NEW THE REAL BATAK FORGOTTEN HERO BETTER /GREATER THAN SISINGAMANGARAJA
SOUTH SUMATRA, INDONESIA
COMMENTS ON THE OFFICIAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT (EIA) DOCUMENTS, JUNE 1997
DOWN TO EARTH, DECEMBER 1998
Flaws in the Environmental Impact procedure
Flawed Pollution Controls
Waste Treatment and Disposal
Summary of Impacts recognised in the Report
Flaws in the Environmental Impact procedure
This Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) only applies to the PT TEL pulp plant. The authorities treat the PT MHP pulp plantation and the PT TEL factory as two separate entities, although the former was set up to supply the latter and both companies are subsidiaries of the Barito Pacific Group. It is not known if an EIA was ever performed for the feeder plantation.
Under Indonesian law, an EIA report (dokumen ANDAL) and an Environmental Management Plan (Rencana Pengelolaan Lingkungan, RPL) must be submitted to an EIA Commission for approval prior to the development taking place for all schemes likely to have significant environmental impacts. PT TEL began evicting local residents from their land and plantations and clearing the site for the factory in 1995, long before the EIA hearing took place.
This EIA was not independent. It was commissioned by the company and carried out by Indonesian consultants, many of whom worked for state universities. As state employees, consultants and Commission members were dependent on a government renowned for corruption and cronyism. The national environmental NGO WALHI was allowed to present its case to the EIA commission, but was not a full team member.
The EIA commission can impose conditions on the company’s environmental Management Plan after reading the EIA report and hearing additional evidence. Some final conditions were issued several months after the June 1997 EIA hearing, but these have not been released to NGOs.
According to Indonesian NGOs, this district was zoned for agriculture, not for industrial development. The EIA states that the Gunung Megang district lies within Development Zone II which is agricultural; whereas Rambang Dangku is in Development Zone V which includes the Pertamina oil storage facility at Prabumulih. The PT TEL site lies on the border of these two districts. It is possible that local planning procedures have been by-passed, under direction from central government.
The EIA plays down the local community’s opposition to the pulp plant and plantation and their devastating effect on local farmers’ and rubber tappers’ livelihoods. No mention is made of the community’s many delegations and letters to the local and central government; accusations of corruption by the local government in compensation claims; or incidence of intimidation of landholders by the military and armed police.
According to Indonesian regulations (PP51 1993-AMDAL), local communities have the right to contribute to an EIA. Their rights and responsibilities to environmental management and protection were strengthened by a new (1997) Environment Law. The Muara Enim community was not able to participate in the EIA for PT TEL due to the lack of transparency by the government and the company about the nature of the scheme and any impacts on local communities’ livelihoods and environment (other than the promise of possible employment).
The June 1997 EIA considers the environmental and socio-economic impacts at the pre-construction, construction and operational stages for the PT TEL development. There are also (as separate volumes) a Management Plan, executive summary and supplementary documentation. The EIA is long, but highly repetitious and not very thorough. Some sections contradict others (e.g. on health risks and on water pollution) and information on emissions is missing in places. Many recommendations in the Management Plan for measures to counteract negative social and environmental impacts and enhance positive effects identified in the EIA are vague and inappropriate.
The final recommendations section of the EIA is particularly weak, consisting of broad suggestions with no specific targets, time limits, monitoring schedules, controls or sanctions. These are also largely absent from the Management Plan. It is cause for serious concern that there are no procedures for feedback between monitoring, action or evaluation; no indication of measures to be taken by the company if targets are not met or if pollution levels exceed legal limits; and no emergency planning for serious environmental or social incidents.
The EIA reveals threats to people’s health from air and water pollution, the surrounding environment and the local community’s livelihoods. The PT TEL development scored negative or neutral on almost all the environmental criteria used. Most of the socio-economic effects (except for health and potential social conflict) were considered potentially beneficial, but for newcomers to the area rather than the existing community. Despite this, the development is still going ahead.
The source of much of the data on plant construction and management included in the EIA is listed as Sandwell Ltd, Vancouver (Canada) in the Bibliography. Sandwell recommended to the FAO in 1967 that countries including Indonesia should “clear-cut the jungle and plant tree species adapted to pulp requirements”. The same company were also consultants for the infamous Indorayon pulp plant in North Sumatra: the focus of land disputes; large-scale water and air pollution incidents; and social unrest.
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The EIA describes the PT TEL plant as a ‘hardwood bleached kraft pulp’ factory. PT TEL still intends to use chlorine as a bleaching agent. The EIA states “that bleaching will use 50-100% chlorine dioxide in the first phase, although the plant will be able to produce ECF pulp if required”(pII.4). Diagrams of the plant’s operations show inputs for chlorine and chlorine dioxide.
Environmentalists are primarily concerned about the release and bioaccumulation of highly toxic organochlorines, particularly dioxins, from paper pulp plants. These are associated with the use of free chlorine (and, to a lesser extent, chlorine dioxide) to bleach the pulp. Between 1994 and 1998, the Indonesian environment minister, Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, pressed new pulp developments to install so-called ‘elemental chlorine free’ (ECF) technology which uses chlorine dioxide.
PT TEL claims that its plant will use the most advanced technology. ‘Totally effluent free’ production is not yet in operation even in ‘the North’. However, over 50 new plants in Europe and North America use ‘totally chlorine-free’ technology (TCF) (Source: Sonnenfeld, 1998). This employs only ozone, hydrogen peroxide or oxygen as bleaching agents. Apart from eliminating the risk of dioxin production, TCF technology has the advantage of allowing a closed cycle of operations so emissions of other pollutants are greatly reduced. In a new pulp plant it is no more expensive to install TCF technology than the more polluting ECF version.
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Flawed pollution controls
Waste emissions before and after treatment are to be measured against Indonesian government standards, not those imposed in Scandinavia or North America which are generally higher.
