Sentence for ‘Orang Rimba’ and Hope for Living Space
A day earlier, the three residents of the indigenous community attended an online trial at the Sarolangun Police headquarters.
After the Sarolangun district court in Jambi, Sumatra, handed down its verdict, three people from the Orang Rimba indigenous community, namely Besile, Besayung and Ngeleta, finally returned to breathe free air. They just wanted to go home and live in peace after being in detention for 6 months and 14 days.
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On Friday (20/5/2022), Besayung and his two colleagues were escorted by the forest rangers and a number of companions back to their community in Sarolangun, Jambi, Sumatra.
"Haropon kami kehadopnye piado permasalahon lagi segelo masyarakat bisa hidup damai [we hope in the future there will be no more problems, and everyone can live in peace]," said Besayung.
For that act, they were sentenced to six months and 14 days in prison, deducted from their time in detention.
A day earlier, the three residents of the indigenous community attended an online trial at the Sarolangun Police headquarters. Presiding Judges Deka Diana, M Yuli Setiawan and Yola Nindia ruled that the three were proven to have committed a criminal act, openly and forcibly using violence against a person, which resulted in serious injuries. For that act, they were sentenced to six months and 14 days in prison, deducted from their time in detention. They were also fined Rp 5,000 (US$0.34).
Because they had already served the same length of detention as the prison sentence, the three were allowed to go home last Friday.
For Besayung, Besile and Ngeleta, their detention was very difficult because they had to be separated from their families and communities. They also lost the freedom they have so far lived for, namely roaming in the forest.
Although the conflict that has occurred has brought regrets, one of the customary leaders in the community, Temenggung Ngelembo, said that the Orang Rimba need a solution from the state. The solution in question is the provision of adequate space for living and for community activities.
"Kamia haropko Orang Rimba ado penghidupon sehingga masyarakat bisa hidup ber-dampingan [We hope that the Orang Rimba will have a source of livelihood so that they can live side-by-side with other communities]," he said.
The aforementioned experiences of Besayung, Besile and Ngeleta took place in November 2021. Initially, a number of women from the Orang Rimba community were picking up palm-fruit crumbs that were thrown on the ground. Suddenly, they were visited by the security officers of the
company that manages the palm oil plantation. The officers then snatched the palm-fruit crumbs that had been collected.
The action of the officers in seizing the palm crumbs scared the women, so they screamed hysterically. Their screams made other Orang Rimba come to join them.
Arriving there, Besayung intended to protect the women, but the officers beat him instead. In order to protect Besayung, two other residents, Besile and Ngeleta, opened fire using kecepek (self-assembled rifle) that are usually used to hunt pigs. Unfortunately, the shot hit three security officers and injured them.
Besayung was seriously injured in the head as a result of being beaten by the security officers. Medics had to sew 17 stitches to stop the bleeding from his head.
The Orang Rimba people ran into the forest to save themselves.
This incident caused three Orang Rimba to be attacked by family members of the injured security officers in revenge. They were being chased by the masses. The Orang Rimba people ran into the forest to save themselves.
A few days later, the three of them surrendered to the police after being assisted by activists from the Indonesian Conservation Community (KKI) Warsi. In order to resolve the issue, the regent of Sarolangun intervened to mediate the conflicting parties. He facilitated a peace hearing in early January. The police guaranteed the safety of the Orang Rimba who were there.
After receiving security and safety warrants, the three Orang Rimba finally agreed to be detained. They were willing to undergo a period of detention and the trial process.
Robert Aritonang, an anthropologist and expert on the Orang Rimba issue, working with the KKI Warsi, said that the efforts for peace by regional heads and security guarantees from the authorities should be appreciated. However, the Orang Rimba are still waiting for the government's promise to provide space for living and doing productive activities.
"As long as [the promise] has not been fulfilled, conflict after conflict will repeat itself," said Robert, who is also an expert witness at the trial.
The situation makes their life difficult.
He said the problem was the result of Orang Rimba community’s loss of space for living and productive community activities, which has instead been mostly converted into a private palm oil plantation. From data compiled by Warsi, more than 900 families who were previously able to freely explore the area are now forced to live “under” the palm oil and acacia plantations. The indigenous community that used to live independently in that area now has to face challenges as a result of the presence of the palm oil plantation. The situation makes their life difficult.
“True justice is justice in the right to livelihood. The right [of the Orang Rimba] was taken away by the concession holders. Hopefully this case will open the eyes of all parties -- for the return of the Orang Rimba's right to live," he said.
The case, according to him, is the culmination of previous conflicts. Therefore, it is important to mitigate conflict through the recognition of the Orang Rimba's right to live.
Without addressing the root of the problem, similar conflicts will continue to occur, especially in palm oil plantations, where there are no more tubers in the soil. There are no more fruit trees to eat. Orang Rimba were forced to pick up fallen palm-fruit crumbs to be exchanged for rice.
This article was translated by Kurniawan Siswo.