In the Mantangai Hulu village in the Sei Hambiye and Sei Jangkit region, two villagers were reported to the police by the Usaha Handalan Perkasa company after having pulled out oil palm trees planted by the company, and replacing them with a rubber plant. According to the villagers, the trees had been planted on community land without the permission of the villagers. According to the company, they have given compensation to the people of the village through the Head of the Handil (small channel) groups, but they did not have any written evidence of this, and they could specify which group they had given the compensation to.
Following the incidents, which was done by the community on the 7th and 12th of August 2013, the company manager sent a letter (no. 01/DN/CD/DL/IX/03), dated on 2nd of September 2013, to the police and the head of the Sub-district. This letter led the head of the Sub-district to invite affected parties for a mediation and problem resolution of the land disputes in the area, stating in his invitation that he wanted to hear the version of all parties in order to get more clarity about the situation.
More than 30 villagers from the affected communities came to attend the meeting. However, before the meeting could begin, the head of the sub-district informed the villagers that the meeting would only deal with the issue of the villagers pulling out of palm oil trees in the concession area of the Usaha Handalan Perkasa company, and that only two of the villagers could attend the meeting. This framing of the issue at stake, as well as the exclusion of many of the villagers from the meeting, made the villagers feel that the mediation was an attempt to obscure the fact that the palm oil company had taken the land of the community and planted palm oil trees on it without the permission of the villagers. As a result, an argument occurred between the company manager, Ramos, and the villagers, in which the villagers accused the police and the head of the sub-district of being biased in favor of the palm oil company. One of the villagers stated that the police and the head of the sub-district were “talking like public relations spokesmen of the company”. Eventually the meeting was cancelled, and the villagers returned home disappointed.
The actions of the company, as well as the framing of the problem by the police and the head of the sub-district will surely lead to the blaming of the local community, while the underlying issue of land-grab is left unresolved.