Thousands of peasants held a protest action in Jakarta, Indonesia to highlight campaigns on land grabbing, the junking of WTO, and continued hikes in fuel prices.
Rahmat Ajiguna, Secretary General of the Alliance of Agrarian Reform Movement/Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA), said that the protest is the Indonesian peasantry’s response to oppressive government policies.
Rahmat explained that millions of hectares of peasant lands “are being grabbed by government in the name of development and public interest,” which are then used for vast plantations, mining sites, military facilities, and real estate projects.
“These policies should be stopped and land needs to be distributed back to the peasantry through genuine agrarian reform; if the government refuses to do this…do not blame peasantry if they take their own actions to defend and take back their lands,” said Rahmat in his speech at the rally in front of Land National Body of Indonesia.
Rahmat further explained that land grabbing, and peasant resistance to land grabbing, happens not just in Indonesia but all across Asia and in other regions of the world. “We will unite with those who’ve shown their determination to launch anti land-grabbing and genuine agrarian reform campaign[s], because these are the objective demand[s] of peasantry,” he told the thousands of protestors.
The protestors also directed their scathing criticism at the forthcoming 9th Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to be held in Indonesia later this year. AGRA reiterated the peasant alliance’s position that “the WTO does not give any benefit to the peasantry.”
On the contrary, Rahmat said, the WTO uses the Indonesian government to kick off peasants from their lands through various policies, including the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), revocation of agriculture subsidies, agriculture import policy, and imposing intellectual property rights on seed.
With WTO policies implemented by the national government, Rahmat explained, the result is that “Indonesia lose[s] her sovereignty on food, national agriculture market is being flooded by import products, and in the name of competition, the government stop[s] agriculture subsidies.” He added that this only shows the Indonesian government is not on the side of its own people on the side of foreign monopoly capital.
AGRA urged the Indonesian peasant movement to “consolidate its ranks” and prepare for the forthcoming WTO ministerial, starting with a national peasant consultation regarding the WTO agenda this coming month. Various mobilizations and conferences will also be held in coordination with the People’s Global Camp that will be convened in December as well.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian People’s Alliance (IPA), a movement for sovereignty and trade, expressed support for the AGRA position on WTO. AGRA is a member of the IPA.
IPA Secretariat’s Ario Adityo, who delivered a solidarity message during the rally, said that agriculture will be one of the three main agenda points in WTO’s proposed Bali Package.
Ario said Indonesian peasants need to prevent the WTO from striking a new deal, since “peasantry and workers will become the most affected sectors when the meeting reaches a new deal in the upcoming meeting.”
“We will not allow them to reach [a] deal, but further we need to make sure that the people’s message will be heard in this upcoming meeting, and our message is: We are not going to take it anymore! Junk WTO!” he added. ###