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Law Professors to Back Bills on Land Reform, Indigenous Groups

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Jakarta, Lei – The Association of Indigenous Law Professors (APHA) has reaffirmed its commitment to supporting two bills, one on land reform and the other on indigenous groups in Indonesia, St. Laksanto Utomo, Chairman of APHA, stated here, Friday.

“Our objectives are not only to recognize the existence of the indigenous groups in Indonesia, but also to strengthen their positions, mainly in terms of owning their lands, as well as exercising their culture and traditions,” Utomo remarked on the sidelines of the conference at Pancasila University, Jakarta, Friday.

During the two-day conference on ‘Strengthening the Indigenous Groups and their Rights on Lands in the State Law’, hosted by the association from November 16-17 at Pancasila University, Utomo highlighted that the bills on land reform and traditional communities in Indonesia have to be immediately discussed by the parliament to resolve land conflicts between the groups and the corporations.

“Therefore, our concern now is to review some blurred definitions on the indigenous groups and their rights, which are mentioned in the bills. We hope, when the parliament and the government pass these two bills into laws, all conflicts on indigenous lands can be settled,” he noted.

As the existing Law No. 5 of 1960 on Land Reform has been outdated, the academics now have proposed to review the regulation, he explained.

“The (land reform) bill is aimed to revise Law No. 5 of 1960 (UU PA), but our concerns are about strengthening the indigenous groups and their ancestral lands amid hundreds of conflicts that will endanger the community’s existence in the country,” he reiterated.

Attended by some senior professors, such as Valerine Kriekhoof, MG Endang Sumiarni, Dominikus Rato and Kahar Lahae, the conference discussed some important topics on the indigenous groups law.

Kriekhoof, who is a former judge of the Supreme Court and law professor at the University of Indonesia, stated the bills must reaffirm their objectives, whether on establishing a special court for indigenous groups or setting up a mediation agency, which would function only to help resolve conflicts.

“If the bills are aimed at establishing a special court for indigenous groups, the main issue would be how to document and systematize hundreds of rules practised by some 270 traditional communities in the country,” she told the participants, which included law professors and some experts, as well as activists on the indigenous issue.

Apart from some technical terms mentioned in the bills, Kriekhoof stressed that the academics must urge the judges to improve their knowledge on the traditional laws practised by the country’s indigenous groups.

“When the judges are about to issue a verdict, they need to understand about the old customs, traditions and the indigenous laws that have been adopted and long-practised by our traditional community,” she remarked.

Meanwhile, Rato, a law professor at the Jember University, emphasized that the bills should be aligned with other basic laws in the country.

“We should understand, in the 1945 Constitution, the term used is not indigenous groups, but customary law community,” Rato noted.

Explaining further, he observed that ‘indigenous groups’ was understood as a general term, but ‘customary law communities’ was more specific.

“In Bali, we have seen many traditional groups, but only few customary law communities, such as Tenganan people or in East Java we have the Tengger community,” he mentioned.

Sumber: Antara

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