Third-party intervention in terminating oil palm plantation conflicts in Indonesia: a structural analysis.
The extensive development of oil palm plantations in Indonesia has been responsible for businesses-people conflicts, people-government conflicts and people-people conflicts. Since the collapse of the New Order government, those conflicts have increased, and many of them have escalated into physical violence in the form of riots and uprisings (Afrizal 2005, pp. 108-53; Afrizal 2007, pp. 91-131; Afrizal 2010, pp. 97-124; Afrizal 2013, pp. 149-175; Dewi 2010, pp. 39-60; Colchester and Chao 2013, pp. 28-200). The conflicts have proved long-lasting; most of them are not yet resolved (Afrizal 2007, pp. 108-53; Afrizal 2010, pp. 97-124; Afrizal 2013, pp. 149-75; Colchester and Chao 2013, pp. 28-200). This article presents research findings on the resolution of oil palm plantation conflicts outside the courts. It pays particular attention to the use of third-party intervention.
Psychological reductionism characterizes much of the literature that seeks to explain successful third-party intervention. For example, Horowitz (2007, pp. 51-56) says that successful third-party intervention is dependent upon the capability of third parties to develop what is called "trust and cooperation" between parties involved and to rely on the ability of third parties to "facilitate, educate or communicate to clarify issues, identify and manage emotions, and create options". Literature of this nature focuses attention on the ability of a third party to help conflicting parties and on the emotional condition of conflicting parties. This focus ignores the influence of structure. Conflicts do not occur in a social vacuum. My contention here is explanations of successful third-party intervention in conflicts must take structure into account, as it constrains and facilitates actions as well as solutions.
Scholarship on successful third-party intervention in terminating conflicts emphasizes the ability of third parties. These latter help the conflicting parties explore possible solutions to their problems by steering them towards agreement (Kressel 2006, pp. 726-53; Pruitt and Rubin 2011, p. 374; Kressel et al. 2012, p. 136). This process is said to be dependent upon the capability of third parties to develop what is called "trust and cooperation" between parties involved and to rely on the ability of third parties to "facilitate, educate or communicate to clarify issues, identify and manage emotions, and create options" (Horowitz 2007, pp. 51-56). Scholars also emphasize the third party's strategies (Kressel 2006, pp. 735-37; Pruitt and Rubin 2011, pp. 383-412) and style (Kressel et al. 2012, p. 136).
One cannot isolate the success of third-party intervention from the context of the conflicts that it seeks to resolve, as third-party intervention does not take place in a social vacuum, ft is conditioned by certain structures. Miall et al. (1999, p. 156) introduce the concept of conflict structure. In their use of the concept, they mean "the set of actors, issues, and incompatible goals or relationships which constitute the conflict". His emphasis on the abilities of third parties notwithstanding, Kressel (2006, pp. 730-31) in fact reveals the importance of conflict structure to third-party intervention. He emphasizes the importance of conflict intensity in shaping third-party intervention. He notes that high levels of conflict intensity--as indicated by the negative perception of one another among parties involved in a conflict, by the low level of motivation of these parties to reach agreement, or by their weak commitment to mediation --constrain intervention. Conflict structure as described by Miall et al. as well as by Kressel relates to relations between conflicting parties. In their view, third parties must improve these relations through a stage of activity called building trust and cooperation. This view retains a focus on the emotions of people involved in conflict. We need to broaden our view of conflict structure to consider external structures that may contribute to the success of third-party intervention.
The success of third-party intervention depends on both the actions of a third party and the structural context of conflicts. Awareness of this dual dependence requires a theory that integrates third parties, conflicting parties and the context of their relationships. This article seeks to explore the relevance of Anthony Giddens's Structuration Theory.
Third parties are agents endowed with creativity and knowledge, able to do things in different ways (Giddens 1984, pp. 9-10; Sewell 1992, p. 2). In conflict resolution literature, they are called successful mediators. The successful mediators described by Horowitz fit the concept of agents formulated by Giddens. According to Giddens, agents are active and aware of their environment. They can learn from other people. People "routinely monitor social and physical aspects of the context in which they move and act" (Giddens 1984, p. 5). Agents are not only active; they also have power in social life. They are capable of doing things and making a difference (Giddens 1984, p. 7). These features speak to the importance of the power of third parties, parties in conflict, and their ability to influence those conflicting parties.
However, agents must be linked to structure. Following Giddens, structure means rules and regulations, techniques or procedures for things (Giddens 1984, pp. 11-25). Resources are part of structure. Structure enables and constrains third parties as they seek to help conflicting parties, as it is the source of meaning and of the legitimacy and power of the parties involved. In this framework, rules, regulations and resources either enable or constrain the resolution of conflict by a third party, as parties involved in the process of conflict resolution --including third parties--use them to achieve their goals.
The rules and regulations of governments and societies are, like the scarcity of resources, important structural contexts that merit attention in analyses of the success of third-party interventions in the resolution of conflicts such as those over oil palm plantations in Indonesia. Afrizal (2007) reveals that a third party can find it difficult to achieve consensus between conflicting parties when the law legitimizes one party's possession of disputed land. In such a case, the law strengthens the position of one party vis-a-vis the other as it may draw on existing law to legitimize its right to the object and is thus reluctant to compromise with another party. Kressel (2006, pp. 730-31) advises us to see resource scarcity and cultural values as factors influencing the success of third-party intervention because these factors restrict avenues for consensus and thus discourage parties to engage in the resolution process. Rules, regulations, cultural values and resources are sources of meaning, legitimacy and power for parties involved in the resolution of oil palm plantation conflicts.
