Study: Conflict Resolution of Palm Oil Companies with Communities in West Kalimantan Has Not Been Effective

by Aseanty Pahlevi [Pontianak] on 31st January 2021

 

  • In the last two decades, there were 69 conflicts occurred between local communities and companies related to the development and management of oil palm plantations in West Kalimantan.
  • Out of the 69 cases, 32 cases were investigated by the research team of Palm Oil Conflict and Access to Justice in Indonesia [POCAJI]. This research studies the effectiveness of palm oil conflict resolution mechanisms in West Kalimantan.
  • The findings of this research were published in a research report and public discussion with the theme “Resolving Palm Oil Conflicts in West Kalimantan: Evaluation on the Effectiveness of Various Conflict Resolution Mechanisms” on Tuesday [19/1/2021].
  • In West Kalimantan, in 66% of the 32 conflicts which have been studied, the communities were not [or were hardly] successful to achieve any resolution of their complaints at all. Even when the conflict was successfully resolved, it took a very long process, which was approximately 5 years.

 

In the last two decades, in West Kalimantan [Kalbar], it was identified that there were 69 conflicts between local communities and companies related to the development and management of oil palm plantations. A research conducted by the team “Palm Oil Conflict and Access to Justice in Indonesia” [POCAJI], studied the effectiveness of palm oil conflict resolution mechanisms in West Kalimantan.

This research was a large-scale collaboration between Andalas University, KITLV of Leiden, Wageningen University as well as six Indonesian NGOs [Epistema Institute, HuMa,  Gemawan Institute, Scale Up, Walhi of West Sumatra, and Walhi of Central Kalimantan], coordinated by Professor Afrizal from Andalas University, Professor Ward Berenschot, Dr Ahmad Dhiaulhaq, both from KITLV of Leiden, and Professor Otto Hospes from Wageningen University.

The team of 19 researchers investigated 150 conflict cases in four provinces in Indonesia: Riau, West Sumatra, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan. The research policy report focuses on 32 conflict cases studied in West Kalimantan.

“The community generally voices complaints peacefully, through demonstrations and hearings with the authorities at the local level. However, we found an alarming trend that protest leaders were often criminalized by the police and company management,” Ward Berenschot stated from Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal -, Land – en Volkenkunde [KITLV].

The results of this research were published in a research report and public discussion with the theme “Resolving Palm oil Conflicts in West Kalimantan: Evaluation on The Effectiveness of Various Conflict Resolution Mechanisms” on Tuesday [19/1/2021].

The data shows that there were arrests of community members in 31% of the conflicts studied in West Kalimantan, which includes 94 arrests. The conflicts caused 12 people injured and many were rarely resolved.

In West Kalimantan, in 66% of the 32 conflicts which have been studied, the communities were not [or were hardly] successful to achieve any resolution of their complaints at all. “When the conflict was successfully resolved, it took a very long process, which was approximately 5 years,” he stated.

To voice complaints, the communities in West Kalimantan use various strategies, from accommodative to confrontational. Demonstration is the most commonly used strategy.

“Out of the 69% cases studied, the community held at least an demonstration action once to voice their complaints,” he revealed.

The team found that the conflicts caused 58 demonstrations, 48 hearings – which mostly done by local politicians and bureaucrats in West Kalimantan -, 18 cases of land occupation and blockades, and 14 attacks on company assets and forced harvesting.

An interesting finding was that communities more frequently directed their actions towards the local governments, rather than companies.

Initially, the community tried to negotiate directly with the company. However, the companies often did not respond. The community then more frequently held demonstrations in front of the regency government office or DPRD.

The demonstrations were responded by the local government by holding hearings to discuss the issue. “In the 21 cases we studied, 66 percent of all cases took the hearings with members of the DPRD, regents or governors.”

The most common strategies of the communities were to try to question local government decisions to issue plantation permits, to ask government support to resolve conflicts, and to put pressure on companies. A total of 21 cases were plasma schemes, while 15 cases were related to land grabbing.

Ward explained that the complaints about the implementation of profit-sharing schemes [plasma] often lead to conflicts. This was triggered by some companies which did not realize the land as promised; profits shared were too small; the cooperative formed did not function properly.

While for land grabbing, most complaints were related to the companies’ ways to obtain [or not to obtain] the initial approval from the local communities on the process of land acquisition.

In some cases, companies tend to rely on community leaders who often do not represent their members, use intimidation from thugs, or lack transparency in the payment of compensation to communities.