The EIA will not make it possible to prove any future impacts the pulp plant actually has, since it does not provide sufficient accurate base-line data. Of greatest concern is the lack of a detailed baseline study on community health, thus making it impossible to detect any effects of pollution on the local population. Furthermore, the EIA was not based on complete, recent data. The last study (February 1996) was incomplete: no figures for the acidity or oxygen levels of the water are presented although these are key indicators of environmental pollution. The most recent complete study was in November 1994 – over two years before the EIA report was presented.
The EIA contains no information on soil types. This is a crucial omission since soils vary greatly in their ability to absorb and retain water and pollutants, hence the impact of effluents on the soil and groundwater cannot be estimated.
The company acknowledges in the EIA that there is a serious health risk to the community from air and water pollution. Rather than improving waste treatment methods and pollution monitoring, PT TEL plans to establish a clinic once the plant is operational. According to the Management Plan, this is primarily intended for PT TEL workers and their families, but the surrounding community may also use it.
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Waste treatment and disposal
The plant design has not made the most of opportunities to incorporate waste management processes which recycle or re-use effluent streams. Instead the plant relies largely on stacks equipped with scrubbers and end pipe treatment of sludge, finally disposing wastes into the atmosphere, landfill sites and the River Lematang.
The maximum efficiency of the waste treatment plants is only 65-99%. So considerable amounts of pollutants will enter the environment given the massive throughput of the factory (production = 450,000 tonnes of pulp/year).
The EIA states that emissions of air and water pollution will be within Indonesian legal limits. These are lower than those prevailing in most Northern nations and independent monitoring and regulatory procedures are very weak in Indonesia. Furthermore, the proposed emissions for some effluents are at, or close to, the maximum permitted levels. Pollution levels will be over Indonesian legal limits unless the plant’s waste treatment processes operate constantly at maximum efficiency.
Some of the solid waste produced by the paper pulp process will be recycled within the plant. For example, waste wood, bark, undigested wood fibre and dried sludge from the waste water treatment unit will be used as fuel in the power boiler. Nevertheless, every day the power boiler and unit producing caustic soda plus other units will generate 50 tonnes of ash, grit and dregs which will be disposed in a landfill site.
The landfill waste will be a sludge of organic and inorganic matter with relatively high concentrations of cadmium, chrome, copper, manganese, nickel and zinc – all of which are toxic above trace levels.
Amounts of effluent entering the R. Lematang from pulp plant’s waste treatment unit are estimated by PT TEL at 70,000 m3/day (i.e. over 25 million m3/year). There will be large, open storage, settling and aeration tanks for liquid waste treatment. The area allocated to waste treatment is 225ha, most of which is for the waste lagoon. This is in addition to the landfill site mentioned above.
The rainfall in this part of Indonesia is high (3,000mm per year) and there have been serious pollution incidents in other pulp plants and mining operations where waste lagoons have overflowed or collapsed due to sudden massive inflows.
This area is low lying and prone to flooding in the wet season when the River Lematang overflows. In these conditions the liquid waste cannot be discharged into the river and waste lagoons on site may even be flooded. (Traditional houses are built on piles which raise the floor two metres above ground level.)
The EIA contradicts itself over the risk of ground water contamination from the landfill site. Without stating distances from settlements or water courses, the report blandly states “the possibility of seepage is not very great and anyhow the ground water around the landfill site is not used” (pV.28). Elsewhere it comments that the landfill site is far from habitation so there is little risk of pollution of villagers’ wells (pIV.14). This overlooks the low-lying, swampy nature of the area and the corrosive nature of the sludge. If any material from the landfill site seeped into the surrounding soil it could contaminate all local water supplies since the water table is generally high and ground water drains into the R. Lematang and its tributaries. These dangers are only acknowledged later in the report (pV.46)
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The air quality in this part of South Sumatra is generally good at present. Recorded levels of pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide and nitrogen oxides were well below 1.0 microgrammes per cubic metre of air (1m/m3), even though the 1994 data was collected only two weeks after forest fires had smothered the area in thick smoke.
Waste gases will be discharged into the air through 50-100m chimneys from the lime kiln and recovery and power boilers. Although these are fitted with electrostatic precipitators to reduce particulate pollution, considerable amounts of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide will be produced by PT TEL. At best the waste gas treatment efficiency is only 65-99%. The EIA states that that 15kg of sulphur compounds will be released for every tonne of throughput (pII.26). Presuming this refers to tonnes of pulp produced, this is equivalent to 6,750 tonnes of sulphur for an annual production of 450,000 tonnes of pulp. In other words, over 18 tonnes of sulphurous gases released daily into the atmosphere. Similar calculations show an expected annual output of over 3,000 tonnes of nitrogen oxides which are harmful to human health in concentrations above 1ppm (1.8mg/m3).
These emissions are close to or exceed the legal limits, even with pollution control measures operating optimally. The most serious air pollution problems are expected to be within 3 km of the plant due to emissions of NOx and sulphurous gases. This area includes about six villages, each with 2-3,000 inhabitants. Much depends on the weather, but the health, homes and crops of people living as far as 10km from the PT TEL factory could be severely affected by acid rain and noxious gases (see pollution distribution maps in the EIA). It is odd that the EIA (p V.34) states that no hydrogen sulphide will be detectable under normal conditions. This gas, which smells of rotten eggs and is dangerous to human health, is detectable at concentrations of only 5m/m3. Emissions from the plant will be 2,000 fold above this (10 mg/m3). People in the villages nearest to the plant will probably be living with this stench for months at a time.
Environmental groups – especially those in ‘the North’ – pay much attention to the risks from dioxins associated with industries which use chlorine compounds (see above). In areas affected by Indonesia’s paper pulp plants other aspects of air pollution deserve more immediate attention – such as dust and sulphur emissions. Respiratory problems are already more common in this area than some others. Air pollution from the similar Indorayon pulp plant in North Sumatra has been a serious problem over the past decade.
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The water quality of the River Lematang is good at present, although the river is usually muddy in the rainy season. Both the 1994 and 1996 data sets were collected in the rainy season (October-April) so there is no baseline data about the state of the river in the dry season before the pulp mill operations began. The 1996 water quality data may have been influenced by land clearance on the PT TEL site. The use of heavy equipment to clear vegetation and level the ground affected local drainage patterns and increased soil erosion.