The NGO as Third Party
NGOs' involvement in conflict resolution is mentioned in the literature (Miall et al. 1999, pp. 35-38; Afrizal 2007, pp. 73-273; Nesbit 2003, pp. 11-16; Huber 2004, pp. 1-91; Sukandar 2007, pp. 13-20), but evaluation of their involvement in mediation is inconclusive. Using African experiences, Nesbit (2003, pp. 11-16) reveals that NGOs are involved in different aspects of the resolution of various types of conflicts, such as "providing aid to victims of conflict, facilitating dialogue between conflicting parties, carrying out advocacy by pressuring various parties to be involved in conflict resolution, attracting media attention and encouraging conflicting parties to engage in peace talks". It is obvious from Nesbit's statements that in Africa NGOs are keener to act as partners of people and facilitators than as mediators. This conclusion is similar to Afrizal's finding, in his study of West Sumatra, that NGOs there prefer supporting people in their struggle against companies and government institutions to conducting mediation (Afrizal 2007, pp. 73-273). But, Huber (2004, pp. 1-91) reveals a case in which NGOs perform as mediators. He reports that in Aceh NGOs have broad involvement in conflict resolution, including mediation. To end fighting between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM), the Henry Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HDC) performed three different roles, including mediation. It moved from one role to another during the process resolving the conflict between Jakarta and GAM, acting as a facilitator during initial phases of the resolution process, then becoming a mediator, and finally serving as a third-party guarantor during the implementation of an agreement.
Although the case concerning Huber is the resolution of an armed conflict, it points to the involvement of NGOs in ways of mediation that might also contribute to the success of NGOs in resolving structural conflicts, including structural agrarian conflicts.
The Conflict (2)
In the early 1980s, (3) the Indonesian government sent 4,000 households of transmigrants to the forest area in Nagari (4) Pangean of Riau Province, ninety per cent of them from the highly populated island of Java and the remainder from the local areas. (5) Each household obtained 0.25 hectares of land for housing and a yard, 1 hectare for agriculture (called Area 1), and 0.75 hectares for reserved farmland (called Area 2). (6) While the government cleared forest for these transmigrants, it did not clear Area 2, on which old rubber trees stood.
In 1997 the government established a Perkebunan Inti Rakyat Transmigrasi (Nuclear Estate and Smallholder Transmigrants, PIRTRANS) of oil palm plantations in the forest area within Nagari Pangean, in accordance with its policies on the agricultural economy and on transmigration (see Afrizal 2007, pp. 214-15; Afrizal 2010, p. 101). The new PIR-TRANS scheme was not meant to replace the previous Nucleus Estate Scheme, but rather to set up a scheme that specifically recruited transmigrants as smallholders linked to larger estates. (7) The government appointed the firm PT Citra Riau Sarana (PT CRS) to develop the nuclear estate for the PIR-TRANS, while the transmigrants and a number of local residents became its associated smallholders. It allocated about 24,000 hectares of forest land for the project; part of this land was the transmigrants' Area 2 (Aksenta and Global Sustainability Associates 2008, p. 15). (8) The area was classified into two sections, nuclear estate land (lahan inti) and smallholder plantation land (lahan plasma). PT CRS controlled the estate land, on which it established its own oil palm plantation, while the transmigrants controlled the smallholder plantation land. PT CRS established those smallholdings using a loan from the government. (9)
PT CRS incorporated the plot of forest area left uncleared by the government into the area of PIR-TRANS. It planted that area, of about 450 hectares, with oil palm trees. (10) From the beginning, the local people attempted to prevent the company's cultivation of that land, but they failed.
Former tappers of rubber trees in the area in question continued asking the management of PT CSR to return the land, but they received no response. In early 2003, a local informal leader of the Nagari Pangean community and retired government employee, M. Yunus, organized the people of Nagari Pangean to regain control of the former rubber plantation land cultivated by PT CRS. M. Yunus invited all former tappers and community leaders to a meeting to establish an organization and to discuss future actions. They agreed to establish an organization and reached a consensus that members of the organization must contribute to the cost of the struggle. There were 220 people registered as members of the group, led by M. Yunus. Our informants said that some sixty per cent of them were former tappers of rubber trees on the disputed land, while the remainder were farmers who occupied leadership positions in the Nagari Pangean community. (11) All of them were from the indigenous people of Nagari Pangean, a Riau Malay ethnic group close to the Minangkabau in language, kinship organization and land tenure systems. In early 2004, a struggle organization was established when M. Yunus obtained permission from Nagari Pangean customary leaders to lead the organization. (12)
The group demanded that PT CRS cede the plantation established by the company on the disputed land in the form of smallholdings (kebun plasma) tied to the PT CRS PIR-TRANS. It argued that the former rubber plantation land cultivated by PT CRS was the customary land of the community of Nagari Pangean and that the Nagari Pangean community retained rights over it.
In the early stage, PT CRS refused to transfer the oil palm plantation, on the argument that the land in question was rightfully the company's, as it was part of the land provided to it by the government. The conflict between the two parties concerned the legal status of the land in question.
Official Government Involvement
Towards the end of 2004, M. Yunus asked for help from the head of Pangean sub-district. The latter responded to his request by inviting the representative of the people of Nagari Pangean and the field management of PT CRS to meet at the sub-district office. Again, the representative of PT CRS argued that the land in question was part of the land provided by the government to the company. To prove this claim, the representative of PT CRS agreed to re-measure the size of its entire plantation. But PT CRS failed to provide the results of the re-measurement to the head of Pangean sub-district, even though the latter sent three letters to the company asking about the matter. Instead, PT CRS sent a letter to the head of the subdistrict saying that all land in question was being utilized for its tied smallholder plantations and not for its nucleus plantation. (13) The tied smallholder plantations do not belong to PT CRS but rather to transmigrants and local people. It appears that the management of PT CRS attempted to duck the accusations of M. Yunus's group, either by claiming that the land in question had been provided by the government to their company or that the land was used for tied smallholder plantations. (14) The arguments of PT CRS would prove to be misleading.
