Once again, indigenous peoples have suffered from violence commissioned by PT. Toba Pulp Lestari (PT TPL) trying by force to seize customary territories. Most recently it happened in Natumingka village, Toba regency, North Sumatra on 18 May.
Roughly 12 villagers were injured while blocking and banning an estimated 400 workers of the company who entered customary territory to plant eucalyptus seeds.
PT. TPL claims that the Natumingka customary territory is part of its concession. But the villagers constantly refused, because they wanted to defend their customary territory.
This kind of violence does not take place only in Natumingka. In total, there are around 20,764 hectares of customary land in the Lake Toba area which are claimed unilaterally by PT. TPL as their concession. Generally these customary lands, which used to be forests, have now been cleared. They have been utilizing this area for factories, offices and industrial forest plantations (HTI). Just imagine how damaged the nature is nowadays.
PT. TPL got a concession permit from the government under the decision letter number 307/Menlhk/Setjen/HPL.0/7/2020 that currently covers 167,912 hectares following 8 revisions. The problem is that the concession areas intersect with the territory of indigenous peoples.
Without consent and permission from the indigenous peoples, PT. TPL has even occupied the customary areas gradually.
In the past, the indigenous peoples' lack of understanding on the issues paved a way for PT. TPL to operate freely in the areas. But lately, the people are beginning to understand. There have been numerous conflicts over customary lands for decades. Even before PT. TPL changed its name, which was formerly well-known as Indorayon or PT. Inti Indorayon Utama (PT.IIU).
Currently, there are about 23 indigenous communities spread across 5 districts in the Lake Toba area that are in conflict with PT TPL.
The affected indigenous peoples have been tired and upset for decades in calling on the company to be responsible and accountable for the destruction of the customary territories. Instead of becoming responsible and accountable, the company’s ignorance is continuously worsening the environment and violence.
That's why, we formed an alliance which consists of indigenous communities in the Lake Toba area. Through this petition we are calling on the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to revoke the concession permit of PT. TPL in the Lake Toba area.
Besides, we are calling on the district Governments to recognise all indigenous peoples struggling for their rights in four regencies namely Simalungun, Samosir, North Tapanuli and Humbang Hasundutan. We are also asking the Police to stop the criminalization of indigenous peoples in the concession areas.
This petition is our way to inform the public that the customary areas and forests in the Lake Toba area are now in danger.
Prior to the presence of this company, people in the Lake Toba area used to live in harmony with nature in utilizing forest products, farming, raising livestock and rice fields. However, lately the livelihoods of indigenous peoples continue to decline.
We can't imagine what will happen if PT. TPL continues to operate. Forests and nature will be increasingly damaged, local wisdom will be lost and will only be filled with industry. The severe impacts will not only be detrimental to indigenous peoples, but also tourism.
What else will they see if the forest in the Lake Toba area turns into an industrial and factory area? This is even contrary to the plan of President Joko Widodo who wants to make the Lake Toba area a super-priority tourist destination.
Aliansi GERAK Tutup TPL