Representatives of farmers from 10 regions across Java, attending a two-day congress in Yogyakarta, pledged Thursday to join forces and build solidarity to fight against what they considered injustice.
Via a declaration drawn up at the congress, the farmers said they were ready to fight against those people who made use of laws and regulations to justify social, cultural, economic and environmental destruction.
They also called on the state apparatus to stop committing any form of intimidation against, or repression and criminalization of, farmers and local people, as they possessed the highest sovereignty in the country, arguing that state officials were servants of the people, not of companies.
“Those of us from Kulonprogo, for example, have been struggling hard to reject a local administration plan for an iron sand mining project,” Widodo, a participant from Kulonprogo, Yogyakarta, said.
He said they rejected the plan because local farmers have succeeded in cultivating sand fields into fertile and productive agricultural land that was the main source of livelihoods for over 30,000 residents in the area. “If the field is turned into an iron sand mining site, we will become marginalized and impoverished,” Widodo said.
He added that the appropriation and conversion of agricultural fields for industrial purposes not only occurred in Kulonprogo but also in many other parts of the country.
That was why the farmers made their declaration, offering solidarity and moral support in the ongoing struggle to their fellow farmers in other regions, including in Mesuji and Takalar, who are facing similar problems.
The congress, the first of its kind, was attended by farmers from 10 regions: Kulonprogo in Yogyakarta; Kebumen, Cilacap and Padi in Central Java; Tasikmalaya and Ciamis in West Java; Lumajang, Blitar and Sidoarjo in East Java; and Banten.
“We will include more regions in the future,” said Andri Saputra of the congress’ organizing committee.
Separately in Boyolali, Central Java, hundreds of tobacco farmers staged a rally on Thursday in front of the regent’s office, protesting against a government draft bill on the control of addictive ingredients in tobacco products, which they perceived as economically harmful for them.
“We demand that the regent give us his support in rejecting the draft bill, which is due to be signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono this month,” farmers’ representative Syukur Fachrudin said.
Sugeng Haryono, 60, a tobacco farmer from Selo, Boyolali, expressed concern that the draft regulation would limit the production of tobacco in the country and would, therefore, make it harder for him to earn a living.
“I depend solely on my tobacco plantation to earn a living,” Sugeng, who owns an 8,000-square-meter tobacco plantation, told representatives of the regency administration who received the protesters.