At the end of 2005, M. Yunus and his friends brought the case to the head of Kuantan Singingi district, of which Nagari Pangean is a part. They sent a letter to the head of the district expressing their demands and asking the district head to help them to find the solution to their problem with PT CRS. Because they received no reply, they visited him at his office to express their concern directly. Unfortunately, the head of the district told M. Yunus's group to ask the head of Pangean sub-district for help, even though the latter had been unsuccessful in his effort to resolve the problem. M. Yunus's group interpreted the response of the head of Kuantan Singingi district as a sign of his unwillingness to intervene in their problem with PT CRS. (15)
M. Yunus and the members of his group next reported the case to the Kuantan Singingi district assembly (DPRD, Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah, Local People's Representative Body) and asked it to intervene. The speaker of the assembly responded by inviting representatives of M. Yunus's group and PT CRS to sit down together to find an agreement. But, in the two meetings facilitated by the DPRD speaker, the representative of PT CRS refused to comply with the group's demands. M. Yunus said, "the representative of PT CRS kept insisting that their company cultivated the land provided to it by the government, and they said that the land we asked [for] is used for its company's tied smallholder plantations". (16) The assembly speaker promised M. Yunus that the Kuantan Singingi district assembly would ask the district land office, the local office of the national land agency, to re-survey the land cultivated by PT CRS to confirm that the size of the land cultivated by the company was consistent with the permit issued to it by the national government. Unfortunately, during 2007 the assembly speaker failed to fulfil his promise. The political representatives of the people of Nagari Pangean were not able to help them to resolve the dispute. This case was not an isolated experience of the people of Nagari Pangean, as in many cases in Indonesia, local parliaments failed to resolve agrarian conflicts (Afrizal 2007, pp. 73-273).
This study confirms the importance of third-party involvement in resolving the conflict between M. Yunus's group and PT CRS, but this success was possible because of the existence of rules, regulations, and resources that the third party was able to utilize. Unlike government officials at the sub-district and district levels, NGO activists were able to communicate well with both parties to the conflict. During the meetings devoted to negotiation, they were able to reframe the statements and explanations of the two parties' representatives. They enjoyed the respect of both parties. They appeared to be knowledgeable about oil palm plantation issues, customary laws, the indigenous community and the conduct of negotiations. The activists did more than educate the conflicting parties and communicate with the two parties. They also acted as facilitators in preparing both parties to enter the negotiation process. The relationship between M. Yunus's group and the PT CRS is shaped by a context of rules--government policies, customary laws and the rules of the PT CRS. The NGO activists resolved relationships between structure and agents in their attempt to end the dispute. They helped both parties to identify such rules and to negotiate these rules to find ways of ending their dispute.
The struggle of M. Yunus and his friends attracted the attention of a local Nagari Pangean NGO, Lestari Negeri (Sustainable Villages, LN). Ismet, (17) the director of LN, reported the case of M. Yunus's group to his friend Jalie in early 2008. Jalie was the director of Scale Up, an NGO whose headquarters were in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau Province. This was the beginning of the involvement of Scale UP in the resolution of the problem between the people of Nagari Pangean and PT CRS.
Scale Up was founded in 2007 by Jalie and his friends. Since 1997 Jalie had been an activist with an NGO called Kalahari, focusing on sustainable development. Kalahari tried to apply empowerment and advocacy strategies in its activities. When Kalahari began helping the people of Lubuk Jering (18) in their struggle for land against PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (PT RAPP), (19) Jalie was the main member of Kalahari's field staff. He recognized that the people of Lubuk Jering had achieved little in their struggle against PT RAPP, and he believed that this failure resulted from a lack of dialogue between the two parties. Jalie came to the conclusion that this lack resulted from the absence of a facilitator to help the parties to talk to each other. He discussed the situation with Dr Iwan Citra Jaya, an anthropologist from the University of Indonesia. The anthropologist advised him to encourage the parties to negotiate. He did so, and as a result the representative of the people of Lubuk Jering and PT RAPP began to engage in dialogue. Jalie said, "this gave me a lesson in the importance of mediators in conflict resolution". Then Label Ekologi Indonesia, a timber certification body, suggested that PT RAPP utilize an independent third party to find a solution to its problem with the people of Lubuk Jering. Kalahari declined to act as this third party, as it preferred applying advocacy and partnership approaches in its efforts. At that time, Jalie's contract with Kalahari ended. Instead of renewing his contract, he and his friends chose to establish an NGO that would play a role in mediation to help people in their struggle against plantation companies. They named the NGO, Scale Up. (20)
Scale Up's vision was to bring into existence a just social order, characterized by the achievement of accountable and sustainable development based on partnership among society, the government and corporations. (21) Scale Up values partnership between corporations and members of society in running plantations, and understands that such partnership is made possible through mediation to resolve plantation conflicts. (22) Soon after Scale Up recognized the problem of the people of Nagari Pangean, as reported by Ismet, the NGO began an investigation to make a decision on whether to support the struggle of M. Yunus's group. Their investigation confirmed that PT CRS had treated M. Yunus's group unfairly. These findings led Scale Up to decide to help M. Yunus's group in its struggle against PT CRS. Since that time, early 2008, Scale Up has acted as a partner of M. Yunus's group in that struggle.
Scale Up's first move was to seek support for M. Yunus's group. They brought M. Yunus and several of his friends to attend a meeting of the Serikat Petani Kelapa Sawit (Association of Oil Palm Farmers, SPKS) (23) in Jambi, the capital of Jambi Province. At this meeting (24) M. Yunus presented his group's dispute with PT CRS. The participants in the meeting expressed their support for the group. This support increased M. Yunus's motivation to continue the struggle together with the members of the SPKS. He said, "I was touched by that meeting. All the participants of the meeting, coming from various provinces throughout Indonesia, expressed their sympathy and support for our struggle; they gave us courage." (25)
In early 2008, Scale Up considered the possibility of having M. Yunus's group write a letter of complaint to the Wilmar group, which owned PT CRS. As a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), Jalie recognized the importance of writing directly to the owner of PT CRS, the Singapore-based Wilmar group. To advance this idea, Scale Up organized a meeting with M. Yunus and his friends to persuade them to write complaint letters directly to decision-makers of the Wilmar group. (26) M. Yunus's group agreed, and Scale Up helped them to compose a letter of complaint.
In July 2008, the local NGO Lestari Negeri sent the letter on behalf of the people of Nagari Pangean (27) to the Wilmar group. The contents of the letter were that PT CRS failed to apply the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) principle of RSPO when it cultivated a plot of land belonging to the Nagari Pangean community, that it ignored the aspirations of Nagari Pangean people, and that the Wilmar group must meet with M. Yunus and his friends to resolve the problem. (28)
The letter attracted the attention of top managers of the Wilmar group. The group's sustainability director Simon Siburat replied to the letter by email, saying that he wished to talk with the people of Nagari Pangean. (29) This opened a way towards resolving the case of the people of Nagari Pangean againts PT CRS. Jalie actively followed up on Siburat's promise. He asked Siburat to talk directly with the people of Nagari Pangean.
