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JASS Feminist Land Rights Activist Imprisoned in Indonesia

  • JASS

Eva Susanti, an activist trained and supported by JASS Southeast Asia, is being held by police in Indonesia. Susanti’s colleagues at JASS SEA have launched a letter writing campaign, calling on Indonesian authorities to release her.

Susanti is the Regional Advocacy Coordinator of Rakyat Advokasi Sawit (People’s Front for Palm Oil Advocacy). Along with local farmers and their families, Susanti was speaking out against the environmental destruction wrecked by this industry. Many small farmers have lost their land and livelihoods as thousands of acres have been taken over by large palm processing companies. She was arrested on May 26, 2010 and charged with being a provocateur following a protest at the factory and offices of PT Kurnia Luwuk Sejati, a palm oil processing company in the Central Sulawesi region.

In this particular case, local farmers and activists were protesting the eviction of numerous families from their land which was bulldozed by the Indonesian Army using equipment from PT Kurnia Luwuk Sejati.

This is a scenario that is being repeated all over Indonesia as the government’s pro-palm policies result in anti-poor outcomes. Ironically, the push to increase palm oil cultivation and production for biofuel is promoted by government and industry as an environmental plus since it contributes to alternative fuel production However, it is also a major cause of tropical deforestation and carbon emissions (from the burning of peat in clearing land)—Indonesia is already the world’s third largest emitter of carbon. Environmental groups foresee an intensification of the on-going deforestation and carbon emissions nightmares.

Meanwhile, the impact on local communities and indigenous peoples from their land and livelihoods is occurring at a quickened pace and with complex negative effects on local populations. Indonesian NGO, Sawit Watch, notes that “thousands of communities, formerly self-sufficient in food from forest ecosystems and traditional agriculture, now have to purchase rice on the domestic market, putting more pressure on Indonesia’s rice supply, which is already strained by global warming and land conversion to non-agricultural developments.” Furthermore, “most of the concessions for oil-palm cultivation are unconstitutional” and that many smallholders have been “pressured into accepting land title deeds for less than half the area they were cultivating previously”.

Susanti, who is also the Director of Kelompok Perjuangan Kesetaraan Perempuan Sulawesi Tengah (Central Sulawesi Women’s Movement for Equality), has been held in jail without trial since late May. Her case lies languishing in the legal bureaucracy where her legal aid lawyer faces an uphill battle against the palm oil company and its investors as well as the pro-palm oil industry government.

JASS SEA has sent a letter of support for Susanti to local authorities, asking that she be freed and that all charges against her be dropped.

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