Arientha Primanita & SP/Robertus Wardi
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has instructed a senior minister to investigate Friday’s violence in Limbang Jaya, South Sumatra, his spokesman said on Monday.
Angga bin Darmawan, 12, was reportedly shot and killed by police as they tried to evacuate unarmed protesters from a disputed-land site involving state-owned company PTPN VII.
“The president has instructed the Coordinating Minister for Security [Djoko Suyanto] to follow up [on the report] and formulate the best solution,” presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said. “The loss of a life is not something we were hoping for, this is unfortunate.”
Julian said Yudhoyono demanded a full investigation into the case, including police inquiries, to determine if excessive force had been used.
“[The president] also called on all sides to contain themselves because all violence should be avoided,” he said.
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) sent a team to the scene, led by one of its commissioners. The officials began examining the scene and questioning witnesses.
The South Sumatra branch of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), which had been advocating on behalf of locals in the area, is also undertaking a separate investigation
Komnas HAM is also interviewing victims supposedly injured by police fire. The victims have since been taken to a hospital in Palembang, the provincial capital.
The shooting is the latest deadly incident in a series of land-related conflicts between residents and companies since the fall of Suharto in 1998.
Some observers blame the government for the violence, claiming that the disputes have been exacerbated by murky regulations, rampant bribery within the land agency, and the government’s continued reluctance to do anything to fix the problem.
Komnas HAM chairman Ridha Saleh said the agency is also sending teams to East Nusa Tenggara, Southeast Sulawesi and Maluku, saying that land disputes in those provinces also have the potential to turn violent.
Ridha accused police officers of siding with big companies and placing heavily-armed officers from the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) unit on company property to protect it from angry locals.
“The placement of Brimob must be re-evaluated,” he said.
“It is better to assign officers who can engage in dialogue and conduct negotiations. The governors and district heads must become engaged in resolving land disputes.”