Book Discussion Series at UHN Medan: Nunga Leleng Hami Mian di Son; Indigenous Peoples’ Long Struggle for State Recognition

Monday, October 3, 2022. KSPPM together with the Faculty of Law of HKBP Nommensen University Medan held a book discussion on “Nunga Leleng Hami Mian di Son”: The Long Struggle of Indigenous Peoples to Gain State Recognition. The discussion took place at the UHN Medan Library Building and was attended by around one hundred UHN Medan students, academics, representatives of the North Sumatra Forestry Service, and the KSPPM team.

This discussion was held as an effort to publicize the books published by KSPPM. In the last three years, KSPPM has published three books (Tombak Haminjon Do Ngolu Nami, Mangan Sian Tano Ni Ompung, and Nunga Leleng Hami Mian di Son). This discussion is about the last book. This book explains how the difficulties of indigenous peoples when faced with the state in demanding recognition of their traditional rights.

The speakers of this discussion came from across professions, namely activists, academics, and the government so there are various perspectives in examining the agrarian issues being faced by indigenous peoples.

The Nawacita RPJMN 2015-2019 has stimulated agrarian activists to support the struggle to resolve agrarian conflicts. Joko Widodo’s Nawacita promises that 9 million hectares of land will be returned to the people through TORA and 12.7 million hectares through Social Forestry (SF). Then, in the second period (2020-2024) Jokowi increased the area of land to be resolved (Forest area renewal was previously 2 million hectares to 10 million hectares, while land to be redistributed increased to 7,750 thousand hectares, and legalized land increased to 56,286. 087 hectares).

However, data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) as of August 1, 2022, shows that the state has not maximized conflict resolution. Conflict resolution in North Sumatra, as the province with the most agrarian conflicts after DKI Jakarta, according to data from the National Human Rights Commission, is very little. The area of conflict resolution achievements is still around 76,000 ha with a total of 162 decrees.

Rocky Pasaribu from KSPPM explained the facts found in the KSPPM assistance area. KSPPM together with AMAN Tano Batak proposed an area of 27 thousand hectares of indigenous territories dealing with various conflicts, namely Forest Areas, PT TPL Concessions, Tourism, and Food Estate Projects, and 6,800 hectares have been recognized and returned to indigenous peoples. In the process of demanding recognition from the state, indigenous peoples experience many challenges, especially when dealing with the Verification Team. Their existence as indigenous peoples seemed to be doubted by the state. The state is suspicious of them even though indigenous peoples have controlled their customary territories for hundreds of years.

Janpatar Simamora, Dean of the Faculty of Law at UHN Medan and Head of the Team for the Drafting of Regional Regulations on the Recognition and Protection of Indigenous Peoples in Toba and Samosir Regencies, explained that there are legal conflicts in the process of resolving agrarian conflicts, namely between formal law and customary law, but formal law has more power. He also said that indigenous peoples as the first owners of customary territories have not been fully protected by the state. The proof is that the local regulations he drafted were not implemented by the Toba and Samosir regencies.

“A great nation is a nation that respects its history, but our country betrays the history of indigenous peoples,” he said.

The North Sumatra Forestry Service, represented by Joner Sipahutar, admitted that their achievements have not been encouraging enough in the process of resolving agrarian conflicts in North Sumatra. For him, the existing written law may not be able to fully answer the wishes of indigenous peoples.

Prof. Posman Sibuea also supports the struggle of indigenous peoples who bleed to defend their customary territories. The industry does not answer the anxiety of indigenous peoples whose daily lives are farming or farming. The existence of PT TPL is only a disaster in Tano Batak. According to him, this industry creates a water crisis, poverty for farmers, environmental damage, and deprivation of living space.

“We must now secure our food. Food sovereignty is in line with the sovereignty of farmers. Farmers’ sovereignty is realized if their land rights are clear,” said Prof. Posman. The discussion participants were very enthusiastic in asking questions to the speakers. Their questions were born out of anxiety about the rights of indigenous peoples that have not been guaranteed by the state. The book discussion session succeeded in making the issue of indigenous peoples discussed by all circles, including academics, students, officials, and urban communities. UHN Medan is expected to be the right stakeholder because academics from the campus are expected to contribute to the formulation of better policies in the future.**

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