In October 2008, an annual round-table meeting of RSPO took place in Jakarta. Established in April 2004 by stakeholders including NGOs, the RSPO is an international forum established to "use market mechanisms to reform the way palm oil is produced, processed and used" (Colchester et al. 2006, p. 32). It holds annual meetings. The Wilmar group was a member of RSPO at that time. Scale Up strived to take advantage of this occasion to arrange a meeting between Siburat and M. Yunus's group. Jalie asked Siburat to allow M. Yunus and his friends to talk to him and explain their concerns. Jalie was successful, and a time suitable for the meeting was arranged.
In the meeting facilitated by the director of Scale Up, Jalie, Siburat asked M. Yunus about his group's problems with PT CRS. M. Yunus explained the background of the problem and the group's demands. Jalie said there was no exchange of arguments during this meeting. But Jalie used the time to appeal to Siburat to resolve his company's problem with M. Yunus's group. Siburat expressed a promise to M. Yunus to follow up on the meeting. (30)
The Jakarta meeting organized by Scale Up was very important to the resolution of the problem between M. Yunus's group and PT CRS, as it allowed the former directly to express its concerns to the top management of Wilmar, the corporate owner of PT CRS. It is important to note that this meeting was possible because both Scale Up and the Wilmar group were members of RSPO. Jalie, as the director of Scale Up, thus had access to the Wilmar group.
Scale Up continued helping M. Yunus's group to press Wilmar to follow up on the Jakarta meeting. Jalie contacted Simon Siburat asking him to go to Riau to meet with M. Yunus's group. Siburat agreed to travel to Pekanbaru; Scale Up was successful. It facilitated a meeting in Pekanbaru between M. Yunus's group and representatives of the Wilmar group to realize Siburat's Jakarta commitment.
The Pekanbaru meeting was successful in leading to agreement on the need for a study to clarify the status of the disputed land and to determine whether the land demanded by M. Yunus's group was the customary land belonging to the people of Nagari Pangean. The two parties agreed that, whatever the result of the study, each must accept the outcome. The two parties also agreed to appoint consultants to carry out the study. They appointed Dwi R. Muhtaman of Aksenta, a Jakarta consulting firm, and Dr Petra Meekers of Global Sustainability Associates, a Singapore consulting firm (Aksenta and Global Sustainability Associates 2008, p. 1).
Through interviews with customary leaders in Nagari Pangean, colonial-era Dutch documents and related literature, the consultants concluded that the land in question was the customary land of the people of Nagari Pangean. They based their argument on findings that the Kuantan Singingi region in which Nagari Pangean is located is the home of the Malay Kuantan ethnic group, that their history from the seventh to the sixteenth centuries can be traced, that they speak Minangkabau, that during the period from the seventh to the sixteenth century the people living in Kuantan had their own political organization, that this organization persists until today, and that people living there managed land according to tradition (Aksenta and Global Sustainability Associates 2008, pp. 9-10). The consultants' conclusion appears to be based on the Basic Agrarian Law No. 5/1960.
The consultants' report was given to both parties. By this time, the management of PT CRS/Wilmar realized that the people of Nagari Pangean had rights over the land in question. This realization was an important step on the path towards resolution of the dispute, as both parties could agree on the legal status of the land in question. The government had previously failed to get the two parties to reach such an agreement.
In a meeting organized by Scale Up, PT CRS/Wilmar expressed agreement that the problems between the firm and the people of Nagari Pangean would be resolved through dialogue. The result of the consultants' study was the main factor encouraging the company's management to utilize an approach other than litigation.
At the initiative of the Wilmar group, (31) the two parties to the conflict agreed to appoint Scale Up as mediator. Scale Up required them to agree to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) formalizing its appointment as mediator. In May 2009 the MoU was signed, (32) and from this point forward Scale Up managed the negotiation process.
M. Yunus's group and PT CRS each appointed representatives, agreed on by both parties, to the negotiation processes. Helped by Scale Up, the parties also agreed on rules for the mediation, stipulating that "both parties agree that the appointed representative of both parties have the authority to make decisions on behalf of each side during negotiations". (33) During the entire process of negotiation, Jalie and Hari represented Scale Up, its director and secretary, respectively.
The process of mediation focused on negotiation of the demands of M. Yunus's group. Jalie and Hari held many meetings in the same hotel in Pekanbaru to work out agreements between the conflicting parties. Following the mediators' proposal, the first meeting, on 15 June 2009, addressed the question of whether the land in question was the customary land of the people of Nagari Pangean as stated by the consultants' report. The representative of PT CRS/Wilmar stated their company's position that the land in question was the customary land of the people of Nagari Pangean. (34) This meant that both parties agreed on the legal status of the land in dispute.
Again following the proposal of the mediators, the second meeting discussed the situation of the land in question. Both parties agreed to visit the land to learn about those who used it and about its size and location in a river basin. The two parties carried out site verification on 15 July 2009. Following this verification, they produced a list of names of persons owning tied smallholder oil palm plantations on the land in question. They were mainly transmigrants from Java, along with a few local people. This finding was an important step in negotiating the size of plots of land that would be returned to the members of M. Yunus's group. The second meeting also addressed the credibility of the two representatives involved in the negotiations, as each party had complained to Jalie about the behaviour of the other party's representative at the previous meeting. (35)
The negotiation then turned to the amount of land to be returned to M. Yunus's group by PT CRS. In a meeting on 30 July 2009, the two sides agreed, on the basis of the results of the verification process, that the land in dispute was about 583.3 hectares. Meetings on 19 and 20 August brought negotiation of the demands of M. Yunus's group that the oil palm plantation on Area 2 be given to them. The group contended that PT CRS/Wilmar must return all the land, which belonged to the people of Nagari Pangean and which the company had used for its own estate and its tied smallholder plantation blocks. The representative of PT CRS did not give a firm answer to this demand at these meetings, as he needed to consult with his director, but he promised to deliver an answer at the next meeting. In the fifth meeting, on 10 September, the representative of PT CRS/ Wilmar argued that the company could not make a decision about the tied smallholder plantation land as that land was not under the authority of the company's management. Rather, it belonged to the owners of the smallholder oil palm plantations. This argument was plausible because, according to Indonesian government regulations, the tied smallholder plantations that have been "converted" (36) are the individually owned property holdings of the recipients (see Afrizal 2007, pp. 214-15). The representative of PT CRS/Wilmar proposed that the smallholders' oil palm plantation land be excluded from consideration and that talks focus only on the former rubber plantation land cultivated by PT CRS on its own estate. The representative of M. Yunus's group objected to this explanation and proposal. He insisted that the land in question belonged to the people of Nagari Pangean and that all of it must therefore be returned to them. This meeting reached no agreement.
