Lawyer: Arara Abadi behind assault to farmers

EoF News / 31 December 2008

The police helped by the company’s security guards and paramilitary groups evicted villagers who accused of occupying PT Arara Abadi plantation area by using two helicopters and guns with rubber bullet, media reported last week. Arara Abadi is a main supplier of fiber for Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) mill in Riau.

Ali Husein Nasution, the lawyer of STR, told yesterday (30/12/2008) that his client believed that one child killed as she felled into a well due to panic by the incident. “Despite it is an indirect effect, but the girl got killed because she and her family panicked by the assault,” he told Eyes on the Forest website.

Ali told that the situation in the village relatively calmed down following the demand from Human Rights Commission, a watchdog, to the National Police Chief last week to withdraw the unit of police. Villagers who previously hid in the jungle were returned home.

At a press conference here on Saturday (27/12) Ridha Saleh, deputy head of Komnas HAM (the human rights watchdog), told the press that there is human rights violation allegedly conducted by the police who deployed the mobile brigade forces (Brimob) to the village, Tribun Pekanbaru daily reported last weekend (28/12/2008).

He said that condition in Suluk Bongkal and Tasik Serai Timur villages are normal. “So there is no need to deploy [police] forces,” he added. Despite this, he thanked to the police who withdrew the forces

Ridha Saleh said that his organization would urge the Riau Provincial Government to talk on the dispute land that became long-standing conflict between Arara Abadi and villagers.

According to observation in the field, his watchdog believed that the villagers lived in a village that its administrative status is acknowledged by the government. Ali Husein said that Bengkalis district in 2002 admitted the existence of Suluk Bongkal is a part of Beringin village.

EoF learned that Beringin village has historical conflicts with PT Arara Abadi since President Soeharto’s era in 1990s where human rights abuses believed happened. The conflict reemerged there within last couple years ago where the STR and Segera organizations helped villagers to fell acacia trees of Arara Abadi and occupied the land last year.

Meanwhile, Riau Police Chief, Brig.-Gen. Hadiatmoko denied allegations and said that there is no human rights abuse occurred in the incident, website reported (29/30/12).

“Repressive actions we conducted are in line with procedure. So, it is untrue that we have committed human rights abuse there. It’s untrue as we are accused of burning down houses and assaulted farmers,” he told the website last week (26/12/2008).

Hadiatmoko said that the company had complained to the police for 24 times that their pulpwood plantation had been felled and occupied by a group of people.

Ali admitted that there were not serious abuses conducted by the police against 79 of 84 villagers whom detained in Bengkalis police. “But the demolition and farmers’ houses burned down during the raid by helicopters is horrible.”

His client could not identify what kind of weapons used by the police on helicopters as each the vehicle flied above the houses, soon the home raged by fires. “No one could identify the type of firebombing as they ran panic,” Ali said.

He said he awaited a Fact Finding Team that would be set up by Komnas HAM to probe the incident. The lawyer also suspected that APP/Sinar Mas Forestry’s Arara Abadi was behind the costly operation to evict the farmers.

“It’s a huge operation against the farmers as deputy chief of Riau Police along with its intelligence director came to see the raid,” Ali said. “Who can pay the deployment of two helicopters and hundreds of policemen and paramilitaries during the raid?” he asked.