Tulisan ini awalnya dipublikasikan di TEMPO

Taking the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s (MOEF) civil servant investigators (PPNS) hostage is a form of contempt of state. These investigators were taken hostage when sealing the land burnt in PT Andika Permata Sawit Lestari (APSL)’s area in Rokan Hulu, Riau, earlier this month. It was reasonable for the Minister Siti Nurbaya to be upset and to prioritize investigation on PT APSL as the alleged suspect of planning the hostage in relations to forest clearing and land burning.

Such incident reflects our weak land use management. PT APSL has been known to be problematic since June 2014, when the Riau Regional Legislative Council accused the company of opening 2000 hectares of oil palm plantation within protected forest area since 2009. Even in August 2015, PT APSL admitted before the panel of judges at the Rokan Hilir that the company did not own a business license to open palm oil plantation in the production forest area. The company was also not registered in the local plantation service office.

The recording of land use activities is part of land use management that is currently being improved, among others through the Presidential Regulation Number 9 Year 2016 regarding the acceleration of one-map policy implementation. One of the results of the regulation is the issuance of a wide-scale land map under the responsibility of the Ministry of Agrarian and Spatial Planning (MASP). The plantation business license that should have been owned by PT APSL shall be included in the map. If the business license comes from former forest area that had been converted to non-forest area, it should be recorded at the MOEF and included in the forest area map.

The hostage taking case has at least brought up three land management issues.

First, Indonesia has yet to own an integrated geospatial information database that enables cross-sectoral or cross-ministerial recording and updating of land concession and license data and information. Forest area converted into non-forest area should be recorded by the MOEF as a reduction of forests area. On the other hand, the non-forest area should be recorded by the MASP as an addition of non-forest area. The reconciliation of both records at the two ministries has yet to perform well. The maps require synchronization to remove no-man land. This is the gap that has been used by several parties to reap benefit, disregarding its impacts on social, economic, and environmental condition.

Second, the Plantation Service Office, the arm of the Ministry of Agriculture, does not always properly record the licenses issued, including the location and size of the land, let alone performing verification on the ground. Government’s support to increase smallholders’ productivity becomes difficult to perform. This is the gap used by people to not pay non-tax fees. The records from the Riau Tax Office’ suggested that 1.1 million hectares of palm oil plantation has been registered at the Directorate General of Taxation. However, 2.3 million hectares of palm oil plantation was recorded in the official data from the Riau Plantation Office. The research in nine districts in three provinces conducted by the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) suggested that such inaccurate recording has cost the province 60-300 percent.

Third, forest clearing for plantation for years without law enforcement indicates the stiffening perception of certain parties towards law enforcement. The absence of proper recording, one map for everyone’ reference, cross-sectoral horizontal communication, and cross vertical communication amongst government institutions have resulted in weak control on land and land use. Maps indicating land ownership are available without accurate and correct geometric and cadastral references. Consequently, land use-related law is considered lenient. This is reflected from the hostage taking of state apparatus.

The implementation of one map policy will result in accountable geospatial data and information with integrity. This regulation contains clause on the synchronization of maps into one map. This will facilitate cross-sectoral as well as cross-government use of data and map. However, it is necessary to ensure that all stakeholders are involved in the synchronization process. In the case mentioned above, stakeholders include the MOEF, MASP, Plantation Office at the provincial and district level, village leaders, large scale business owners, smallholders and local people. The Presidential Regulation Number 9 Year 2016 has indicated the need to involve all parties, but has yet to strongly encourage synchronization process at the landscape level.

We need the government’s wise role in creating a symmetrical position of all parties. Without it, dialogue and communication will find a dead-lock and will bring empty hope on the settlement of various overlapping land management.