Sat, 06 Aug 1994

Farmers complain of continuous harassment

JAKARTA (JP): Twenty five farmers from Garut in West Java who are fighting to defend their land from being acquired by a major plantation company, made a return visit to the National Commission on Human Rights yesterday, saying that they have been continuously harassed after their first visit last June.

The farmers, who said they represented around 300 farmers affected by the plantation procurement plan, complained that the plantation company has sent thugs to their village in Sukawangi to intimidate them into rescinding their complaint with the commission file on June 30.

Gatot Triyanto of the Bandung Legal Aid Institute, who accompanied the farmers, said the thugs had even made death threats to seven of the farmers.

One of the farmers had to flee his home fearing for his own safety, Gatot said.

Two commission members, Bambang Soeharto and Sugiri, who met the farmers promised to look into their complaints and contact the various parties involved.

The dispute covers an area of some 97 hectares which PT Hargasari, a Garut based company, wants to acquire to develop a tea plantation.

The farmers, who insisted on their rights to till the land by virtue of occupation since 1907, said the company has started to move into the area, taking over their plots still planted with vegetables.

They said that the company's owner, identified as Li Bok Sui alias Lukas Suryadi, is insisting that he has the title of the land.

The human rights commission yesterday also received the visit of another delegation from Tanah Merah, Plumpang, North Jakarta, who are also embroiled in a drawn-out land dispute, this one with the local government.

The 25 people, who are representing about 300 families, said that the North Jakarta Mayoralty on Thursday sent its officers to burn their tents. Delegation spokesman Husni Thamrin said this was not the first time that their tents had been burnt.

The 300 families are fighting against the state oil company Pertamina for the plot in Plumpang. Their case has been referred to the Supreme Court.

The human rights commission promised to investigate their complaint. (05)