“People want more profit sharing, or a better implementation of plasma schemes,” Ward said.

 

Rarely Resolved

Ahmad Dhiaulhaq, a researcher at KITLV Leiden explained, one important reason for the many unresolved conflicts was that the authorities at the local level were often less successful in facilitating the conflict resolution process.

“Out of the 26 facilitation efforts by the local government, DPRD, and the police to mediate conflicts, there were only 3 agreement cases between the companies and the communities were achieved and then implemented,” said Ahmad.

This study found that in general the conflict resolution mechanism of palm oil – courts, RSPO complaint facilities, and informal mediation by the local governments – were still ineffective. Another reason was the difficulties for the community to access the mechanism of formal conflict resolution such as courts and RSPO dispute resolution facilities.

In West Kalimantan, there were only 5 cases brought to court and 5 cases went to the RSPO. A combination of several factors, such as legal constraints, costs, lack of trust, as well as procedure complexity discourages people from using this mechanism.

“In addition, when the communities won in court [only 3 cases], the court decisions were often not implemented,” Ahmad continued.

In contrast, a professional mediator with a trained capacity to mediate conflicts were much more effective at facilitating resolution.

The research team of POCAJI provided several conflict prevention recommendations. It is expected that the local government can ensure that companies indeed get ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ or FPIC from local communities before starting the operations; and monitor the implementation of the nucleus-plasma cooperation scheme.

To improve conflict resolution, it is necessary to establish a mediation institution or conflict resolution desk at the provincial or regency level; to increase the capacity of related authorities; and also for the local government to impose sanctions on companies that are not cooperative in resolving conflicts.

“It is necessary to have more professional law enforcement and avoid informal pressure from business actors,” Ahmad stressed.

 

The Role of Government

Head of Plantation Department of West Kalimantan, Heronimus Hero, said that the regency government is supposed to have a more strategic role in preventing and resolving conflicts. This is because almost all authority of evaluation is on the regency government.

“There is indeed more authority in regency. The main key to conflict resolution is in the regency,” he said.

Hero mentioned that the regency government can evaluate whether the companies have benefited all parties, meaning that the companies are profitable, the community is prosperous and the economy is developed.

“Because the one who gives permit is in the regency, since it has an area. The regency is given extraordinary instruments. This is the most strategic evaluation of the regional government and it is legally valid. ”

According to him, all regulations in the plantation have been there. They only need to be implemented. The tool has also been available, it only needs to be done.

“The regency can give a warning to the companies. However, the companies also have to be protected, because there have been permits. If there is no permit, the regency can give strict sanctions, “Hero expected.

The Regent of Kubu Raya, Muda Mahendrawan, said that in an effort to resolve oil palm plantation conflicts, the regency government involved more village officials in mediating and approaching the two disputing parties.

“Kubu Raya involved more village officials in resolving conflicts,” he said.

Muda admitted that most conflicts in the regions were due to land grabbing and overlapping transmigration lands. Moreover, recently there are more conflicts on plasma profit sharing. In addition, conflicts also occur among adjoining companies.

“Out of 28 companies in Kubu Raya, we organized and accomplished them one by one. We will re-manage the licensing. ”

Besides, Muda explained, a new conflict recently emerged as a result of a company management shift. “This is a challenge that we must solve. We will continue to do mediation, so that the problem will be resolved, “he said.

 

Land and Legal Certainty

The representative of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association [Gapki], Sadino, stated that not all oil palm plantation companies are members of Gapki. In West Kalimantan, for example, out of 378 companies, only 70 companies are members of Gapki.

“Gapki’s commitment is a socially and economically sustainable plantation. Conflicts certainly become a record and we understand. Hopefully, this research will have a continuation, including the substance in plantation regulations. ”

Sadino highlighted the issue of land and legal certainty in Indonesia. If that thing happens, conflict resolution will be easier.

“Why the conflicts exist, because the majority of forests are unlikely to have proofs of certificates. However, they are later claimed as community land. This becomes the dispute, moreover if it is brought to a court that adheres to positive law. ”

Then people look for alternative ways, such as mediation or so on. “Agrarian law does not reach all regions. It becomes difficult for the companies, who should be contacted if the evidences of the rights are only the certificates, “he said.

 

Source:

First released on the page of mongabay.co.id with the research title: Conflict Resolution of Palm Oil Companies with Communities in West Kalimantan Has Not Been Effective on January 31, 2021.

 

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