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Manis Mata conflict (PT HSL) in Kalimantan, Indonesia


Oil palm is today the fastest growing monoculture in the tropics. Indonesia is the world's largest producer. The country has witnessed a massive conversion of customary (adat) land to oil palm (and fast-wood) plantations. Between 1967 and 2007, oil palm monocultures have increased about 50 times and the government is planning to expand the area under plantation.

In the present case, the area became the target of logging operations in the 1980s and oil palm plantations in the 1990s. PT. Harapan Sawit Lestari (HSL), having concessions over approximately 25,000 ha, began operations in 1993. In 1997 the project was acquired by Commonwealth Development Corporation, under the British Foreign Ministry. It is now jointly owned by Cargill and Temasak Holding, a private investment arm of the Singapore government. [3] The concessions affect 15 indigenous Dayak communities. Land rights violations and the destruction of local livelihoods were the main problems. Burning and bulldozing were used, graves were destroyed, and corruption was used to acquire land against unfair compensations. These impacts resulted in a complex dispute between villagers, authorities, and the company. The latter used the village administration’s close relationship with local police and military during the Suharto era to force indigenous communities to hand over their land. The new government has brought no change. PT HSL continues to refuse to recognize local community land rights. The community is divided: many local supporters of the company have benefited directly or indirectly from the plantation either through employment or by gaining land through a cooperative scheme that runs part of the plantation. The manner in which the scheme was imposed on the community and the inequities in its implementation are increasing social tensions. Some community groups are taking action into their own hands. In mid-1999 villagers apparently reoccupied 2,000ha of HSL/CDC’s plantation, marking their former property with boards bearing their names. In early July 2000, 50-60 people from three villages cut down 400 oil palms in the concession area in broad daylight as a token protest. All plantation operations were stopped for several days and local security forces were reinforced by additional police from Ketapang [1].

However, local people do not want the plantation to pull out. Their former way of life is now impossible since their land is converted into an oil palm monoculture. They want proper compensation for their losses and some guarantee of a sustainable livelihood for their families and future generations.

According to a report in 2009 [2], Cargill is expanding the operation into an adjacent area on an estate known as PT Indo Sawit Kekal and in 2007 purchased 1,000 hectares of primary rainforest from the village of Bagan Kajang to clear. RAN reported that they did not have an EIA as required by law, and that in July 2009, as part of this most recent expansion, Cargill bulldozed 800 fruit and natural rubber trees without permission. According to the owner, he was not told of the clearing before it took place, did not receive any compensation, and Cargill managers refuse to speak with him. “This is the hardest. My way of life is gone, taken away by Cargill. My rubber trees were the way I survived day to day.”

Basic Data

NameManis Mata conflict (PT HSL) in Kalimantan, Indonesia
ProvinceWest Kalimantan
Sitesub-district of Manismata
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesPalm oil

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsThe area became the target of logging operations in the 1980s and oil palm plantations in the 1990s. PT HSL, having concessions over approximately 25,000 ha, began operations in 1993.

In 1997, PT. HSL went bankrupt, which led to its acquisition by the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC), a state- owned British company. The company was later named PT. HSL- CDC. The company, whose share was owned by CDC, was under the British Foreign Development Ministry.

In 2005 Cargill and Temasak Holding, a private investment

arm of the Singapore government, purchased palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea from the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) Group, the development finance arm of the U.K. Government and created CTP as a holding company to manage the plantations.

HSL employs 4,300 workers [2].
Project Area (in hectares)25,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected PopulationThe concessions affect 15 indigenous Dayak communities
Start Date2000
Company Names or State EnterprisesPT Harapan Sawit Lestari (HSL)
Commonwealth Development Corporation from United Kingdom
Cargill from United States of America
Temasak Holding from Singapore
CTP Holding - A company owned by Cargill and Temasak Holding
International and Financial InstitutionsRound Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) from Malaysia
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersSupport of WALHI

Rainforest Action Network

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Dayak community
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Land occupation
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Refusal of compensation


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession


Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseRepression
unclear, division within the community
Development of AlternativesLocal demands according to Wahli were as follows:

- Compensation for all the land, traditional rubber plantations, fruit gardens and other agro-forestry systems damaged and/or taken by the plantation. This should be based on the long-term value of these agro-forestry systems to individual families and the community; in other words, the opportunity costs which local people have suffered by losing these forest resources. It must not be a simple calculation of the value of the timber or one year’s production. (In Bahasa Indonesia they are demanding ganti untung -opportunity costs - rather than ganti rugi – compensation).