The EIA states that the PT TEL plant will have a potentially serious negative effect on the quality of water in the R. Lematang, especially in the dry season and if the waste treatment plant is not operating at maximum efficiency. Although the EIA considers that the waste treatment system will normally prevent serious water pollution problems, it predicts a general decline in aquatic plants and animals and in species which feed on them.
The 70,000 m3 of effluent which will be discharged daily into the River Lematang will contain substantial amounts of suspended solids and chemicals including chloroform, phenols, sulphides and organo-chlorides (TSS = 64mg/l; AOX = 19.4mg/l). This waste contains 5.5 tonnes of solids, amounting to 2,000 tonnes per year. It will make the river water more turbid and reduce the amount of oxygen for aquatic life (BOD = 34 mg/l ; COD = 350mg/l). Some of the waste will eventually decompose; the rest will remain dissolved or sink to form a sediment.
The tens of thousands of people living downstream of PT TEL’s waste outlet are at risk from water pollution since they use the river water for drinking, cooking, washing, transport, fishing and agriculture. The study shows that 90% of the local population use the river as their source of drinking water during the dry season as the wells run dry. Even in the wet season, 60% of the community depends on the river for drinking water. It also provides a livelihood for hundreds of fisher families. Its only comments are that the ‘negative perceptions’ of villagers living near the intake and outlet pipes for the plant could be a problem.
The EIA shows that huge variations in the levels of acidity of PT TEL’s waste water will be tolerated. The ‘acceptable’ range of pH 6-9 is a thousand fold difference. This is of concern since even slight changes in the pH levels of river water can be very damaging to aquatic insect larvae and hence affect fish populations.
The ‘permitted’ temperature change of 2 degrees Celsius caused by the waste waster may also contribute to deoxygenation of the river and fish kills. As Indonesia lies on the Equator, the air temperature only varies a few degrees between day and night and between seasons; water temperatures are generally very stable.
The PT TEL plant could be a significant source of highly toxic, persistent organo-chlorines, including dioxins and furans. These chemicals are not present in the R. Lematang now. Widely differing figures for the outputs of organo-chlorines are presented at various points in the EIA report: from 19.4mg/l (pII.27) to 0.08 m/l (pV43). The EIA states that the amounts released will be within Indonesian legal limits (except if the waste treatment unit does not operate at 100% efficiency), but elsewhere outlines the potential damage to fish populations (pV.48) and human health (pV.60).
There is no mention of whether or how the chloroform, phenolics and sulphur compounds mentioned as effluent components are to be treated or what concentrations are expected (EIA II.28). These substances make the water taste bad if present at concentrations of only microgrammes per litre and phenols and their derivatives are dangerous to human health.
The EIA and the Management Plan do not refer to any academic studies of the impacts of pulp industry effluents on fresh-water systems. There have been serious water pollution incidents at other paper pulp plants in Indonesia e.g. Indah Kiat, Indorayon and Riau Andalan plants.
When the EIA report was presented, the company assured the Commission that pollution from the plant would be minimal due to the waste treatment unit. However PT TEL could not explain why, in that case, its water intake would be still be upstream of the waste outlet pipe for the site.
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The introduction to the EIA report clearly shows that the purpose of this and other paper pulp plants is to increase Indonesia’s export revenues, rather than to benefit the local community.
The EIA lists land use change as one of the most important impacts of the PT TEL development (see introduction), but makes little reference to the substantial numbers of local people who will be affected by the PT TEL development. It does not even include population figures for the six villages closest to the site location: Banuayu, Muara Niru, Gerinam, Tebat Agung, Kasih Dewa and Dalam. The EIA acknowledges that 900 families (4,500 people) from these villages will lose some or all of their rubber plantations. However, it does not address the issue that thirty villages with a total population around 45,000 lie alongside the river downstream of the waste outlet.
Almost all the land taken for the PT TEL site was rubber plantations bought or inherited by local people. It was not ‘state land’ or communally held customary land as is common in the area. The landowners had official letters signed by the village head as proof of ownership. The EIA contains no details on patterns of land ownership.
The local people live by farming, rubber tapping, fishing and trading. The EIA presents no data on occupations or incomes in the local community comparable with the pages of environmental data. The one brief mention of incomes from rubber tapping shows that people were making Rp40,000-80,000 per week. This is lower than the farmers’ own estimates but, even so, represents a reasonable income given that the daily minimum wage for factory workers at that time was around Rp3,000.
Once their farmland and rubber plantations have been taken for the PT TEL site (and if fishing is affected by water pollution and water deficits), they have no other source of income. The only suggestions in the Management Plan to prevent these people from becoming destitute – that they are involved in managing the site’s buffer zone and encouraged to sell agricultural produce in the PT TEL complex – are inappropriate and inadequate. Indeed, the buffer zone was created by displacing local farmers.
Although at least 450 families will lose all their plantations and another 450 will have less land, EIA does not include this as a negative impact of PT TEL. This makes a nonsense of company and government reassurances that the paper pulp will bring prosperity to the area.
An attitude survey carried out for the EIA showed that two-thirds of the villagers nearest the development thought the PT TEL development would bring little or no benefits to their household or community. The main opportunities were seen in terms of increased employment potential, but these expectations are unlikely to be realised..
The pulp plant will need a workforce of 730 people once it is operational and 1,929 during the construction phase. PT TEL says it will give priority to ‘suitable local employees’, but the locals do not have the educational background and skills required at the pulp mill and are unlikely to benefit directly from PT TEL’s long-term employment prospects. All the project management for the construction phase are foreigners (33). Workers from other areas will also be brought in for construction work. Once the construction phase is finished, unskilled labourers will be competing with the local community for jobs.
