Table of Contents

2009 • Voice of Barak Induk

Indonesian Farmer Refugees from Aceh

Petani Indonesia Pengungsi Aceh (PIPA)

January 2009–As refugees of the armed conflict in Aceh who now reside in Barak Induk, District of Langkat, Province of North Sumatra, who are primarily of Javanese decent, we were born and raised in Aceh where we had homes and farms that were richly fertile and productive enough to expect to support the needs of our families forever. But this was all lost in 1999 when the conflict escalated in Aceh and we were driven out. At the beginning they just intimidated us, then they began to raid, torture, and kill which came to a climax when they formally evicted us; whether we liked it or not, we had to leave Aceh.

We did not know were to go or where to live to survive and struggle for our families. After we left Aceh, we received word from relatives in the District of Langkat that there was land that had been opened in the areas of Sei Lepan on the border of the Bandar Meriah Corporation and in Besitang on the border of the PIR ADB Company in the District of Langkat, North Sumatra. We therefore went straight to that area. In the course of 1999-2000, like it or not, over 2,000 people had to try to carve out a living in this place.

We wrote to thirty-three government agencies from the village military to the central government. After waiting a long time, we still had received no word from the government. In 2000, the forest police and the rangers from the Taman Nasional Gunung Leuser (TNGL—Leuser Mountain National Park) came to claim that we were living in a protected forest area that prohibited us from staying in Barak Induk. However every meeting we had with government agencies or TNGL, they could not provide clear evidence of the actual boundary of the forest. According to us, Baruk Induk could not be in a protected forest area as evidenced by the palm plantations that had been in production in this area for decades. We gained our strength to survive in Barak Induk from our common fate and unity as refugees of armed conflict.

A few local non-governmental organizations felt a great deal of compassion for our situation and therefore provided some humanitarian aid from basic food supplies to economic supports for farmers and others.

Based on the strength of principles and will, we settled this area as a replacement for the homes we left in Aceh. We organized the area in an orderly manner to ensure that there were not disputes over land claims among the people who arrived in the area and we agreed to always protect the sustainability of the forest and wildlife that were protected in the territory around our borders. Once, when an outside group came into the forest area on the border of Barak Induk to engage in illegal logging we immediately prohibited it and drove them out of the forest.

On May 23, 2000, to fulfill our responsibilities for the people of Barak Induk, we agreed to found an organization called Petani Indonesia Pengungsi Aceh (PIPA—Indonesian Farmer Refugees from Aceh) with the stated vision to:

  1. Restore trust among the refuges that was destroyed by the armed conflict.
  2. Meet the basic needs of the refugees.

PIPA’s mission is to:

  1. Empower the people through the use of natural resources.
  2. Improve the people’s economy through local businesses.
  3. Build infrastructure for education to overcome the needs of children who have dropped out of school, are ignorant and illiterate.
  4. Establish public health services to overcome our health problems.

PIPA was founded with a head, secretary, treasurer, nine council members and ten neighborhood heads supported by over seven hundred households. PIPA assigned four representatives to distribute land consisting of 4,000 square meters for a home and 20,000 square meters for productive land for each family.

Taking into account the needs of our children who had fallen behind in their education and as parents responsible for so many people, we established a Primary School that was recognized as part of the local Aman Dami Primary School and managed by four honorary teachers from Barak Induk. Two years later, we established a Junior High School for the children who were graduating from the Primary School that was recognized as part of the local Tani Makmur Junior High School and managed by six honorary teachers from Barak Induk. We also built a Mosque, a public health center and a cemetery for the people of Barak Induk. All of this we did with through the private contributions of the people of Barak Induk.

The vision and mission of PIPA had been functioning for two years before the government decided to provide humanitarian relief in the form of basic food supplies in 2002. Then from 2002-06, the government released refugee termination funds of 8,750,000 Rp (about $875) staged over four years. These refugee termination funds were not adequate to cover the basic needs incurred while we were refugees let alone the ensuing four years of payment, not to mention our lost inheritances in order to begin to restore any semblance of ordinary life. After the termination funds were distributed, the government considered our status as refugees finished, yet the problems of the refugees continued.

At that time the government gave us three options: return to Aceh, transmigrate or relocate. We, however, did not choose any of the three options since the government could not guarantee our safety in any of them. We did not want to become refugees a second time. Under great duress, like it or not, we had to live in Barak Induk.

Even though our status was unclear, we stood firm. In 2004, we began to replant the fields we had with productive forest crops such as rubber, coffee, fruit, and others because we needed a basic standard of living like other people. Remember that the earth and water of Indonesia belongs to the people of Indonesia. We are citizens of the country of Indonesia who have the right to a place to live (Law 1945, Article 33-34) and the right to enjoy the fruits of our labor. In 2004, we were given voting cards by the government to join the national legislative and presidential elections for 2004/09.

Because of this, we in the area of Barak Induk hope the government will recognize us as full citizens of Langkat and give us permission to live in Barak Induk. We are ready to take responsibility to protect our borders and not destroy the forest that is still intact and to restore the land we are on by planting forest plants.