Jalie and Hari met informally with M. Yunus's group on 26 October 2009 to discuss the issue of PT CRS's tied smallholder plantations. The objective of this meeting was "to confirm to M. Yunus and his friends that the explanation of the representative of PT CRS/ Wilmar was reasonable. We wanted them to focus on the ex-rubber plantation land cultivated by PT CRS for its own plantation while the PT CRS tied smallholder plantations will be conferred on after that." (37) Jalie and Hari were successful; M. Yunus's group accepted their explanation and proposal.
Jalie and Hari invited both representatives to attend a meeting on 1 December to open further dialogue after the deadlock of the fifth meeting. At this meeting, Jalie and Hari reported the result of their separate meeting with M. Yunus's group to the representative of PT CRS/Wilmar. Both parties agreed to discuss PT CRS's tied smallholder plantations later. The dialogue between the two parties in this sixth meeting thus focused only on the former rubber plantation land cultivated by PT CRS for its own plantation. The representative of PT CRS/Wilmar told M. Yunus's group that the company wished to accommodate their demands, but that it was reluctant to give the existing plantation to them because it was at its point of peak production and the company had made a considerable investment in it. Instead, they proposed a plot of newly planted oil palm within the area of PT CRS/Wilmar's nucleus estate. The representative of M. Yunus's group accepted this offer. In this meeting, it was also agreed that both parties would inspect the plantation land in question. Each appointed representatives to undertake this inspection. On 21 December 2009, the representative of both parties made a field visit to the location proposed by the company to confirm that the plantation existed.
Finally, after a long and complicated process, in early June 2010 PT CRS/Wilmar and M. Yunus's group finally reached consensus on ending their dispute. PT CRS/Wilmar agreed to provide M. Yunus's group with 225 hectares of oil palm plantation and M. Yunus's group consented. The latter group agreed to establish a cooperative to run the plantation before PT CRS transferred it. All the agreements were formalized in an agreement letter, signed by representatives of both parties and dated 14 June 2010. (38) The solution was successfully implemented by both parties. PT CRS/Wilmar delivered the promised 225 hectares of oil palm plantation to the cooperative established by M. Yunus's group.
The solution represented a compromise among the interests of the multiple stakeholders in Nagari Pangean society. It accommodated the interests of former tappers on the land in question as the majority of the 212 members of the new cooperative were former tappers. It also satisfied the interests of M. Yunus's group, as all of the members of the cooperative are members of M. Yunus's group. In line with the agreement between M. Yunus's group and customary leaders in Nagari Pangean, the plantation and its land were not divided among them, but rather owned collectively by the members of M. Yunus's group. According to the head of customary leaders of Nagari Pangean, the status of the land must remain "the customary land of Nagari Pangean that is allocated to the members of M. Yunus's group, but they may not sell the land". (39) With this the leaders of the Nagari Pangean community attempted to preserve their community's customary land.
But tension between the members and the management of the cooperative appears to have occurred a few years after M. Yunus's group began to run the 225-hectare plantation. A number of the cooperative's members accused its management of manipulating its finances. They pressed the management to sell the plantation and to divide the proceeds among the cooperative's members. As of the conclusion of the research reported here, in 2012, the problem was not yet resolved and the plantation was still unsold. If the plantation is sold by M. Yunus's group, the solution of the conflict with PT CRS/Wilmar will have failed to preserve customary land of the Nagari Pangean community, even though it signified the success of a third party in resolving a structural group conflict.
The presentation of the process of negotiations between PT CRS/ Wilmar and M. Yunus's group makes clear the vital contribution of Scale Up in its role as mediator to the success of the parties in reaching agreement. The NGO directed and helped the two parties to focus the topics of discussion in the serial meetings that it organized. It led dialogues between the two parties effectively.
The success of Scale Up in resolving the conflict between M. Yunus's group and PT CRS/Wilmar proves the importance of third-party intervention in resolving structural conflict. The involvement of Scale Up was comprehensive, but it maintained the commitment to supporting people in its vision and mission. Scale Up played a necessary role in helping the people of Nagari Pangean achieve the goals of their struggle against PT CRS/Wilmar. Its role included advocacy, empowerment, organizing, facilitation of communication and communicating, educating and mediating. In the processes of mediation, the model of Scale Up's involvement is close to the model of NGO involvement in conflict resolution suggested by Huber (2004, pp. 1-91), one of comprehensive involvement by carrying out different roles depending upon the situation.
Scale Up was able to organize and empower M. Yunus's Group. Jalie succeeded in persuading and pressing the management of the Wilmar group to commit to resolve their company's problem with M. Yunus's group. Scale Up was also able to persuade M. Yunus's group to compromise on certain demands with the representative of PT CRS/Wilmar. This included focusing negotiation on the land actually used by PT CRS/Wilmar for its own nuclear estate rather than including the land utilized for its tied smallholder plantations. In retrospect, this focus served M. Yunus's group well, as resolution demands concerning the portion of the land utilized for PT CRS's tied smallholder plantations would have been much more difficult. The government had provided that land to individual smallholders. Inclusion of that land would have required the involvement of the government and the recipients of the tied smallholder plantations in the negotiation process.