The EIA promotes the development paradigm which dominated during Suharto’s ‘New Order’. The introduction of urbanised industrial society into rural communities considered to have a positive, modernising influence (see pV.53), even when this entails the destruction of existing, sustainable livelihoods and their replacement by a service economy (including prostitution) – as has occurred in the vicinity of PT TEL.
The EIA and Management Plan state that a ‘town site’ covering 125 ha is to be constructed with its own power plant, electricity and water supply, schools, places of worship and sports facilities. The environmental and social impacts of this new settlement which will contain around 300 housing units are not discussed. Domestic rubbish will be dumped near the landfill site for the factory’s solid waste until the local council removes it. There is no mention of any sewage treatment plant. Piped water for the townsite and factory will be drawn from the R. Lematang and treated at two villages outside the PT TEL site.
The plant requires the construction of 7km of surfaced road and 5km of railway to supply raw materials and transport the product. The EIA briefly mentions an access road from the plantation to the plant (some 20-30km) plus a flyover to cross the main road and railway (pV.31). These will create more noise and dust for local inhabitants, during the construction phase and once the plant is operational. The plant will operate 24 hours a day, with 25 trucks per hour delivering logs.
The Management Plan only refers to the problems of land-use change from the company’s perspective: compensation disputes and local landowners who refuse to give up their property. It does however, acknowledge that the process of land procurement has led to conflicts and antagonism towards the company and local government.
Most of the measures for dealing with social problems are ‘discussion and direction’. The company makes it clear that it is relying on the authorities to settle any disputes. There appear to be no other mechanisms to deal seriously with complaints from the community. The prospects of justice for the community are slim. Even in the post-Suharto era, Indonesian land law allows the state to control land ‘in the national interest’ and the military play a prominent role in all aspects of everyday life.
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The amount of water in the River Lematang varies considerably. Flow rates and water levels show marked seasonal variation. In the dry season the river may only be 1 metre deep, but in rainy season it may reach 10 metres or more.
The PT TEL plant, like most paper pulp plants, has a substantial water demand. The plant will take in 86,850m3/day from the River Lematang, but only return 70,130m3/day. The rest will be lost to the atmosphere as steam or contained in sludge to be dumped. The total demand from the plant and town site is estimated at 1m3/s.
The EIA states that water consumption by the factory and ‘town site’ will reduce the quantity and quality of water available to villages like Banuayu and Muara Niru (pop. 3,000 each). The water deficit should only be noticeable in the dry season (6% flow reduction), but will be more serious in drought years when the river almost runs dry. It will also compound the effects of water pollution. These communities rely on river water for all their domestic needs, including washing and toilets.
The Management Plan states that only these two villages will be provided with clean water. Whether this will be free and supply sufficient quantities to meet all domestic needs is not mentioned.
The EIA’s prediction that dumping 70,000 m3 of waste into the river daily will not affect flow rates is optimistic. The effluent will add 5.5 tonnes of insoluble solids daily, much of which will sink to the riverbed. Some scouring will occur, especially in the wet season, but the long-term effects of adding 2,000 tonnes of sediment annually to the river should not be ignored.
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The EIA and Management Plan do not refer to the impact of the PT TEL development on local forests. The EIA describes PT TEL as a US$1 billion operation to produce ‘hardwood bleached kraft pulp’. The site covers 1,250ha, only 110 ha of which is for the factory building. Some 500ha are intended to be a buffer zone. This land is a mixture of small-scale rubber plantations, productive fields, secondary forest and scrubland.
The feeder plantations for PT TEL are controlled by PT Musi Hutan Persada (MHP), another Barito Pacific subsidiary. The total concession for this ‘industrial tree plantation’ (HTI) covers 300,000 ha in several locations at Benakat and Subanjeriji, 20-30 km from the pulp plant site. Between 1991 and 1997, 155,000 hectares had been planted – mainly with Acacia mangium. Some mature rainforest was destroyed to establish these plantations. PT MHP illegally cleared 1,000 ha of the Benakat community forest. The remaining 2,000ha was only saved after protests from the community and NGOs to the authorities.
Although the EIA states that the PT TEL plant will use plantation timber as feedstock, this pulp factory will still rely on natural forests for some of its raw materials. Initial levels of pulp production at the PT TEL plant (450,000 tonnes per year) require nearly 2 million m3 of wood per year: 4.3m3 of timber for every tonne of pulp produced. The EIA estimates plantation production at 180m3/ha, so each year 10,750ha of plantation will have to be cleared to feed the pulp mill. On this basis, only 96,750ha of plantation could supply the plant on a continuous 9 year cycle (8 years growth + 1 year replanting).
However, until the plantations are sufficiently mature, PT MHP will have to rely on timber felled from natural forests. Also, pulp production is intended to increase to 1 million tonnes early in the next decade. Furthermore, disease, drought and forest fires can seriously affect plantation productivity, raising questions about company assurances that plantations can meet all the pulp plant’s timber demands.
Pulp plantations differ from natural forests in many ways. As they contain a very limited number of species, they are susceptible to disease. Plantation owners commonly burn land to clear it after removing any valuable timber. This contributes to forest fires and the annual smoke ‘haze’ which affect Sumatra before the rainy season. The forest fires were bad in 1991 and 1994 when visibility was only 5 metres because of the smoke.
Indonesia’s worst forest fires for decades occurred in late 1997. The Minister of Forestry issued a list of 176 logging, plantation and transmigration sites implicated in starting fires according to satellite data. One of these was PT Musi Hutan Persada, the feeder plantation for the PT TEL development. The company was found guilty of illegally burning to clear land by a provincial court in a case brought against several companies by local NGOs in 1998.
The construction of the PT TEL pulp factory will cause the loss of an additional 725 hectares of natural and semi-natural habitat. The EIA acknowledges that this will result in losses of biodiversity and the amount of wildlife. The presence of the factory, town site and increased road and rail traffic will cause further disturbance. Birds and mammals are expected to move to other areas. However, the expansion of palm oil plantations, settlements and industrial developments like PT TEL are making high quality lowland riparian habitats increasingly scarce. This is expected to increase pressure on the following protected species: jungle fowl (Gallus gallus); kingfisher (Halcyon smyrensis); sunbird (Nectarinia calcosetha); fantail (Rhipidura albicolis); mousedeer (Tragulus javanicus); marbled cat (Felis marmorata); muntjak deer (Muntiacus muntjak); and sunbear (Helarctos malayanus) .
