Politics and International Relations
“Citizens submit a letter of rejection against oil palm,” local media in Sambas, West Kalimantan, reported after six villages submitted a letter to the DPRD, demanding an oil palm company to stop all its activities and compensate for the damage they have caused to rubber gardens. Earlier, the company obtained a 10,000-ha concession from the district government, including land in fourteen villages. Unsatisfied with the government’s response, affected villagers organized a demonstration in front of the district office. The demonstration ended violently with protesters throwing stones at the building. In a second demonstration, the base camp of the company was burned down. After this, the company withdrew from the area. When I visited the village where it happened, three years after the indecent, tensions were still high. Whispering, women pointed out the houses of ‘palm oil people,’ their neighbors who allegedly had supported the company. Oil palm opponents even built a new mosque, because they felt they could no longer pray with oil palm supporters.
This paper explores how the informal nature of corporate activities in Indonesia causes friction within communities, and between citizens and their government representatives, rather than direct confrontations between companies and communities. This has consequences for governance initiatives on palm oil land conflicts which at present are too narrowly focused on facilitating negotiation and mediation between companies and communities.