A(nother) Monster in Perth City – Mining evicts farmers

Posted on March 3, 2010


Perth based companies Indo Mines ltd and Kimberly Diamonds are complicit in the attempted violent eviction of Indonesian farmers from their traditional lands.

In Kulon Progo, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, an autonomous community of thousands of farmers are facing a terrible fate – the need to fight for their lives. After perfecting techniques for farming the sand they on which they live they have rudely been informed that their fertile top soil covers a large iron deposit, which the Sultan of Yogyakarta, the Indonesian government and Perth based companies Indo Mines and Kimberly Diamonds are too eager to exploit for profit, with or without the farmers’ consent.

Their struggle for freedom has been going since the community was first informed about the plans to mine their land in 2006. Since then they have a formed an independent, community and consensus run organisation, the PPLP (association of shoreline farmers) that has helped mobilise resistance with an impressive size and intensity. Farmers have demonstrated in their thousands, occupied government buildings in Kulon Progo and Yogyakarta city, endured a violent attack by a fascist militia and police and secured the release of a friend from police custody. More background information about actions so far and the anti-hierarchical, communal structure of their community can be found in English at “Tale of sand”.

Two Perth activists recently visited the village to witness the farmers’ struggle against eviction first hand. We interviewed farmers about their lives and views on the campaign to protect their land in between planting chilli seeds, drinking fresh coconut juice in the fields and eating recently harvested melons. When informed that Indo Mines, on their website, claim that “the area within the project boundaries is considered extremely marginal for farming with only minor areas that support traditional farming. The Company believes the Project will have a positive impact on these activities” one farmer responded that those people have never visited the farms to witness their fertility or consult farmers and should do so. In fact, Kulon Progo is relatively wealthy, compared to other farming villages in Java because of the diverse variety and quantity of food grown on the proposed mine site. One farmer interviewed boasted that ‘One hundred thousand people eat the food we grow here’. Kulon Progo is also significant for the amount of young people living and farming there. Unlike other parts of Java and Australia, where most young people leave small communities to work in the cities, farming is seen as a viable and attractive life choice for the young generation.

No-one in Kulon Progo is exactly sure exactly when mining is planned to start, or how far progressed the plans are, because state and corporate authorities have hardly been forthcoming with information about their intentions. However, there is one thing that is sure : many of the farmers in Kulon Progo are willing to die defending their land. To them, farming is life. To work in a factory or a mine, to become wage-slaves, to leave their land and become refugees is to sacrifice their autonomy, their way of life and their freedom, which is unacceptable. The farmers we spoke to wanted Perth and Australian investors in the project to know what is happening, to know that they are supporting the forceful and violent removal of people from their traditional lands. Once the investors know this information, if indeed they are currently ignorant, they will become consciously complicit in aggressive acts towards an autonomous community and enemies of freedom.

Mr. Tukijo – one of the coordinators of PPLP, while trying to find out information about the mining process and land ownership dispute, was charged with a offence similar to defamation. At the recent court case, one thousand farmers turned out in a show of strength and solidarity for their friend. Before the demonstration, the only two white people present were detained by police, only to be released after the demonstration was over. Police said this was because they feared ‘the media would realise that this campaign has become international’. The significance of international solidarity was also expressed by the Kulon Progo farmers in a call for Australian activists to take the campaign to the Australian investors and companies. Today we are exposing the issue and the participation of Indo Mines and Kimberly Diamonds, we are demanding that they acknowledge the situation and withdraw all support for the project. Should they fail to hear this message, any people reading this in Perth who may wish to be involved in further events, information or a solidarity campaign to hold Australian capital to account should email
KPSolidaritas[at]riseup.net. The Melbourne Anarchist Club (MAC) has also started solidarity actions in Melbourne, their contact is kpsoli[at]gmail[dot]com and website http://kpsolidarity.wordpress.com/

Above all from our visit we learnt that the Kulon Progo farmers are a gentle community of people, who just want to be left alone by authorities to grow their crops and live without interference from the state or capital. However, like a panther in a corner, they are not afraid to militantly defend their freedom from outside aggressors. The strength of their campaign comes from their intelligent political awareness, their use of consensus decision-making processes, their mistrust of state and capital, their rejection of representation, mediation and NGOs, their emphasis on solidarity, mutual aid, direct action and above all, their absolute commitment to land and freedom.