In the last two months, there have been two significant agrarian-related events in Indonesia’s time line. First, the signing of the Agrarian Reform Presidential Decree No. 86/2018 on September 24, and second, the Implementation of Agrarian Reform through the redistribution of ex land concessions (HGU) in North Sulawesi, in October 29, 2018.
During the opening of the Global Land Forum 2018 at the Merdeka Building in Bandung on September 24, 2018, the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, signed Presidential Decree no 86 concerning Agrarian Reform (Perpres RA). This step was positively appreciated by the thousands of forum participants originating from 84 countries. This Presidential Decree is a long-awaited milestone for activists and supporters of agrarian reform in Indonesia, an important organic regulation after the birth of the Basic Agrarian Law (UUPA) no 5/1960.
Following this significant moment, for the first time in four years, the Minister of Agrarian Affairs distributed certificates of redistribution of company land to 315 households in Mangkit Village, Belang District, Southeast Minahasa Regency. A total of 515 certificates representing 444 hectares of land were distributed. Recognition of Mangkit community land has been fought for by the local communities for years, with the support of civil society organisations, local government, the President’s Executive Staff Office, and the central government.
This redistribution, once again, is the first redistribution of ex-company land concessions (abbreviated as HGU in Indonesian). However, the government claims to have implemented agrarian reform in the past four years with the redistribution of 13.8 million plots of land, commonly known as a legalization scheme (Tribunnews, 20/10/2018).
The main mission of agrarian reform is to overcome land ownership inequality that has been a problem since the colonial era, and to resolve chronic agrarian conflicts cross the archipelago. The main component of Indonesian agrarian reform has been handled relatively well by the new Presidential Decree.
The location for agrarian reform comes from expired concession (HGU) and Right to Build (HGB) titles, allocating 20% of the HGB above the HGU, including the allocation of 20% of active HGU. Furthermore, land released from forest land, abandoned land, land for conflict resolution, ex-mining land outside the forest area, arising land, land that fulfils the requirements for fulfilling rights, former colonial rights land, and maximum excess land.
Active concessions – which have been the main source of land ownership inequality – are not explicitly included as agrarian reform locations. However, through the above definition, the active part of the HGU involved in the conflict – and then the land of conflict resolution – can be interpreted and categorized as an Agrarian Reform object. In fact, conflicting lands are everywhere including active HGUs. For conflict resolution, the President Decree mandates the need for Ministerial regulations which are considered to be source of more problems.
There are 20 elements of society who are eligible to receive land under agrarian reform efforts, including smallholders, peasants, plantation workers, small-scale fishermen, honorary teachers, daily laborers, and casual workers. The nineteenth of these twenty elements is army and police personnel: those with the highest ranks, such as second lieutenant or inspector two, who do not possess land.
With these firm restrictions, and by placing them in 19th position, it is understandable that the Army personnel and Police officers are not included within the priority scale in the context of implementation. It is better if the technical regulation stipulates that the allotment of land for the Army personnel and Police officers with the mentioned rank are allowed to use the urban housing designated areas, instead of rural production allotments area.
Administratively, Agrarian Reform is organised through Agrarian Reform Task Force (GTRA) under the Ministry of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning. While at the provincial level, the GTRA is led by the Governor.
Agrarian reform supporters suggest the section on GTRA is one of the most crucial points of the Presidential Decree. If agrarian reform is to be implemented by a government body with presumably no experience or knowledge of such issues, particularly at the regional government, provides little hope for genuine implementation.
Local elites are still struggling to manage their own work. Regional bureaucratic reforms are still far away and seen as inefficient, not transparent, long-winded in managing the people, and fail to deliver services for the society (Government Management Ministry Release 05-19/2016). The implication is that many region heads must deal with law enforcement issue related to corruption, especially natural resource licensing. The Ministry of Home Affairs noted that as many as 434 regional heads were involved in corruption cases between 2004 and 2018, with licensing one of the seven main sources of corruption (Kompas, 27/10 / 2018).
Meanwhile, agrarian reform organisations and farmer’s organisations in Indonesia are not involved in the GTRA, both at the national and regional levels, and the Presidential Decree only notes that GTRA may involve community members in carrying out its implementation.
It is expected that the Indonesian government will not rely on loans in addressing the agrarian reform agenda. In June 2018, the public was shocked by the news of the signing of a debt contract for agrarian reform between the World Bank and the Minister of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning. Various organizations supporting agrarian reform expressed strong protest, including the Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA), a member of ILC. However, the issue remain unclears, although the Ministry has confirmed that they have reviewed the agreement.
One of the most historic elements in the Global Land Forum’s September 2018 ‘Bandung Declaration’ is the rejection of such loans in implementing agrarian reform. The Declaration contains an important sentence which forbids the use of loans for agrarian reform, because agrarian reform concerns a country’s sovereignty.
The birth of the Presidential Decree on Agrarian Reform no. 86/2018 is an important part of the agrarian reform agenda in the course of the agrarian struggle, including policies, and institutions after previously it has been forgotten, and forced to be neglected by the New Order regime. This momentum needs to be utilised by the driver of the agrarian reform and farmer organisations in Indonesia.
Amidst the limited community involvement and structural difficulties enshrined in the President Decree, Mangkit village has shown that Agrarian Reform is a real agenda that can be realised. Although regional government reform is slow-moving, there is still now a good practice that both governors and district heads can be encouraged to use as an example. Mangkit needs to be highlighted as an initial learning of agrarian reform practice.
The challenges encountered during implementation can actually be addressed through accelerating the agrarian reform in certain areas, and this can be replicated by other regions, simultaneously. Any region refuses to implement the scheme might be abandoned by its constituent.
The difficulty of systematic, widespread implementation can be addressed through accelerating in certain areas. These would then serve as examples for replication in other areas. After all, regions that do not carry out this agenda will automatically be left behind by their constituents.
Particularly, the role of the President’s Executive Staff Office as a guardian of the government’s strategic agenda should be emphasized as the initiator that facilitates the main stakeholders stated on the Presidential Decree to implement agrarian reform in the regions. The governors, district heads, mayors and the National Land Agency across Indonesia must comprehend it well, as well as be able to implement it.
In the end, the Presidential Decree is merely some text with shortcomings. Text is an inanimate object that will not change anything. Controlling and managing land in the field are key. Such as in Mangkit village, it is the peasant movements and its supporters who are able to transform text into practice. Peasants on the ground have to build their own interpretations to make the text meaningful.
ILC Asia – Coordinator
Article originally published in Indonesian in Tribun News.