Tue, 14 Nov 2000

Palm oil plantations urged to help farmers

JAKARTA (JP): In an attempt to stop the theft of fresh palm oil bunches in the region, House of Representatives Commission IX for finance and industry called on state-owned palm oil plantations (PTPN) in Sumatra to establish social development programs for locals.

Feisal Hamid, a commission member from the United Development Party (PPP) faction, said the continuing theft of palm oil fruits was related to the social gap between locals and the state-owned plantations.

"The state-owned companies should carry out social development programs to empower local people and help them survive the economic hardships," he said during a hearing with PTPN presidents here on Monday.

During the meeting, presided over by Benny Pasaribu, the PTPN presidents called on the government and the House to take measures to halt the prevalent looting at state-owned and foreign-capital plantations in Sumatra.

The hearing was held to discuss the planned privatization of state-owned palm oil plantations.

Feisal said that besides the social development programs, local farmers should be allowed to plant intercrops on the plantations, or be given subsidies to develop agribusinesses to improve their income.

"The important thing is that besides law enforcement, PTPNs should pay attention to helping local people improve their welfare so theft can be reduced to a minimum," he said.

He admitted that many people, especially youths, refused to farm and earned money by looting palm oil bunches from the plantations.

Usman Ermulan, a commission member from the Golkar Party faction, called on security authorities to take strict measures against those people who backed the thefts.

"It is impossible for people to loot (the plantations) if they are not backed by certain parties, including security personnel and hoodlums," he said.

He said local administrations in Sumatra and security authorities should also take action against parties who purchased the stolen palm oil bunches.

"However, the security authorities should maintain caution in their actions because many palm oil plantations in the region belong to private companies," he said. (rms)