The House of Representatives (DPR) passed a Law on Land Provision for the Development for Public Interest on Friday (16/12).
For those who have been involved in infrastructure provision in Indonesia, the new land law provided a breath of fresh air in the process of acquiring land that is much needed for infrastructure projects in the country. The Law is not a novel policy, but in the form of Law (Undang-undang) it provided better legal certainty compared to the previous Presidential Regulation stipulating the similar matter.
Based on the Law, it set a timeframe for acquiring land, whereby all of the land acquisition process should be finished within a maximum of 436 working days, which includes notification, public consultation, and dispute settlement mechanisms that provides legal protection for rightful landowners to get their fair share of compensation.
Compensation is also not limited to money, as rightful landowners can be compensated through land swaps, resettlement, stock ownership or any other forms agreed by both parties.
Agrarian reform activists fear that the Law can be used to forcefully take land for the benefit of corporations, such as in the recent case of Mesuji whereby farmers’ land are allegedly taken away by force for palm oil and rubber plantations. The Law, however, specifies exactly which categories of projects are eligible in the name of “public interests” and palm oil is not included. Moreover, the Law emphasizes that it is the responsibility of the state to acquire land from rightful land owners. Even if they are in a public-private partnership agreement for a project, any risks involved in acquiring land is shouldered by the government.
The term “rightful land owners” imply that landowners truly own their piece of land and are registered, not just simply owning a land certificate. Problems will then arise with those whose lands are not registered, and considering that most indigenous land or ulayat rights in Indonesia are not registered, the fears of landowners being evicted out of their land – their home – is not baseless.
There are due process mechanisms in the new Law to ensure that anyone who is affected with the land acquisition can voice out their concerns. However, embedded in the spirit of the Law is the assumption that at least two enabling conditions are in place: that Indonesia has an efficient land registration system and an effective land-use planning.
Unless we get these two enabling conditions right, no matter how good the land acquisition law and its bylaws are drafted, implementation will still be difficult.