Dolok Sanggul, 21 March 2022 – More than 23,000 petition signatures were submitted to the Regent of Humbang Hasundutan, through this petition the Pargamanan Bintang Maria Indigenous Community in Parlilitan District, Humbang Hasundutan Regency asked the Regent to immediately issue a Regional Regulation on the Protection of Indigenous Peoples (PPMHA) as a legal umbrella to save their incense forest. This frankincense forest has long been a source of their livelihood but is now threatened with being taken over by pulp and paper company PT Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL).
“We are here to ask the government to be more in favour of the community and not just the TPL company. The company entered our community and divided us by offering a Forest Farmer Group (KTH) scheme, we people who still want to maintain the frankincense forest do not accept this offer, we will continue to maintain the frankincense forest that has been passed down from generation to generation from our ancestors, we do not want to replace it with eucalyptus, “said Eva Junita Lumban Gaol as a representative of the Pargamanan Indigenous People.
The community really hopes that the government can immediately resolve the conflict between the community and TPL to recognise their customary forest. However, this effort is increasingly complicated because the PPMHA Regional Regulation of Humbang Hasundutan Regency has not been ratified and is still under discussion. This condition then encouraged the Pargamanan community to create an online petition on the change.org/SelamatkanHutanPargamanan page demanding KLHK and the Regional Government to immediately save their frankincense forest. This petition was also spread to international networks and received more than 11,000 global supports.
Representatives of the Pargamanan Indigenous Community were directly received by Humbahas Regent Dosmar Banjarnahor at today’s meeting. The Regent gave a statement that basically the conflict experienced by the Pargamanan Bintang Maria Community is easy to resolve because there are still endemic trees such as frankincense. On the same occasion, the Regent explained that the community only needs to make a request letter through the Village Head to the Regent, then the Regent will write to KLHK. The Regent also promised to immediately resolve the case of the Pargamanan Bintang Maria indigenous community as was done for the Pandumaan-Sipituhuta Indigenous Community and ordered the Environmental Service to immediately follow up on today’s meeting.
KSPPM Study and Advocacy Coordinator, Rocky Suriadi explained, “Although President Jokowi has handed over the Decree on Customary Forests in Lake Toba in early February 2022 yesterday, the Pargamanan Customary Forest was not included in the Decree. Even though the forest in this area is still very natural and is part of the 1,763 hectares of the customary territory of the Pargamanan-Bintang Maria Indigenous Community. Although, more than 40 percent of the natural forest is now in the TPL concession, of which almost a third has been developed into Industrial Plantation Forest (HTI) and the rest is threatened by TPL development areas. As a result, the community is now facing disasters due to land conversions, such as floods, landslides, and droughts.”
The Pargamanan-Bintang Maria Indigenous Community is one of at least 23 Toba Batak Indigenous groups in conflict with TPL, now demanding that their 737-hectare customary territory be excluded from TPL’s concession and recognized as customary forest. When TPL began destroying forests in the Pargamanan-Bintang Maria Indigenous Community’s customary territory around 2003, the community was not consulted and not informed at all about the HTI development plan. At that time, TPL’s activities were always escorted by security forces and local law enforcement to intimidate Indigenous Peoples who disagreed. Not only land conflicts with TPL, but now the customary territory belonging to the Pargamanan-Bintang Maria community is also threatened with being used as a Food Estate area.