An Uninvited Guest “Robs” in Huta Napa Godang’s Customary Territory

Friday, 4 March 2022. The Op. Bolus Indigenous Community had uninvited guests in its ancestral territory, around Aek Bilah river. Aek Bilah River is the border of Huta Napa Godang and Huta Janji Maria. Demson Simanjuntak, a youth from the Pomparan Op. Bolus Simanjuntak community said that around 15 TPL employees, including the Public Relations Command and security officers, visited their customary forest. The uninvited guests persuaded (precisely seduced) the community to want a partnership with PT TPL. Their disturbing presence took a long time, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. The seduction led to a debate with uninvited guests.

On that day, Demson Simanjuntak left for his haminjon (benzoin/styrax) forest and was going to stay overnight in the sopo he had built there. At that moment, the enterprising young man noticed that some company employees had started working on the communal land owned by the Op. Bolus youth group (Youth Group/Naposo Pomparan Op. Bolus). Demson immediately met them and asked them to stop their work. The company workers were about to plant eucalyptus seedlings.

Not believing that the company would only plant eucalyptus seedlings on their shared land, Desmon and the youth went to monitor other lands around Aek Bilah.

It turned out to be true, they saw that there was work on planting Eucalyptus seedlings carried out by the company around Aek Bilah. At that time at 10:00 WIB, they faced 15 PT TPL workers. They asked the company to immediately stop planting eucalyptus on their customary land. An argument ensued.

According to Desmon, the company’s reasoning was that the results of the verification of customary areas/forests were unclear. They thought the company still had the blessing of the government to plant their seedlings. They conveyed various legal arguments to the youth. They also persuaded the youth to partner with the company.

Youth member Pomparan Op. Bolus Simanjuntak was confused by the presence of the workers in their customary territory. To the best of their knowledge, the Huta Napa Godang area belongs to them, and no other party has the right to carry out work in the area without the permission of the Pomparan Op. Bolus Simanjuntak community.

Not just employees, but PR and Security were also on site, intimidating them by explaining the licences they had. Which, of course, would not fit in with the customary rules that indigenous peoples have understood all along. The youth, however, remained adamant that the company stop the planting.

According to information from community member Pomparan Op. Bolus Simanjuntak, TPL has begun building several security posts in the customary territory they are fighting for. The posts were built to oversee the harvesting process and to replant Eucalyptus seedlings in the Huta Napa Godang customary area. On Monday (28/02), community members’ belongings that had gone missing from the sopo, such as blankets and cooking utensils, were found at the location of the company’s security post. Apparently, their lost items were “stolen” by the company’s workers. In fact, the frequent incidents of loss had caused mutual suspicion within the community. The presence of this company has indeed created many horizontal conflicts and disharmony in their customary territory.

The company hides behind a permission to take away the rights of indigenous peoples, acting as the legitimate landowner, when in fact they are just uninvited guests who want to control the community’s customary territory, and pitting the community against each other. The company’s arrogant conduct has strengthened the resolve of Op. Bolus Simanjuntak’s pomparan community to defend their customary territory by protecting and cultivating it properly. ***

(KZ – Advocacy Staff)

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