MAC: Mines and Communities

Dayaks Take Legal Action, Demand Justice

Published by MAC on 2003-02-06

Dayaks Take Legal Action, Demand Justice

Press statement from JATAM, Jakarta

February 6 2003

"IMK took over our mining pits, houses and gardens. IMK made us leave our gardens when the crops were ready for harvest. Not only that, IMK also destroyed our graveyards and sacred places that we have protected and respected," testified Mumpung at the South Jakarta State Court on Thursday, (6/2).

Twelve people from the Dayak Siang, Murung and Bakumpai communities of North Barito, Central Kalimantan, came to Jakarta to follow the progress of the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Dayak people against the gold mining company, PT. Indo Muro Kencana (IMK). Land rights have been an issue around the mining site since the mid-1980s. Besides 37-year old Mumpung, other witnesses called to testify included 80-year old former Dayak leader Sakung and 53-year old former IMK employee, Linga. Three other witnesses will testify next Thursday (13/2).

Before the trial began, twelve Dayak people performed a traditional dance called Balian to drive out bad spirits from disturbing the trial. The people also carried a large banner and some posters that read, among others: "Dayak charge: Return our rights!!," "IMK took away our life," "IMK must pay for their sins", and "Get off our land."

Other testimonies differed from Mumpung's and were not focused on the land and pits that were taken over but instead included testimony from a former employee at IMK, Linga. Linga decided to stop working at the site because of the suffering being dealt to his family. "I decided to leave Indo Muro Kencana (IMK) because I could not bear to see the hardship and suffering that was being experienced by my family," stated Linga.

He added that while he worked at PT IMK, a period that spanned five years from 1992 to 1997, with a salary of 5,000 Rupiah a day, he felt internal conflict. He could not bear to take orders from PT IMK that would include evicting fellow villagers from their land and stopping them from mining gold in their mining pits, a part of their heritage. After only three months at IMK, he decided to resign but IMK rejected his resignation.

He still remembers how Gozali Abas, IMK's Administration Manager, ordered him to evict traditional gold miners. Besides evictions, workers such as himself were ordered to destroy small-scale mining equipment and property belonging to the traditional miners. Meanwhile, Sakung talked about the history of traditional mining activities of the community. According to Sakung, the local community was mining for gold long before the Dutch set foot in Indonesia.

Therefore, the community has been mining for gold for hundreds of years, dating back to when the Dayak people first settled in that area. As leader of the community from 1967-1975, Sakung often led traditional ceremonies including rituals done prior to looking for gold and mining. Gold, for the Dayak Siang, Murung and Bakumpai people, is part of their life. Traditional gold mining has provided a means of survival and gave an education to their children.

However, the golden period was all over for the community in 1986 when IMK came to the area and took over the land. Using heavy equipment and assistance provided by the police force (Brimob), IMK evicted the community and destroyed their homes, and traditional mining tools. At the moment, the affected communities depend on limited agricultural activities for their survival. Many children have been forced to drop out of school or have failed to advance to higher levels due to their families' inability to afford the costs of education. Most children usually make it to elementary or middle school but not many children reach high school.

"As the community leader, I was never asked for permission or asked to discuss with IMK about the mining activities on our land. Then with the assistance of the police force, IMK evicted us and took away our rights without paying compensation," stated Sakung.

Sakung's testimony was also strengthened with Linga's testimony that the evictions were carried out based on orders from IMK. This matter was evident at the time of the evictions, where police and IMK employees worked together.

"Since the beginning of IMK's operations, fish have become scarce because IMK has polluted the river and our livestock can no longer graze in the area because IMK has destroyed the area. I hope that IMK never conducts mining activities in our area again because IMK has only added to the poverty and hardship found in our community," stated Sakung to the judicial board.

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