The activists of Scale Up themselves were highly committed to getting involved in the resolution of the conflict between M. Yunus's group and PT CRS/Wilmar as a third party. The engagement of Jalie and Hari as well as Scale Up in the matter is not likely to have been driven by direct financial incentives. Rather, the vision and the mission of Scale Up are to engage in the resolution of plantation conflicts. (40) M. Yunus's group and Wilmar did not pay Scale Up to help them. The cost of the resolution process was shared by M. Yunus's group, PT CRS and Scale Up. M. Yunus's group met its own travel costs, PT CRS was responsible for paying for meeting rooms and food during the process of negotiation, and Scale Up met Jalie's and Hari's expenses during all phases of the resolution process. Scale Up itself used money obtained from international sources such as the Ford Foundation, Oxfam Novib, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Forest Peoples Program to support Jalie's and Hari's work on the resolution of the conflict. (41) Jalie and Hari, the founders of Scale Up, have positioned themselves as NGO activists employing mediation to help local people in their struggle against large-scale plantation companies. They see their involvement in the resolution of the conflict between M. Yunus's group and Wilmar as empowering and helping powerless people. (42) This is a major motivation of NGOs (Clark 1991, pp. 10-15). They see their success as important for their professional careers in the field of NGO work and for the future of their NGO. These were the motives for the involvement of Scale Up as a third party in the resolution of the conflict between M. Yunus's group and Wilmar.
The success of Scale Up in helping the indigenous community of Nagari Pangean and PT CRS/Wilmar truly shows that "conflict resolution is a reflexive process", as Jeong states. But what Scale Up has done is more than what he calls "overcoming negative, mutual emotions and psychology" (see Jeong 2008, p. 99). The experience of Scale Up tells us that it is better to see conflict resolution as a social process (Coser 1967, p. 41). In this way we need to look at the social circumstances that accounted for the success of Scale Up in helping the two parties to achieve agreement.
The objective contradiction between the two parties was their disagreement concerning the legal status of the land in question. This contradiction related to state agrarian regulations and local land tenure. For members of M. Yunus's group, the land in question was the property of the people of Nagari Pangean, while, according to PT CRS, the land was under their authority and for their use, as the government had provided it to the company. Each party drew upon a different set of rules to justify its rights to the land. M. Yunus's group used the customary law of Pangean society to justify its land claim. According to Pangean society, land within village territory is village property, managed by the customary leaders (Aksenta and Global Sustainability Associates 2008, pp. 9-10). (43) On the other hand, the management of PT CRS/Wilmar used the formal regulations as the basis of the company's rights--in this case the land permits issued by the government. This situation reflected the plurality of laws with regard to land in Indonesia (Benda-Backmann 1979, pp. 137-68; Nurjana 2006, pp. 231-36; Afrizal 2007, pp. 44-236; Safitri and Moeliono 2010, pp. 3-17). The legal status of the land in question is the important contradiction between M. Yunus's group and PT CRS/Wilmar (Galtung 2003, pp. 159-71). (44) This contradiction between the rules drawn upon by the two parties constrained their ability to negotiate. The management of PT CRS said to the head of Pangean sub-district, "because the land is provided by the government to our company, it is no use to talk about this land any more". (45)
The agreement on the part of the two parties that the land in question was the customary land of the people of Nagari Pangean conditioned their motivations. Agreement on the status of the land was itself possible because of the existence of the consultants' report stating that the land in question was the customary property of the people of Nagari Pengean. This finding encouraged PT CRS officials to engage in negotiations with M. Yunus's group. Prior to this, those officials had argued that the land in question was part of the land that the government had provided to the company. This means that one needs to pay attention to the social processes affecting the emotions of the two parties to a negotiation. That is what a third party should do to create a psychology conducive to conflicting parties' entering into negotiations.
Scale Up's initiative led to the independent consultants' study, but the conclusions of the study related to existing Indonesian agrarian laws. Existing agrarian laws enabled the consultants to make a judgement that the people of Nagari Pangean had customary right to the land in question. Basic Agrarian Law No. 5/1960 stipulates that indigenous communities have customary rights over land within their territories. (46) Because the consultants found that the claimants were members of an indigenous community and that they had had access to the land in question for a long time, they were able to conclude that M. Yunus's group had rights over that land. In addition, the existence of an MoU as the basis for negotiations also proved the importance of rules to the success of mediation.
Additionally, although bringing the two parties' decision-makers into the dialogue process contributed in an important way to Scale Up's success, the willingness of the two parties to engage in the dialogue made the process possible. The willingness of Wilmar to engage in dialogue and the ability of Scale Up to bring the decision-makers of Wilmar to the dialogue table cannot be isolated from international NGOs pressure on the palm oil industry to be sensitive to its impact on the environment, including on the rights of indigenous communities to land. The Forest Peoples Program and its allies in Indonesia and Malaysia have been critical in bringing focus on the impact of the palm oil industry on indigenous communities' rights to land. They press players in the palm oil industry, including those who run oil palm plantations, to respect indigenous communities' rights to land. They also press the RSPO to induce its corporate members to respect indigenous rights to land. Other international NGOs urge firms in Europe and the United States not to purchase Crude Palm Oil (CPO) produced by plantation corporations that ignore people's rights, including rights to land. As a member of the RSPO and a CPO producer selling its production to Europe and the United States, the Wilmar group must take this pressure into consideration. This is likely the motivation of the Wilmar group in complying with Scale Up's invitation to participate in the dialogue with M. Yunus's group.