The ‘green belt’ which the company promotes as contribution to conservation and a haven for wildlife is not bare land, but secondary forest interspersed with rubber plantations and fruit trees. Local landowners and villagers are being displaced to create it.
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SUMMARY OF ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL IMPACTS RECOGNISED IN THE OFFICIAL EIA AND MANAGEMENT PLAN
(Taken from EIA Report II.4 onwards and Management Plan summary II.25 onward)
The EIA Report and Management plan consider the impact of the pulp plant in 3 stages: pre-construction, construction and operational. Each category is further divided into effects on the factory site and on the surrounding area. After listing the possible impacts in each category, the EIA then evaluates each impact as positive or negative qualified by the descriptor ‘not important’, ‘fairly important’ or ‘important’
(shown in bold/brackets e.g. –ve NOT imp).
Pre-construction ( planned July 94 – July 96)
Land use changes: problems due to disagreements over compensation; not all the land needed has been procured; at least 450 families will lose all their land and source of livelihood; land prices tripled to Rp6-7 million/ha ( -ve IMP).
Potential social conflict: negative attitude of community towards PT TEL due to the above is unlikely to spread to the wider area (-ve NOT imp).
Construction phase (planned Oct 96 – Feb 98)
Air quality: construction vehicles will generate much dust, especially in the dry season causing potential health problems for villagers up to 1km away (Desa Dalam) (-ve IMP). Threat to workers unless wear masks (NOT imp).
Climate: microclimate in vicinity of factory will be hotter and drier due to change in land use ( -ve fairly IMP).
Noise levels: heavy machinery will create a noise problem for site workers ( -ve IMP) and up to 1-2km away .
Erosion and sedimentation: erosion rates could reach 150 tonnes/ha/yr causing increased turbidity and sedimentation in the River Lematang (-ve IMP), but will only last a year.
Vegetation: loss of 725 ha of natural vegetation or rubber plantations (NOT imp).
Land animals: drop in numbers and species diversity as animals (including some protected species) move from the site location to other areas (-ve IMP).
Population migration/density: construction will attract migrant labour which will increase demands on facilities in the immediate vicinity of the site (-ve fairly IMP), but long-term effects on the wider area NOT imp. (pages missing in MP)
Employment prospects: much of the construction work is unskilled and can use local labour (+ve IMP). Increased potential for local services e.g. food stalls, transport (+ve IMP). (ditto)
Local economy: stimulated by increase in labour force and transportation of materials (+ve IMP). (ditto)
Social conflict: potentially increased due to competition between locals and incomers for work, especially if locals are not given priority ( -ve IMP).
Hydrology: construction of the new railway line will change local drainage patterns (NOT imp).
Traffic: increased traffic flow during daytime on main road between Muara Enim and Prabumulih (not IMP).
Local facilities: more markets, places of worship and clinics (+ve fairly IMP)
Health: main problem is dust, especially in the dry season in an area where respiratory infections are a major problem ( -ve IMP).
1. Blockage of natural drainage by earthmoving during site clearance resulted in the flooding of local rubber plantations, loss of income and damage to homes in late 1997.
2. The EIA predictions of social conflict over employment were realised in 1998.
Operational phase (planned Jan/Feb 2000)
Air quality: dust levels will be a problem for workers on parts of the site ( -ve fairly IMP), but within legal limits outside – except in the dry season ( -ve fairly IMP). Smoke output from production will be reduced by electrostatic precipitators. Hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and chlorine compounds will be released into the air. Reduction in air quality mainly at night. Villages affected to North June-Sept; to South Dec-March ( -ve IMP).
Noise: a problem on site, but within legal limits (-ve fairly IMP). 25 trucks/hour will increase noise along roads.
Water quality: Liquid waste will be separated into water and sludge in settling basins. Around 5.5. tonnes of waste will be discharged into the river per day. Amount of suspended solids will only increase by 10% (NOT imp). If the waste treatment unit malfunctions, aquatic life of the R. Lematang will be seriously affected by pollution because of the biological and chemical oxygen demand of the waste ( -ve IMP). The risk of pollution by highly toxic, bioaccumulative organo-chlorines is -ve IMP and may seriously affect fish populations and animals higher in the food chain (pV.48; pV.61).
Ground water: risk of seepage from landfill site NOT imp, but long-term effects (-ve fairly IMP).
Erosion and sedimentation: the plant will only increase sedimentation at the outlet pipe at 0.001-0.1 tonnes/day (NOT imp).
Water demand: factory and town site will take 1m3/s from R. Lematang; only 80% will be returned. Impact on river flow NOT imp normally, but in severe dry seasons -ve IMP. Concern expressed about ‘negative perceptions of villagers’ living near the inlet and outlet pipes.
Solid waste/landfill: solid wastes from wood processing and chemical waste will be disposed in specifically designed sites. Hazardous wastes will be disposed of separately in specialist units in line with Indonesian safety regulations. Seepage from sludge if disposal sites not properly constructed could contaminate ground water with metals and heavy metals (pV.28 -ve fairly IMP; pV.46 -ve IMP).
Land animals: A 525ha ‘green belt’ reserved for conservation will attract back some wildlife driven away from the 1250ha site during construction phase, but long-term effects of water pollution on food webs will cause a drop in numbers ( -ve IMP).
Employment: most of the unskilled labourers from the construction phase will be dismissed and some skilled labour taken on. Locals will benefit from informal sector. (+ve IMP)
Population growth/density/migration: no significant effects (NOT imp).
Local economy: likely to increase due to transport of raw materials, products and workers; trade; and services (+ve IMP) .
Social conflict: possible due to cultural differences between newcomers and locals; competition for employment; pollution of air and water; compensation demands (pV.31 NOT imp; pV.52 -ve IMP).
