Siberut Oil Palm conflict, West Sumatra, Indonesia

Description
Government plans to open up the Mentawai islands for large-scale oil palm plantations using transmigrant labour have been around since the early 1990s. This is despite the fact that the island has been designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and is occupied by the local indigenous population. The most recent plan was in late 1996, when the Governor of West Sumatra approved plans for a 70 000 ha oil palm plantation in the buffer zone of the Siberut National Park by the company PT Citra Mandiri Widya Nusa -owned by ex-Employment Minister Abdul Latif. In 1998, about 30 students managed to break up a “consultation meeting” between local political representatives, national authorities and the oil palm sector. They entered the building and spoke directly to the audience. They said that many transmigration schemes have created problems with indigenous communities and that the government used such schemes as a Trojan horses to exploit natural resources and deforest. They also said that the authorities should immediately withdraw all operating permits from oil palm companies as they have caused conflict and damaged the cultural and natural environment of the islands. The head of transmigration for West Sumatra said that he understood the demonstrators’ position and declared the meeting officially closed. The demonstrators accepted his statement and dispersed straight away. Protests by Indonesian and international groups have persuaded Ministers in Jakarta to block these developments so far.
Basic Data
NameSiberut Oil Palm conflict, West Sumatra, Indonesia
CountryIndonesia
ProvinceMentawai islands (West Province)
SiteSiberut island
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesPalm oil
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Governor of West Sumatra approved plans for a 70 000 ha oil palm plantation in the buffer zone of Siberut National Park.
Project Area (in hectares)70,000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date1998
End Date1998
Company Names or State EnterprisesPT Citra Mandiri Widya Nusa from Indonesia
Relevant government actorsGovernor of West Sumatra, Head of transmigration for West Sumatra
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersUniversity student group + local NGOs, World Rainforest Movement, Sawit Watch
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local university students. 90% of the Mentawais are Christian, whereas West Sumatra is 90% Muslim
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Street protest/marches
Interruption of a meeting between local political representatives, national authorities and the oil palm sector. Participatory Mapping [2]
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusUnknown
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseProject cancelled
Development of AlternativesThe demands of the protesters were as follows:

- The Mentawai islands should become an official district as soon as possible so they were no longer administered as part of the mainland;

- They refuse to be part of any Transmigration Programme schemes until the Mentawai islands were given district status;

- The Transmigration Department must immediately rectify the problems on existing transmigration sites in the Mentawai islands;

- The authorities should immediately withdraw all operating permits from PT Maharani Puri Citra Lestari, PT Citra Mandiri Widya Nusa and PT Sagu Siberut Perkasa, as these companies have caused conflict and damaged the cultural and natural environment of the island of Siberut.

- All the Mentawai village heads and community representatives should be careful not to be deceived or misled by the pretext of development for the Mentawais at the expense of the indigenous community.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Protests by Indonesian and international groups have persuaded Ministers in Jakarta to block these

developments so far (as of 1998).
Sources and Materials
References

[1] WRM Bulletin Nº18 (December 1998)
[click to view]

[2] Logging and palm oil threat to Siberut, Down to Earth
[click to view]

Links

Can Siberut be Saved? Cultural Survival
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorJ.-F. Gerber
Last update03/05/2014
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