Postcard from Jakarta

27 Sep


SPI Demonstrators on September 24


Brazil isn’t the only country with a government that keeps promising to enact meaningful land reform and yet never seems to find quite the right moment to actually do so. The landless and land-poor peasants of Indonesia face the same challenge.

Along with the Peasant Union of Indonesia, (SPI), they took National Peasants Day last Friday to demonstrate in front of the presidential palace, and let its current resident, Susilo Bambang Yudoyhono,  know that they are still on the case. They recall the promise he made in 2007, and know about the 9.6 million hectares of unclaimed productive land. The SPI has taken more than a million hectares through years of land (re)occupations and struggle. To think that almost 10 times that amount sits there while millions go hungry and unemployed is frankly astonishing.  

“This year’s commemoration of National Farmers’ Day is a real celebration of peasants, indigenous people, agricultural workers, the land-poor and the landless,” writes Mohammed Ikhwan of the SPI. And that’s great. But with 360,000 hectares apparently ready for distribution, according Joyo Winoto, head of the National Land Agency,  next year’s should also be a celebration of new beginnings, on a plot of land a family can call its own.


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