Sembuluh Voices: Transcript

Transcript from the film

"Sembuluh Voices:

Stories from the Palm Oil Lake"

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Sembuluh Voices 2

Central Kalimantan, Indonesia

Pak Haji

There is mass destruction of the forest here.
It’s already happening and it’s going to keep on happening.
Eventually it will be a massive palm oil desert.
I heard they are planning oil palm plantations from here all the way to Tanjung Putting National Park.
My name is Haji Anang Syahruni, a local person from Sembuluh II village, on Sembuluh Lake, Seruyan District, in the province of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Here we outline some of the problems caused by the palm oil industry, and the impacts it has had on our lives, particularly in the area of Lake Sembuluh since 1996.

Pak Bambang

Nowadays finding work is difficult.
Whereas before it was easy to find work.
We could catch fish, work the land, and so on…
but now the situation is very difficult, it is hard to find work.

Pak Yamin
This is my land.
This proves my land starts from the plantation border; from my garden to this road, all the way down there.
Now my land has been illegally taken by the oil palm plantation company PT Hamparan Persada.

Much of my land has already been illegally cleared by that company. According to this document, all these oil palm trees are on my land.
All the information is clear on this tribal document [first approved in 1966]. I planted some seeds here, but as you can see the company has killed them.
The company has now planted oil palm on my land. This is my example, this is my proof.

Pak Irun
This land was full of wild animals, but it’s been cleared by the oil palm companies.

This orangutan was in a small copse of trees in the middle of a huge clearfell area. The nearest block of degraded forest was hundreds of metres away across cleared plantation land.

Pak Irun
Land c
learance for palm oil expansion has had a major impact.
Before the palm oil plantations, when there was still forest, we still found many different species of animal here. But now the animals are all gone. Like this orangutan here: there are still a few left, but they have mostly disappeared. The clearance areas are extensive, and companies don’t consider the environmental impact.

Dr Nani Haryati Syamsi.
My name is Dr. Nani Haryati Syamsi. I work in the Sembuluh Lake Peoples’ Health Centre.
This area has had problems with land burning, particularly during 2006.
I’ve noticed a direct correlation between the fires and the types of illnesses we see here.
The increased volume of smoke in the air has had a negative effect on the health of local people.

Pak Irun
That land burning over there belongs to local people.
But it’s not the local people burning it, it’s the company.
The company want to take over that land.
They have made that mound of earth [using mechanized diggers, to contain the fire]. What kind of idiot would burn his own land?

Why would the owner set fire to their land when it has crops growing on it?
It’s so obvious that this is the company using fire to take over land which they don’t own.

Pak Yamin
We used to work as boat builders.
Just as our ancestors did before us.
Now we face problems…we cannot finish building our boats.
The oil palm plantations have become so big, and we can no longer find enough wood.
The forest is all gone. It has been replaced by palm oil plantations.

Ibu Haji

We’re really worried.
This area is surrounded by companies who are going to build factories.
Where are they going to throw their waste? In the river?
When the kids wash in the lake it can make their skin itchy, and they sometimes get open sores.The factories will increase pollution, to both the water and the air. Each morning there is a smell from Agro Indomas that reaches us even here.

Washing in lake

Pak Haji
We hope that when the plantation companies have watched this video, they will see the need for improving conditions for the local people who live next to the oil palm plantations.
Especially those companies that are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

The statements from Sembuluh were screened to a meeting of palm oil company managers who were given the opportunity to respond on camera.

Pak Amanto Harjono [PT Mustika Sembuluh, WILMAR International]
With this document, we want to show you that we have corporate social responsibilities (CSR).
And our objectives are: “To create good relation with community, surrounding companies as neighbour, working and growing together.”
This document shows that we have clear planning.
It has been implemented, and we will continue to follow this.
It can empower the community to develop and move forward, together with the company.

Pak Suharto [PT Salonok Ladang Mas, United Sampoerna]
Our contribution when we open a plantation is to live in sustainable harmony with the community.
The company makes a positive contribution to the community, as well as to the plantation.
For example, we are now helping the schools in surrounding villages, and the mosques and sports activities, especially for the youth sector.

threes company

Pak Fahrulraji [PT Mustika Sembuluh, WILMAR International]
Don’t just present the negative things, though I think these negative things are just nonsense.
I dispute [the assertion] that local people are only ever employed as daily wage labourers.
Thirty percent of our security staff are monthly workers, and they are from the surrounding community.

The rest of them, well as we know, this is Indonesia. So people from across Indonesia come to find work. People looking for work come from everywhere, not just from this area.
I’m a local person myself. I have a better job than some other people, including my friends.
Why don’t you focus on me? Why just focus on the poor local people and not the others?

The people from Sembuluh watched the company statements and responded in turn.

Pak Haji
I know that every Indonesian citizen has a right to work, and a right to work in any part of the state of Indonesia.
But my concern is with the involvement of the local workforce.
We need to work in order to ensure the survival of our descendents.

Ibu Haji

The palm oil plantations will be here for at least thirty years.
What’s going to happen to people here?
What hope is there for people with nothing, no land?
I’m begging the government to be more selective when choosing investors for this area.

Pak Haji

Before the company arrived at the village, the income of local people was growing independently.
The community was used to its independence and had no need to depend on anyone else.
There was economic growth through our own efforts.
The local economy was growing little by little.
When the company arrived, the income of the community was limited, and actually decreased.