Community health: could improve due to provision of clean water supplies and health facilities (+ve IMP) or get worse due to air and water pollution and poor disposal of rubbish. Levels of nitrogen oxides will exceed permitted limits 3-10km from site; other gases will not, but may have cumulative effects (-ve IMP). Also see organo-chlorines above.
Local facilities: site will offer a clinic, shops, school, sports facilities and places of worship which locals can also use (+ve IMP).
Transport: transport of workers, raw materials and products will not have any serious impacts on existing system. Pulp will go out by rail and an access road with flyover will be built from the plantation to the plant (NOT imp).
1. Conflicting figures for amounts of sedimentation are presented in the EIA. On pII.27 Total Suspended Solids (TSS) output is estimated at 5.5 tonnes/day or 64mg/l. On pV.27, TSS levels in the river are only expected to rise from 43.7-173 mg/ml to 44.1 – 175.4 mg/ml.
2. Despite acknowledging the serious negative impact which the pulp plant could have on the aquatic life of the R. Lematang, the Management Plan simply states that “if the quality control measures outlined are fully and are functioning properly implemented, the aquatic fauna will be alright.” There are no procedures for routine monitoring or emergencies.
3. The EIA and Management Plan contain estimates of the physical, chemical and biological parameters of the liquid waste (BOD, COD, temperature and pH) plus gaseous emissions (dust/TSP,TRS/H2S, NO2, SO2) which it claims will be within Indonesian permitted levels (see also EIA pII.24, II.26, II.27;V.24).
4. The names of the gases hydrogen sulphide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide are mixed up on ppV.57-59 and the diagram showing the maximum concentrations of sulphur dioxide at varying distance from the PT TEL plant has not units (presumed to be m/m3).
5. Different, much lower legally permitted Indonesian limits for hydrogen sulphide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide are cited in the Management Plan (pIII.17).
Off-site impacts during construction and operations (to be tackled with local government)
Employment prospects: local authorities should be involved in recruiting local employees with suitable skills and qualifications.
Potential social conflict: seen primarily as arising from those who do and do not gain employment through PT TEL; to be solved by discussion, prioritising local employment and setting up local businesses
Community perceptions: PT TEL to keep within water quality and water usage limits outlined and explain these to the community; consumption of local fish on PT TEL site.
LC Down to Earth, UK, December 1998.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. (All original documents in Bahasa Indonesia only)
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Indorayon’s pulp and rayon factory (PT IIU) in Porsea, North Sumatra, has provoked a long socio-environmental conflict in the region, where villagers and local NGOs have been demanding its closure -due to the pollution affecting Lake Toba because of the factory effluents, the destruction of the forests of the area and the plantation of tree monocultures to obtain raw material- while the mill’s workers want to keep it open in the absence of other job opportunities in the region. In March 1999 the government -which has proved unable to find a fair solution to the problem- decided to temporarily close the factory on environmental reasons (see WRM Bulletin 21). But recently it decided to give a permission for the reopening of the mill.
Unfortunately, the situation of confrontation and violence in the area has not ended. On the contrary it has recently claimed a new victim: Herman Sitorus, an engineering high school student who was shot by a North Tapanuli police officer on June 21st. The incident happened when the police repressed a demonstration by a crowd from Porsea at Parparean City demanding the release of thirteen villagers from the Joint Community Post at Sirait Uruk who had been kidnapped by unidentified armed men the night before. The condition of a further 27 people remains unknown.
WALHI (Indonesian Forum for the Environment) condemned this senseless death and urged the government to establish an independent team to investigate the case. WALHI also urged the Police Chief to immediately clarify the use of force against the villagers and claimed that the police were legally, morally and materially responsible for the incident. Regarding the unsolved conflict of Indorayon the government was urged to postpone the reopening of the factory until a comprehensive study on its environmental impact is performed. World Rainforest Movement
Maldonado 1858 – 11200 Montevideo – Uruguay
tel: 598 2 413 2989 / fax: 598 2 410 0985
A conflict that began almost a decade ago in North Sumatra
as a leadership dispute within the largest Protestant congregation
in Indonesia, the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan or HKPB, escalated
dramatically in 1992 as the result of deliberate manipulation by
provincial political and military officials; it continued to deteriorate
through June 1994 as it overlapped and became intertwined with
major labor unrest in the province. As government intervention in
the conflict increased, so did human rights violations ranging from
arbitrary arrest to torture.
of North Sumatra has attracted widespread international attention,
the conflict in what is known as the Batak church has not, in part,
perhaps, because it is seen as a complex internal struggle in which
both sides are at fault. But that struggle appears to have been very
deliberately manipulated by government and military officials to
achieve specific political ends, and the victims of human rights
violations have all been from the faction opposed by the
This chapter explores the background to the conflict and
the abuses that have been associated with it. But before plunging
into the sometimes arcane details, one case study of torture in May
1994 illustrates vividly why the conflict should be cause for
The Arrest and Torture of Four HKBP Activists
On May 12, 1994, three HKBP ministers and a student were
arrested in the town of Tarutung, North Tapanuli district, North
Sumatra on suspicion of holding an unauthorized meeting. They
were taken to the district military command where they were badly
tortured, then to the district police station where torture was
commonplace and they faced additional abuse. A month later, two
were still being treated for their torture-related injuries in a Jakarta
hospital. The charges against all were eventually dropped.
The three ministers were Nelson Siregar and Juaksa
Simangunsong, both forty-two, and Ramlan Hutahaean, thirty-nine.
Siregar, director of the HKBP community development department,
is also the executive secretary of the non-governmental
organization, KSPPM, which has been the target of government
harassment. Hutahean is head of the HKBP personnel bureau, and
Simangunsong is a pastor assigned to Pekanbaru in the province
of Riau, Sumatra. Samuel Sitompul, twenty-one and a relative of
Ramlan, is a student at a HKBP college in Pematang Siantar, a
town south of Medan.