Recognition of indigenous land rights. This means that the practice of taking local people’s land without their direct consent must stop. HSL/CDC must not use the local authorities to procure land (at least until democracy at village and district levels is fully implemented under recent local autonomy legislation).

A new agreement must be signed with local communities for the use of their customary (adat) lands over the 25 year period which the plantation permit covers.

Payment of fines determined by customary law for the desecration of graves.

A stop to burning by the company in and around its concession, whether this is to clear land for plantation, to control weeds or to prevent encroachment.

Full transparency about the way the plantation co-operative scheme operates, including its advantages and disadvantages and the financial and other responsibilities of participation. This is essential for local people to be able to make an informed decision about whether to take part.

All people who have given up land and who decide, after being properly informed, that they want to participate in the KKPA scheme must be allocated plots. As far as possible, these should be plots on their own land; agreements must be negotiated where this is not so.

Members of the KKPA scheme must not be burdened with debt. The ‘credit’ system must be abolished.

Even though they realise that there is no chance of going back to their old way of life since their land has been planted with oil palm, some villagers are now demanding their land back. Certain individuals have said that they want a share in the company’s profits proportionate to the land which was taken from them.

Most local people want some kind of guarantee for their future from the company. They want an alternative means of making a living now their forest, agro-forestry gardens and fields have gone. [1]

WAHLI's demands to the company were as follows:


A Specific to the HSL/Manis Mata development

Greater transparency about past injustices and a genuine commitment to tackle these. As the major shareholder and manager of the plantation CDC must take responsibility for this and play a leading role. It cannot write past grievances off as history or leave their resolution to its local partner and/or local authorities.

Take a more pro-active role to improving community relations in the future. Setting up new mechanisms for genuine consultation with the local community and conflict resolution should be central to this.

CDC/HSL should commission an independent audit to investigate fully the social, economic and environmental impacts of the plantation. This must be a top-quality investigation – not something done on the cheap to assuage critics – using participatory methods. The terms of reference should be agreed with the indigenous community.

The recommendations of the audit must be discussed openly with the whole community and implemented on a schedule to be agreed with the community.

Set up an appeals procedure to deal with further disputes or disagreements over the settlement of present grievances. The whole community should be made aware of how this operates.

Review the Beringin Jaya KKPA scheme and improve it, drawing on examples of good practice for other KKPA schemes in West/Central Kalimantan.

Accept into the plantation co-operative all people who have given up their land and want to take part. Stakeholdings granted gratuitously to people because of their official positions in the community must be fairly reallocated.

Abolish co-operative stakeholders’ debts through the KKPA. Villagers’ land and labour must be counted as their share in the plantation company.

Set up community development schemes – after full consultation and preparation – to ensure that the whole local community has a means of making a living which is economically, socially, culturally and environmentally sustainable in order to replace the livelihoods which they have lost since the advent of the oil palm plantation.

Respect the land rights of the local community. People who do not want to give up their land or to join the KKPA scheme must not be forced or coerced by any means into this.

Hold full and open discussions about what form the recognition of indigenous land rights should take, in the community’s eyes – whether this means land certification, formal acknowledgement of customary (adat) property law or some other form.

In all these actions, CDC should seek advice from and the active participation of the local community, plus civil society groups which have good grassroots contacts and broad practical experience of the issues important to indigenous communities.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Apparently, local people do not want the plantation to pull out. Their former way of life is now impossible since their land is converted into an oil palm monoculture.

Sources and Materials


Sofa, F., 2002. Resisting large-scale tree plantations: the Manismata dispute. In: Fertile resistance in forests, eds. Friends of the Earth (FoE) and World Rainforest Movement (WRM), p. 28. Amsterdam: FoE; Montevideo: WRM.

[2] Cargill's Legacy of Destruction

[3] Cargill's Problems with Palm Oil

[1] The Dispute Between The Indigenous Community And Pt Harapan Sawit Lestari, Oil Palm Plantation Manis Mata, Ketapang District, West Kalimantan. Report By Walhi Kalbar & Down To Earth, September 2000

Meta Information

ContributorJ.-F. Gerber
Last update06/05/2014