

AP dismissed the protesters’ claims as baseless.

Syafei, a company spokesman, said the group rallying in Jakarta was laying claim to land to which it had no right.

“The company only [recognizes] the land of the Anak Dalam people who were genuinely there before AP received its land use certificate,” he said. “The ones demonstrating now are newcomers.”

He added that the Jambi administration was setting up a team to resolve the dispute, involving local officials as well as representatives from the company and the tribe.

Master Parulian Tumanggor, the Wilmar Group commissioner, denied that AP expropriated the tribe’s land, adding that the dispute had already been settled. (full text).

Link: Quand la Banque mondiale encourage la razzia sur les terres agricoles, Le Monde Diplo, par Benoît Lallau, Sept. 2011.

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