The four were gathered at Pastor Ramlan’s home, following
services for Ascension Day on May 12. According to the ministers,
it was a family gathering to discuss an upcoming wedding;
according to the military, it was an illegal meeting without a permit
held by one faction of the HKBP conflict. It is important to note that
even if the ministers had gathered to discuss church affairs, it was
fully within their internationally-recognized right of freedom of
assembly to do so and no permit should have been required.
Pastor Simangungsong, his wife and five-year-old daughter, all of
whom lived nearby, and Samuel Sitompul were already at the
house with Pastor Hutahaean and his wife, when they were later
joined by Siregar.
At about 3:00 p.m., four trucks and a jeep together
containing some 150 soldiers drove into the neighborhood. The
soldiers were a joint force from the district and resort military
commands, together with police and some intelligence officers from
the North Sumatra regional command based in Medan. According
to one of the ministers, most but not all of the men were in uniform.
Two of the trucks, together containing about one platoon,
stopped in front of the house; the others blocked the street.
Soldiers entered the house and arrested the four men. One minister
asked to see a warrant; an intelligence officer told him it was “in the
office.” The four men were put on a truck and taken to the North
Tapanuli district police headquarters in Tarutung. Their families
were not informed of the reason for their arrest or where they were
As they arrived, the military commander of the operation, a
man named Jansen A., came and told a policeman named
Sihombing that there were too many people around the police
station, and that the four should be taken to the district military
command, just across the way. They were then marched across to
the military command and sat down in a row. Jansen then came
along and ordered his subordinates to divide them up, with one
man per cell. It was in these cells that the four were tortured.
In each cell, there was a small desk, behind which a military
intelligence officer sat. In Nelson Siregar’s case, Siregar was
ordered to stand facing the desk, while two soldiers armed with
rifles stood or sat behind him. The interrogation began about 4:00
p.m. The intelligence officer accused him of taking part in a secret
meeting. Siregar denied it, but the soldiers had already worked
over Samuel Sitompul, the student, who admitted that some
discussion of an upcoming church synod had taken place. The
soldiers then made Siregar empty his pockets and found a list of
eighteen ministers. When they found it, one of the two took a
wooden pole like a javelin and thrust it into Siregar’s ribcage.
Interrogation sessions would last about fifteen minutes
each, then break. Part of the session consisted of accusations
about the secret meeting, part was questioning, part was an
attempt on the part of the interrogator to get Siregar to admit that
there was only one leader of the Batak church, the man who had
been recognized as such by the government.
Siregar was asked what he had discussed with the others,
why he was opposing the government and what he thought would
happen to his family if he continued with these kinds of actions.
Every time he gave an answer his interrogator did not like, the two
soldiers would come up behind him and thrust the wood into his
side, or beat him with an iron pipe about a meter long or shove
their rifle butts into him with as much force as they could muster.
Siregar noted that the wooden pole and the iron pipe were
propped up in one corner of the room when he was brought in;
they were clearly there to be used as torture instruments.
At one point, one soldier took out his revolver and brought
it down so hard on Siregar’s forehead that it later required three
stitches to close the wound. Other soldiers came in periodically
and joined the beating, so that at times there were as many as five
or six taking part at one time. The interrogation went on for about
The other three, two of whom HRW/Asia interviewed in the
hospital where they were recovering from the torture, were all
burned with lighted cigarettes in addition to being beaten. The
scars from the cigarette burns were still visible three weeks later.
As Pastor Simangunsong was being interrogated, one soldier took
out a pair of pliers, placed it over the fingernail of the fourth finger
of his left hand, then crushed the nail and yanked it.
Simangungsong collapsed from the pain. His companions said he
drifted in and out of consciousness for the next four days. On June
7, three weeks after the torture, his finger remained bandaged, and
he was still severely traumatized and disoriented.
Samuel Sitompul had his jaw broken after being hit with a
rifle butt during interrogation; it was wired shut when we visited him
on June 7. He had been asked why he refused to join the
government-backed side, called the SAI-Tiara faction. Pastor
Hutahaean was hit on both ears until blood poured out of both,
and his hearing may have been permanently damaged.
At midnight on May 12, the four in their blood-soaked
clothes were taken back to the police station, as if the military did
not want to be responsible for what had happened to them. The
head of the police command, Lieutenant Colonel (Pol.) Pattiasina,
signed a “letter of receipt”, stating that at this date and time, the
district military command formally turned over the four to the
custody of the police. The letter also specified the condition of the
four men, citing Siregar’s head wound, for example. Police helped
the men bandage their various injuries and clean up the blood.
They were given a change of clothes, but they were not allowed to
bathe. Simangunsong was given a pain-killer, and the others were
given a drug of some sort that Siregar thinks may have been a
sedative to help them sleep.
Around 11 a.m. on May 13, the four were put in a cell in the
police compound with two suspected criminal offenders, a drug
trafficker and a gold thief. Both had been held in police custody for
about a month but had not yet been processed for trial. Both had
also been tortured, but by the police, not the army. The drug
trafficking suspect had been made to strip, then kneel on raw
soybeans called kedele, while a piece of wood was placed across
the back of his calves to keep the pressure of his knees on the
beans, an extremely painful action which causes no visible injury.
Then he was forced to walk on knees across the beans, all the
while being beaten. His genitals were also burned with a lighted
In the cell, the four HKBP activists had to sleep together
with the two other suspects in a cell that measured about one and
a quarter meters by one and three-quarters. Because of the limited
space, the four had to sleep with their heads virtually on the toilet.
