On Wednesday morning (8/11) thousands of peasants flooded the square of Sekaroh village, East Lombok.
Filled with enthusiasm, they are preparing for a mass meeting organised by the National Peasant Union (STN)
STN leaders and peasants’ representatives took to the stage to give speeches that mostly expressed their demands.
Despite the oppresive sun, the peasants appeared lively and gave occasional bouts of applause.
Ahmad Rifai, the chairperson of STN in West Nusa Tenggara gave the first speech that explained how the government’s policies try to deny peasants’ access to land.
According to Rifai, Since Suharto’s era, Sekaroh villagers have always been forced to leave their settlements and productive land in the name of reforestration.
The government thinks that Sekaroh village was built within a reserve forest area, but the undisputed facts show that the villagers have inhabited the area since the Japanese occupation in early 1940s.
Marnin, the chairperson of STN in East Lombok, gave a speech that stressed on foreign interests behind the reforestration project by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
“Although the REDD (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation of forest) program sounds nice, the government will pay a heavy price because of its involvement in carbon trade that will begin after 2013.”
He believes that reforestration is an illegal approriation of peasants’ land, therefore he demanded that the government cancel its joint project with KOICA and start to solve land dispute with the local population.
The mass meeting included a political music performance by some students’ music groups and the National Students’ League for Democracy (LMND).
It also included a performance of Sasak tribe traditional music, Cilokak, performed by a peasants group under the STN.
Demanding Land Distribution
Sekaroh peasants demanded that the government distribute Sekaroh forest land into three: reserve forest, pasture forest, and production forest.
Previously, the Forestry Minister visited East Lombok and suggested the handing over of 6000 hectare of land to the population living near the forest as a way to reduce poverty.
However, the Lombok Timur municipal government did not follow the suggestion, instead they become more “stubborn” in carrying out reforestration with KOICA.
The local citizens believe that they can take care of the forest better than foreign companies, based on the local wisdom that stress on the sustainable use of forest.