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Okt '90

Indonesia: Ban on Sumatran Organization


The limits on the freedoms of association and expression in Indonesia were brought into focus in August 1990 when the district military command in North Tapanuli, North Sumatra stopped a Protestant church network from holding a major congress and banned a community development organization called Yayasan Kelompok Studi Pengembangan Prakarsa Masyarakat (KSPPM), or the Study Group for the Development of People’s Initatiative. The bans appear to stem from the activities of KSPPM and the church network on behalf of villagers affected by the construction of a pulp and rayon factory.
Human rights lawyers protesting the ban on KSPPM have been harassed.

Background to the Banning of KSPPM
KSPPM evolved from the Study Group for Legal Awareness, a group founded in 1983 to educate villagers in North Tapanuli about their legal rights and provide legal assistance as necessary. In 1985, it changed its name to KSPPM and broadened its activities to include training in environmental management and community organizing.

As part of this program, KSPPM in 1985 began providing legal aid to villagers in North Tapanuli whose land was in danger of being damaged, destroyed or expropriated by a pulp factory called Inti Indorayon Utama, Limited or Indorayon for short. Local residents protested the project, specifically on three issues: the
forcible expropriation of land by the company; deforestation in some areas and the planting of eucalyptus trees in others which disturbed the watershed and irrigation system; and pollution caused by industrial waste.

The eucalyptus trees planted to provide the raw material for pulp and rayon became a focus of resentment in the village of Sugapa, sub-district Silaen, North Tapanuli, where the land used for the eucalyptus had been a grazing area for generations. In April 1989, ten women from Sugapa ranging in age from 38 to 60
systematically cut down over 16,000 trees. The women were convicted of destruction of property in February 1990 and sentenced to six months in prison. (Tempo, Feb.10,1990). Both KSPPM and the Medan,
North Sumatra branch of Legal Aid Institute (LBH), Indonesia’s premier human rights organization, were involved in their defense.

Harassment by the military began in August 1989 when the district commander of North Tapanuli, Lieutenant Colonel Rickardo Marpaung, summoned the board of directors of KSPPM to complain about a book they had published entitled The Impact of Inti Indorayon Utama Project on the North Tapanuli Community. The summons took place shortly after residents of the village of Tangga Batu-I, sub-district Porsea complained about having their land unlawfully seized and their homes destroyed by Indorayon employees.(Editor, June 9, 1990) Some of the villagers successfully pressed claims for compensation in court, but the military may have been unhappy that they spoke out at all and may have held KSPPM responsible.

On October 14, 1989, the bupati or district head of North Tapanuli in turn summoned members of the KSPPM board to reproach them for not having informed him of the organization’s existence — which by this time was four years old. He also questioned KSPPM’s legal status, which the board assured him was that of a private voluntary agency (lembaga swadaya masyarakat or LSM) in accordance with Law No. 4/1982. (Note : LSM literally means ’social self- suffiency institute’. LSM is considered the Indonesian equivalent of NGO for ‘non-governmental organization’ but in Indonesia, the term ‘non-governmental’ is considered uncomfortably close to ‘antigovenrmental’.)

On February 19, 1990, KSPPM received a summons from the regional army commander (Danrem 023) Colonel Sukiman based in Sibolga, North Sumatra. When members of KSPPM arrived, they were met by Colonel Sukiman, the command’s military intelligence chief Lieutenant Colonel Sitompul, and the head of its social-political section. The three said that KSPPM needed permission from the governor of North Sumatra to continue operations a


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