Pak Suharto
The statement from Haji Anang Syarhuni’s wife, I forget her name…
She claims that the arrival of the plantation has caused the fish to die, and that when people wash they get ill.
We would like her to verify her statement with laboratory tests to measure the level of pollution in the lake resulting from the plantations.

Ibu Haji
The company expecting the community to [test the lake] is not normal.
The community don’t have the necessary devices to test it.
Maybe the company can…form a…team or…research division, to prove there is waste effluent in Sembuluh Lake.
We’re happy for that to happen. Currently all I can do is report what I hear from people here.
If Suharto wants proof, perhaps he should become a Sembuluh villager.
He should come and drink the water from the lakes himself. It’s polluted and full of effluent.

Pak Fahrulraji
The old man talking about the boat is having difficulties because there are no raw materials.
Why is he blaming the company?

Pak Yamin
In Fahrulraji’s statement he mentions an old man in the film.
That’s me.
There used to be enough timber to sustain our boat-building industry.
Now it’s impossible for us to continue this ancestral culture.

Pak Haji
Where can we find the raw materials?
We already know that in these plantations, even wood as small as matchsticks and cigarettes gets flattened by the companies.

Haji 1

Pak Suharto
One positive impact is that in the past there was no access by road. Now even saloon taxis from the town can reach the remote villages.

Marker Tree 2

Pak Haji
We don’t feel that the road was built for the benefit of the community.
The access to the plantation is far better than the road to the village.
They have neglected the village road and it is pretty much unusable.
It’s not really the community who make most use of the road.
The company actually use it more frequently, for transporting their workers, seeds and construction materials, and for moving things like fertilizers and so on.

Pak Fahrulraji
In one scene we watched a man saying that his land was taken and planted with oil palm without his permission.
This is impossible because we have mechanisms and regulations to prevent this.
In fact it is not fully obvious whether the land is his own land or not, because I saw that in the background was an oil palm plantation.
We have mechanisms for land acquisition.
If the land is still under his authority, and he doesn’t want to release it, we make an enclave.
We will leave it alone!

Pak Yamin
I was presenting accurate facts.
I feel I have lost a lot because of the company.
It is my land. That is the truth. I have the complete set of tribal documents.
Why did the company not contact me before they cleared my land?

Sembuluh II Campaigns Co-ordinator
In principle, according to what Suharto says, the company resolves matters with the community before clearing any land.
But in reality, in about 60% of disputes the land gets cleared without any warning, prior notice, letter and so on.

Land Grabbing 1

Pak Fahrulraji
If crops are growing on the land, for example rubber, like the other man said...over there and there are his rubber plantations…we suggest that they keep the land and don’t sell it.
It is simply impossible…impossible! We do NOT take land illegally!
Or find some way to get it…because we have protocols.

Pak Irun
They push to take over land.
I had 1200 rubber trees that were already head height. They chopped down every single one.
They didn’t leave a single tree standing.
That is a fact I can prove.

Pak Fahrulraji
It’s not like that.
If they don’t want their land to be planted or sold to the company, fine. We leave it, we enclave it.
They need to remember this! In the future, don’t blame the company!

Sembuluh II Campaigns Co-ordinator
Many landowners have voiced complaints to Suharto. He is the co-ordinator.
But if we want a meeting, we have to wait for up to one month.
When I ask to meet him in the office, I get the impression he is trying to avoid me, and asks someone to tell me he is not there, he is in Sampit.
We try to phone but he doesn’t answer or turns off his phone.
If we want to meet it can take up to one month.
He has solved no problems.

Pak Irun
If they burn down a rubber plantation, they can then buy the land for less money. The company push to get cheaper prices.
Sometimes they just demand that people hand over their land.

Iruns bukti

Pak Amanto Harjono
The truth is, that up to now our company has never set fire to any land.
I can prove it with this. Our company made a commitment on July 14th 2007, when the Governor announced that companies should not burn the land.

Pak Suharto
What we see in the film is forest fires…land grabbing…orangutan issues…
If we look at these negative impacts it just seems to discredit the plantations.
As plantation representatives, we hope you will show some positive impacts in the film.

Pak Fahrulraji
The complaints are not true.
The company gives a lot of positive support to the community.
We don’t have enough time to mention all the positive things the company gives to the community.
For example, in this bulletin there are many company activities designed for public relations, and how we interact with the community.
It is the government’s objective to develop local communities through the companies, and especially through oil palm companies.
So we’re not working without concern for the communities’ needs and traditions…and so on.

Pak Irun
If the company desires a co-operative relationship with the community, why don’t they hold a meeting with us?
One forum, one place. We can discuss our perspectives.
Suharto and Fahrulraji both asked us to prove our claims were true.
We’re ready. Let’s go! We will stop work to show them!
To prove that we are telling the truth and the company are not.
Because everyday we can see and feel this!
Maybe Suharto receives updates at his desk.
He might have been to the plantation and villages a few times.
Perhaps he knows a little about land conflict.
But us, we live it everyday, meet people, see the state of the land.
I had a crop of 450 trees already planted. PT Salonok Ladang Mas just tore it up.
I still have a small piece of proof.
The company do not recognize our rights.
I agree with what the companies “quote” as their principles and commitments: that they shouldn’t break the rules and burn people’s land…but we would like them to come here and see what’s actually happening!

Devastation Panorama