Since morning, Thursday, October 10, 2020, around 50 descendants of the Ompu Panggal Manalu Indigenous Community, who live in Aek Raja Village, Parmonangan District, North Tapanuli Regency-North Sumatra, have been busy taking care of preparing for the commemoration of Human Rights Day in their indigenous territories, to be precise at the location named Parbutihan. Right in front of the “sopo” they set up a tent for the invited guests to gather. They built the sopo in their customary area which was claimed by PT Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) as the concession area of the pulp-producing company. They are very enthusiastic about commemorating Human Rights Day in their customary territory, because currently they are struggling to defend their customary territory from the clutches of the company.
“Indigenous people have the right to their customary lands and what we are fighting for is also a struggle for human rights. Our struggle over this customary land is very clear, long before Indorayon came, our parents already controlled and operated this area. Suddenly a company said this was a concession, of course we didn’t accept it. Because we never gave it up, ”said Pak Parulian Manalu, Chairman of the Ompu Panggal Indigenous Community.
“Hopefully on this Human Rights Day Commemoration, the government will also listen to the demands of indigenous peoples, recognize and protect the rights of indigenous peoples, including us,” said Parsaoran Sinaga. Delima Silalahi from KSPPM, also emphasized that the struggle of indigenous peoples for state recognition and protection of the existence of indigenous peoples and their rights to land, natural resources and culture is also a struggle for human rights.
“However, although respect, recognition and protection of the human rights of every citizen is an obligation of the state, the fact is that human rights must be fought for. Indigenous peoples must unite to fight for their rights. You have to keep your voice and not be afraid, because the struggle of indigenous peoples is recognized by the constitution, ”Delima Silalahi explained. At the commemoration of Human Rights Day, representatives of other indigenous communities in North Tapanuli were also present, such as the Onan Harbangan Indigenous Peoples, the Ompu Bolus Indigenous Peoples, the Aek Nauli Indigenous People and others. Their presence is to contribute to the spirit of struggle for the Indigenous Community of Ompu Panggal Manalu.
“We have to control and cultivate the customary land that has been passed on by our ancestors for our welfare and for future generations. Don’t want to be slaves in your own land. Do not also want to be divided or beaten by the company. Do not become traitors, because they will make various efforts to destroy our solidity, ”exclaimed Jaspayer Simanjuntak from the descendants of Ompu Bolus Simanjuntak. Lambok Lumban Gaol, KSPPM staff who is also a descendant of the Pandumaan Sipituhuta indigenous people also shared experiences related to their struggle to defend their customary territory from 2009 to the present.
“You are not alone, our opponents may be big, but we can also get bigger because the struggle of indigenous peoples is a collective struggle. We have to build a wider network while still strengthening our community, ”he suggested.
“We shouldn’t be easily lured by positions in the company. We strive not to become public relations or corporate slaves. Companies have a limited ability to pay their employees, but we and future generations will be able to eat and live from the land we are fighting for, ”said Ama Rini SImanjuntak from Onan Harbangan.
In this activity, the indigenous people plant various types of trees in their customary territory which is already surrounded by eucalyptus plants. Actually, they invited the North Tapanuli Regency Government, in this case the National Environmental Education Office and the North Tapanuli Legislative Body to attend, but until the event was over, the invitation was not present. Their absence, although a little disappointing, was enough to encourage the Panggal Ompu community to keep fighting. ***
Written by: Abriani Siahaan and Kalang Buwana Zakaria