Interview with Sarwadi Sukiman, Chairman of Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI – Indonesian Farmers Union) by email. Thanks to Rivani Noor of CAPPA for the translation.
REDD-Monitor: What is SPI’s response to the letter REDD-Monitor received from the Germany’s International Climate Initiative, describing the negotiation process set up in June 2012?
Sarwadi Sukiman: We believe that PT REKI is not serious about taking a negotiation approach and they are not in favour of a non-violent approach to resolve the conflict that peasants are facing. PT REKI is using a legal-formal (state law) approach to resolve their conflict. In the field, when they come to talk to the peasants, they always explain that they have a legal permit from the Ministry Forestry, they have a legal concession by state law, whereas the peasants are illegal do not have a permit by state law. The farmers are outsiders and forest encroachers.
Some facts explain how PT REKI is not serious about conflict resolution:
- PT REKI did not obey an agreement with SPI to decrease security around SPI’s claimed area, even though PT REKI built new security camp.
- PT REKI also brought heavy machines that pressure the peasants, and when the violent actions were carried out it December 2012, the heavy machinery was used to destroy peasant houses.
- PT REKI also made a condition that the police arrest two SPI basis leaders, Pak Dedi and Pak Nadeak. This case angered SPI members and made them disappointed with the negotiation process.
REDD-Monitor: According to the International Climate Initiative, “The process has been rejected by the groups claiming affiliation to SPI. Reasons for blocking can only be speculated.” Is it true that SPI rejected the negotiation process? And if so, please explain why.
Sarwadi Sukiman: SPI never rejected negotiation and is in favour of conflict resolution based on a non-violent approach, if it is all done the right way. All parties should have the same position. PT REKI should not feel that they have a superior position over SPI simply because they have a permit from Ministry Forestry.
SPI also never backed up or supported any illegal loggers. Instead SPI has declared against the illegal loggers. Similarly, we never support land speculators.
One criticism that SPI has of the way that PT REKI field staff work is that they always communicate with land speculators and not formally with the SPI organisation. PT REKI staff then claim that they have communicated with SPI, but this is a false conclusion.
REDD-Monitor: How many of the farmers living inside the Harapan Rainforest Project area are affiliated with SPI?
Sarwadi Sukiman: About 700 families, around 2,000 people. They live in the area of Pangkalan Ranjau, Bukit Sinyal, Sungai Jerat, Tanjung Mandiri, Alam Sakti, Bahar Subur and Sialang Batuah.
REDD-Monitor: Harapan accuses the farmers of settling in “the heart of some of the best quality forest”. Is this true? Are SPI farmers associated with illegal logging that is going on inside the Harapan Rainforest Project area?
Sarwadi Sukiman: We don’t know where good quality forest is, we just know how we manage the land to live from it. We think it would be better if PT REKI sat together with us to discuss about this.
Again, I say that SPI never cooperates with illegal loggers.
According to our investigations, we have found that in fact illegal logger actors also come from PT REKI internal employer. PT REKI staff have collaborated with the illegal loggers. We have the facts, sometime we will publish these facts!
REDD-Monitor: Are there any public statements from SPI about the negotiation process and the evictions that took place in December 2012?
Sarwadi Sukiman: SPI has released a public statement in which the core of our call is to reject PT REKI’s violent approach to resolve conflict, also against the carbon conservation project.
REDD-Monitor: What is the current position with Harapan and SPI?
Sarwadi Sukiman: SPI will continue the struggle to secure our land, and demand that the Forest Ministry revise the PT REKI permit to exclude the area claimed by SPI.