One cannot isolate the success of Scale Up from the existence of the RSPO. (47) To obtain RSPO certification, (48) its members must obey the principles and criteria of the RSPO. (49) Criteria 2.2 and 2.3 stipulate that land rights can be proved and are not contested by local communities and that the alienation of land must be based on free prior and informed consent from owners. Scale Up capitalized on the existence of these RSPO principles and criteria to persuade PT CRS/Wilmar to resolve its problem with the people of Nagari Pangean. Lestari Negeri's July 2008 letter to Wilmar said,
There are two problems that have been unresolved until now. One is the clearance of 450 ha of rubber plantation that was planted in 1940 and belongs to the people of Nagari Pangean without Free, Prior and Informed Consent from the people of Nagari Pangean. It has been four years that there is no breakthrough to that problem. Moreover, during the year of 2008 the management of PT Citra Riau Sarana/Wilmar Group intentionally postpone [d] the discussion to end that problem. In our understanding the way in which PT CRS/Wilmar Group handled the problem is contradictory to Wilmar Group's commitment as a member of RSPO. (50)
The contents of Lestari Negeri's letter to the Wilmar group demonstrate that RSPO principles and criteria were an enabler, as Scale Up and PT CRS/Wilmar sought to find a solution to the conflict. It is possible that, if the Wilmar group had not been a member of the RSPO, PT CRS had not been part of the Wilmar group, the RSPO had not existed or there had been no RSPO principles and criteria stipulating the obligation of RSPO members to respect customary land tenure, Scale Up would have failed to help the people of Nagari Pangean. The case of third-party intervention carried out by NGO activists in resolving conflict between the Batin Sembilan community of six villages in the province of Jambi and PT Asiatic Persada, also a member of the Wilmar group, also shows the importance of external sources of support such as the RSPO and the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank for local communities; they represent sources of influence on which third parties can draw to empower indigenous communities in their struggles against oil palm plantation companies. In that case, the NGO activists did not succeed in bringing the two parties into an agreement to end their conflict until 2013, because of the sale of the company to a firm that was not an RSPO member (Chao 2013, pp. 198-200). (51)
The case of conflict resolution between the people of Nagari Pangean and PT CRS/Wilmar demonstrates that in certain situations, such as intergroup structural conflict, NGO activists are more effective than state actors in resolving conflict through approaches other than litigation because, as Miall et al. (1999, p. 38) insist, NGO activists are more flexible than government officials. The people of Nagari Pangean and PT CRS/Wilmar did ask local government officials to intervene, but they could only play a facilitation role that proved inadequate for resolving a complicated structural conflict involving legal pluralism, considerable sums of money, and a large and powerful company with its headquarters overseas. Scale Up was able to undertake comprehensive third-party involvement because of its activists' flexibility.
Although third-party intervention is the involvement of a third party in the process of negotiation between conflicting parties to find solutions to their problems, this case study shows that in intergroup conflict resolution involving a community, one cannot isolate mediation from facilitation and assistance. Scale Up's involvement was comprehensive, and this contributed to its success. It did what was necessary to help the people of Nagari Pangean achieve their goals in their struggle against PT CRS/Wilmar. These things ranged from advocacy to empowerment, organizing, facilitation of communication, communication, education and mediation.
The ability and commitment of a third party to help the parties to a conflict is vital to the success of resolving structural conflicts. And the motivation of conflicting parties to end their problems outside the courts and to participate in the mediation process is the lubricant of the conflict resolution, and is vital to the outcome. But structure frames both the relationship among the people involved and the resolution process. Both the actions of third parties and the actions of the parties to the conflict were conditioned by rules, regulations and sources. The government policy of providing land for PT CRS constrained government officials as they sought to help M. Yunus's group, and it enabled PT CRS to avoid the accusation of having grabbed land from the Pangean people. The existence of agrarian laws insisting that the indigenous community have rights over land within their territory strengthened the position of M. Yunus's group, who are members of the indigenous community of Riau Malays. The existence of external sources of support such as the RSPO, local customary law and funds from international organizations enabled Scale Up to help M. Yunus's group, to persuade PT CRS/Wilmar officials to resolve their problem with M. Yunus's group, and to frame the will of company officials to participate in the process. Without these structural resources, Scale Up is unlikely to have been able to help the two parties to end their complicated conflict.
All of these factors confirm to us that the resolution of structural conflicts should be seen as a social process leading to the creation of agreements among parties involved. Analysing conflict resolution from the perspective of structure and agent relations helps us to better explain the causes of many long-lasting and unresolved oil palm plantation conflicts in Indonesia and elsewhere.
Scale Up spent a substantial amount of time and money to help the two parties find solutions to their problem. Because of these heavy costs of NGO engagement in structural conflict resolution, the experience of Scale Up is hard to replicate in different times and places; a lack of funds is the chronic problem of NGOs. To take the advantage of Scale Up's experience, support for local NGOs in many places in Indonesia is needed.
I am grateful to the Indonesian-Australian Institute for financing this study, to Anton Lucas for his comments on the article's contents and on its English, to Costas Loutides for his suggestions in the early stages of the study, to the Andalas University Language Centre for providing an English-language editor for this article, and to the referees and editors of SOJOURN for their comments and suggestions.
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(1.) About sixty per cent of oil palm plantations are controlled by large-scale plantation companies and forty per cent by small-scale (Badan Pusat Statistik 2010, p. xxii; Badan Pusat Statistik 2013, p. 238).
(2.) Data were collected using in-depth interviews, all conducted during May 2012, with Jalie and Hari (their nicknames), who worked on behalf of Scale Up in the resolution of the conflict between the people of Nagari Pangean and PT CRS/Wilmar, Pekanbaru; with M. Yunus, a leader of the struggle group of the people of Nagari Pangean against PT CRS/Wilmar, Pekanbaru; with local informants, Nagari Pangean; with members of M. Yunus's group, Nagari Pengean; with the leader of Anak Negeri, an NGO that supported M. Yunus's group, Nagari Pengean; and with the PT CRS officials, Nagari Pangean. The author also studied the documents produced during the process of the conflict resolution, such as the consultants' report (Aksenta and Global Sustainability Associates 2008), minutes of meetings, Scale Up's reports (Scale Up 2010, n.d.e) and letters sent by the people of Nagari Pangean to the Wilmar group.
(3.) The consultants' report says that the Home Affairs Ministry issued a permit for use of land for transmigration in Nagari Pangean in 1981 (Aksenta and Global Sustainability Associates 2008, p. 6).
(4.) At that time, the nagari or village was the lowest level of government in the province of Riau, as in West Sumatra.
(5.) Interview with M. Yunus, Pekanbaru, May 2012. Also see Aksenta and Global Sustainability Associates (2008, p. 9).
(6.) Reserved farmland is a plot of land provided by the government to transmigrants for their future needs.
(7.) See Sekretariat Kabinet Republik Indonesia (1986).
(8.) Also, author's interviews with M. Yunus, Pekanbaru, May 2013; with local informant, Nagari Pangean, May 2012; and with the leader of Lestari Negeri, Nagari Pangean, May 2012.
(9.) Smallholders make payments by instalment via PT CRS to the government. Smallholders sell their fresh oil palm kernels to PT CRS. The company cuts ten per cent from their sale price for the instalment (Afrizal 2007, p. 216).
