Tue, 14 Nov 2000

Plantations complain of rampant theft

JAKARTA (JP): State-owned plantation companies complained to the House of Representatives here on Monday that lootings had caused them hundreds of millions of dollars in losses and warned that if those responsible were not stopped, the companies might have to close their operations.

"We have reported the lootings to local security officials but no firm measures have been taken to resolve the security problems," Edward Sitorus, the president of PTP Nusantara II (PTPN II), told the House Commission IX on financial and development planning affairs during a hearing.

Lootings of plantations have become rampant since late 1997 when the economic crisis caused many businesses to go bankrupt, resulting in massive worker layoffs and the impoverishment of millions of people.

Sitorus warned that if the security of the plantations did not improve and lootings could not be stopped, many plantation firms might be forced to close operations.

At the hearing, the directors of 10 state plantation companies briefed the House members on the security problems and instances of illegal land appropriation by locals that they had encountered since 1997.

"PTPN I alone (based in N. Sumatra) suffered Rp 182 billion (US$20 million at the current rate) in 1997 due to lootings at its palm oil, rubber and cacao plantations. The losses rose to Rp 498 billion in 1998 before declining to Rp 165 billion last year," he added.

He said lootings at PTPN I plantations declined last year after his company spent Rp 3.5 billion on security measures in addition to the routine security programs already in place.

"During the first 10 months of this year, PTPN I has spent more than Rp 1.1 billion on security programs," Sitorus said, as quoted by Antara news agency.

He said that if the government managed to improve the security conditions of the plantation areas, then it would be able to increase its tax and dividend revenue from state plantation companies.

Rusyad Nurdin, president of PTPN VII in Lampung (southern Sumatra), told the same hearing that the looting and pillage of plantations by locals had damaged 26,196 hectares of the company's plantation area.

"This year alone we lost 1.35 million kilograms (kg) of rubber and 29.88 million kg of palm oil to looters," Nurdin added.

PTPN I, which is based in Aceh, said it had been forced to stop exports after lootings had sharply cut down its palm oil production. (vin)