National Human Rights Commission: In an Independent Country, Every People MUST Be Independent

Tornauli (17/03). In the morning at 9:30am, the Indigenous Peoples Community (IP) in Parmonangan Sub-district, North Tapanuli had a special guest from Jakarta, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM). On this occasion, Komnas HAM wanted to talk about violations committed by PT Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) and other parties against the existing IP communities.

The communities that came gathered were the Tornauli IP, the Op. Panggal Descendant IP (Aek Raja) and the Bonan Dolok IP community (Huta Tinggi). They all told the chronology of their issues, since PT TPL came to the attempts they had made to fight for their ancestral lands.

The Tornauli IP Community representative also said that the company had threatened the community regarding the safety of their children attending school in Siborongborong and Dolok Sanggul. “We were intimidated and threatened that our children who go to school outside are not safe because we are fighting for and reclaiming our customary land,” said the head of the Tornauli community.

Parsaoran Sinaga, a representative of the Op. Panggal community, also explained the chronology of litigation efforts made by the community, from a lawsuit filed by KR. Siregar which was won by the Tarutung Court, but later overturned by the Supreme Court in Medan. “Even though we have provided evidence of the lawsuit in Tarutung (Court) to the police, until now we still get summonses from the North Tapanuli Police,” he explained.

In October 2021, when a team from the Ministry of Forestry verified the Indigenous Community in Parmonangan, the process was disrupted by people affiliated with the company. On the second day or when verifying the community of Op. Panggal’s descendants, the verification team was intercepted by pro-TPL people at Aek Raja Village Hall.

“At that time (the verification process), the team did not verify the object of the area that we submitted, and instead listened more to the people who objected to the verification. We were never even met or mediated with by the government, and were even blamed for the boundaries and customary laws by the verification team,” said Rosmian Purba, a female member of the Pomparan Op. Panggal Manalu community.

The minutes of the North Tapanuli verification team say that the Op. Panggal community needs to mediate with its neighbours, but there is no explanation as to why they were not recognised by the Verification team (receiving the Hutan Adat decree).

To date PT TPL is even still carrying out new logging around its concession area. There is also less water here because the company does not comply with the regulation of no planting within 50 metres of the watershed. Now even eucalyptus plants are 1 metre near the watershed.

The community asked Komnas HAM to provide protection for them, protection from intimidation by the company and state apparatus. “Until now we don’t know where to report,” said Parsaoran Sinaga. The Bonan Dolok community also asked for clarity on which laws can protect IPs so that they can work on their customary land safely and calmly.

Team Leader from Komnas HAM, Hairansyah explained, “We need information from the community so that we can confront the relevant parties, such as the police, the company, the Ministry of Forestry and its staff and others involved in the verification process at that time”. The hope is that with this meeting, Komnas HAM will convey the aspirations of the community, the experiences of the community, in order to encourage relevant agencies to issue recognition of IP communities, especially to local governments that have issued regional regulations on the Recognition and Protection of Indigenous Peoples.

“We have become an independent country, therefore all people should feel that independence,” he said.**

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