(10.) This is based on the result of the measurement carried out by a team consisting of the representative of PT CRS, the representative of the people of Nagari Pangean, the representative of Logas Tanah Darat sub-district, and the village heads of Kuantan Sako and Giri Sako.
(11.) Interviews with M. Yunus, Pekanbaru, May 2012; with a member of M. Yunus Group, Nagari Pangean, May 2012; and with the head of Lestari Negeri, Nagari Pangean, May 2012.
(12.) Interview, Pekanbaru, May 2012.
(13.) See Scale Up (2010, n.d.b; 2012).
(14.) This is a common argument made by plantation companies to justify their rights to land (Afrizal 2007, pp. 122-25, 106-72).
(15.) Interview with M. Yunus in Pekanbaru, May 2012.
(16.) Interview, Pekanbaru, May 2012.
(17.) This is a nickname.
(18.) Lubuk Jering is situated in Siak sub-district of Riau Province.
(19.) Riau Pulp and Paper.
(20.) Interview, Pekanbaru, May 2012.
(21.) See Scale Up n.d.c.
(22.) Interview, Pekanbaru, May 2012, Scale Up (2012).
(23.) In 2007, Scale Up joined the Serikat Petani Kelapa Sawit (Association of Palm Oil Farmers, SPKS) of Riau. SPKS are organizations established by Sawit Watch, an NGO based in Bogor managing social impacts of oil palm plantations carried out by big companies. They are active in many provinces in Indonesia in mobilizing oil palm plantation smallholders in their struggle for their interests against those of large-scale palm oil plantation companies. The author was involved in Sawit Watch during 2006-10.
(24.) One of the regular meetings of SPKS, held at various locations.
(25.) Interview, Pekanbaru, March 2012.
(26.) This letter proved to be important, as it was used by the independent consultants as the starting point of their investigation and by the two parties as the basis of negotiations.
(27.) This Nagari Pangean NGO was a field community organizer used by Scale UP to support M. Yunus's Group.
(28.) See the letter of Lestari Negeri to Jeremy Goon and Simon Siburat of Wilmar International Limited dated 17 July 2008; a copy is in the author's possession.
(29.) Simon Siburat emailed his response to Lestari Negeri's letter through Jalie's email address.
(30.) Interview, Pekanbaru, May 2012.
(31.) On 9 April 2009 the Wilmar group sent a letter to Scale Up asking it to serve as mediator.
(32.) "Nota Kesepahaman Dimulainya Perundingan Antara PT Citra Riau Sarana (Wilmar group) dengan Masyarakat Kenegerian Pangean Kecamatan Pangean Kabupaten Kuantan Singingi" [MoU of Negotiation between PT Citra Riau Sarana (Wilmar group) and Nagari Pangean Community Pangean Sub-district Kuantan Singingi District], 2009, a copy of which is in the author's possession.
(33.) "Kesepakatan Bersama Antara PT. Citra Riau Sarana dengan Masyarakat Kenegerian Pangean Kecamatan Pangean Kabupaten Kuantan Singingi" [Agreement between PT Citra Riau Sarana and Kenegerian Pangean community], dated 28 May 2009, a copy of which is in the author's possession.
(34.) This is a rare example of an oil palm company publicly expressing recognition of customary rights of indigenous people to a plot of land in the province of Riau, where the provincial government does not recognize indigenous people's rights to forest lands on the basis of customary laws (Afrizal 2010, pp. 103-14).
(35.) After the first meeting, each side told Jalie and Hari that it was displeased with the way in which the other side's representative offered comments and response during the meeting. Jalie and Hari believed that this problem must be resolved in subsequent meetings (interviews with Jalie and Hari, Pekanbaru, May 2012).
(36.) In the nucleus estate and smallholding scheme of oil palm plantation development in Indonesia, the concept of conversion means the transfer of the smallholding plantations that have been developed by an estate from its control to farmers, called petani plasma (tied smallholders), with land certificates issued by the National Land Agency (Afrizal 2007, p. 247).
(37.) Interview, Pekanbaru, May 2012.
(38.) "Kesepakatan Bersama Antara PT Citra Riau Sarana dengan Masyarakat Kenegerian Pangean Kecamatan Pangean Kabupaten Kuantan Singingi" [Agreement between PT Citra Riau Sarana and Kenegerian Pangean community], dated 14 June 2010, a copy of which is in the author's possession.
(39.) Interview, Pekanbaru, May 2012.
(40.) See Scale Up n.d.c.
(41.) Interview with Hari via email in May 2014.
(42.) Interview, Pekanbaru, May 2012.
(43.) Also, interview, Nagari Pangean, May 2012.
(44.) Galtung (2003) says a conflict may have three aspects: contradiction, attitude and behaviour.
(45.) See Scale Up 2010.
(46.) See Section 3 and explanation II number 3 in Sekretariat Kabinet Republik Indonesia (1960).
(47.) There are mixed findings about the importance of the RSPO for oil palm plantation conflict resolution. At the "Workshop on Conflict or Consent: The Oil Palm Sector at a Crossroad", held in Medan, North Sumatra, 8-10 November 2013, many participants stated that the RSPO does not contribute to the resolution of oil palm conflicts to the satisfaction of local community members in many countries in the world.
(48.) The RSPO certifies palm oil producers that comply with RSPO principles and criteria.
(49.) RSPO principles and criteria are the RSPO's standards for sustainable palm oil, concerned with environmental protection, land rights and labour rights.
(50.) See the letter of Lestari Negeri to Jeremy Goon and Simon Siburat of Wilmar International Limited dated 17 July 2008, a copy of which is in the possession of the author. Translation here is the author's.
(51.) Also, personal communication, November 2013, with Rukaiyah Rofiq, one of the NGO activists involved in the third-party intervention. She said, "We were nearly successful. Wilmar expressed their will to sign an agreement to resolve the conflict, but the company was sold to a nonRSPO member."
Afrizal is Professor of Sociology, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Andalas Univerity, Kampus Unand Limau Manis, Padang, Indonesia; email: afrizal_2002au@ yahoo.com.
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|Date:||Mar 1, 2015|
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