After one day, they were moved to another cell of the same
size, with five people accused of killing a policeman in the course
of a clash between the two factions of the HKBP. (The killing had
taken place around midnight on May 1 or very early on May 2,
1994 in Siraituruk, Porsea, after rumors began circulating that the
civilian militia of the SAI Tiara faction was going to attack the
church, according to a HKBP source.) The five were from the Batak
clans or marga Simbolon, Manurung, Butarbutar, Sitorus and
Ambarita, and while torture in the Tarutung police station was
routine, these five became particular targets, according to their
Torture came with meals at Tarutung: after the first roll call
of the morning around 8:30; at lunch; in the afternoon; and often
two or three times in the evening or at night. Of some 250 to 300
police stationed at the district command, inmates estimated that
some fifty were directly involved in inflicting pain, sometimes to get
a confession, sometimes to take revenge, sometimes to extort but
often, one victim said, because it seemed it was expected: this was
what one did to suspects. Every time the door to the cell opened,
he said, the inmates knew someone would be hurt. He said one
night, a police guard came to their cell around 1:00 a.m., calling for
Simbolon, one of the five murder suspects. He said the policeman
shouted, “It’s one o’clock, Simbolon! Where’s my money? Give me
Rp.5,000! No money?!” Then he made Simbolon put one of his feet
through the bars, took a wooden pole and crunched it down on
the foot, causing Simbolon to scream. There were screams of pain
from the four cells all the time.
Even the man who had helped bandage their injuries on the
day they arrived took part in torture, one minister said. He had
seemed like a good man at the time, according to the minister, but
then he behaved like everyone else. There was a regular rotation
of police on shifts, with about ten men patrolling the four cells in
the police command at any one time.
The ministers divided the police at the North Sumatra
command into those who gave advice, those who intimidated, and
those who tortured, but even those in the first two categories
seemed to see nothing wrong with the actions of the latter. Those
who tortured did not generally wear nameplates, and those who
came around at night generally did not even wear uniforms. The
ministers described casual acts of brutality, just as a policeman
passing a cell, seizing a prisoner’s hand as he reached for his
meal, placing two of his fingers on either side of a bar on the cell
door and squeezing hard, causing the prisoner to howl with pain.
In some cases, this action seemed to sprain or break the fingers.
On May 14, Samuel Sitompul was forced to put his hand
under the door, and while one policeman held it down under his
boot, another extinguished a lighted cigarette on his fingernails.
After five days at the police command, the four men were
moved to the police hospital (Rumah Sakit Brimob) in Medan, still
with the status of detainees. The families of the detainees were
then for the first time, on May 18, informed of their whereabouts.
They had discovered that the men were detained at the police
command a day after they were arrested, but officials refused to
acknowledge their presence there and the families were not
allowed to see them. The military permitted visits on May 19, and
relatives were shocked by the physical condition of the men.
After a week at the police hospital, the four were allowed to
leave, with the charges against them dropped. All were transferred
to the Cikini Hospital in Jakarta for further treatment.
Simangunsong and Sitompul were still being treated there as late
as June 7, but were discharged several days later.
The Two Sides and the Indonesian Government
The kind of torture described above is not unusual, but the
victims were better known so the case got more publicity than
most. They were arrested for being on one side of the HKBP
conflict, and it is important to try and sort out what defines the two
sides. For the purposes of this report, the factions will be referred
to by their Indonesian acronyms, AP-SSA and SAI-Tiara. AP stands
for aturan dan peraturan or “rules and regulations,” SSA for setia
sampai akhir or “loyal to the end.” Led by Dr. S.A.E. Nababan, it
claims that it alone has been faithful to the governing constitution
of HKBP and that Dr. Nababan is the lawful ephorus, a kind of
The SAI-Tiara faction takes its name from a special synod
held at the Hotel Tiara in Medan in February 1993 at which a new,
government-backed ephorus was chosen to replace Dr. Nababan.
The special synod (synode agung istemewa or SAI) followed the
disruption of the regularly-scheduled synod in November 1992,
during which the regional military command led by Major General
Pramono intervened to oust Nababan and appoint an acting
successor. The SAI-Tiara faction, led by Rev. P.W.T. Simanjuntak
and Rev. S.M. Siahaan, says that Nababan himself repeatedly bent
or broke HKBP rules to serve his own purposes.
Members of both factions have been involved in acts of
violence, including several killings. Each has tried to prevent the
other from occupying HKBP-owned housing and offices. But the
Indonesian government has systematically failed to arrest or
prosecute those responsible for acts of violence on the SAI-Tiara
side while members of the AP-SSA faction have been routinely
arrested, not only for acts of violence but for holding what the
government calls “illegal meetings.” Many of those arrests have
been both unlawful and arbitrary. Torture during interrogation has
been the rule, as in the case of the three ministers and a student
described in detail above. Members of the AP-SSA side have been
prevented from exercising their internationally-recognized rights to
freedom of assembly and freedom of religion, as government
security forces have tried to prevent them from holding services in
churches. One result is that a “house church” movement, akin to
the practice among dissident Protestants in China, has grown up
among HKBP members, where rather than risk physical clashes,
AP-SSA loyalists by mid-1994 were beginning to hold services in
the privacy of their own homes.
Not only has the government failed to arrest members of
the SAI faction responsible for violence, but it has tolerated — and
some say trained — a civilian militia called Satgas (an acronym for
Satuan Tugas or Task Force) SAI-Tiara that has been responsible
for intimidation and harassment of villagers loyal to the AP-SSA
side, as well as for the destruction of hundreds of homes.
HKBP members — not only those loyal to the AP-SSA
faction — in conversations with HRW/Asia cited two main reasons
for government intervention on the side of SAI-Tiara: the social
action program of Dr. Nababan, and the political and economic
interests of the North Sumatra elite. Under Dr. Nababan’s
leadership, HKBP fostered the establishment of a number of
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) committed to the
empowerment of the poor and disadvantaged in North Sumatra.
Prominent among these organizations were the Study Group for
the Development of Community Initiative (Yayasan Kelompok Studi
Pengembangan Prakarsa Masyarakat or KSPPM) and the Light of
Prosperity Group (Kelompok Pelita Sejahtera or KPS).
KSPPM took a leading role in first opposing the
construction of a pulp and paper factory called PT Inti Indorayon
Utama, or Indorayon for short, in North Tapanuli, the district where
HKBP headquarters are located, and then protesting land
expropriation and pollution caused by it. Tensions came to a head
in August 1990 when the district military commander closed down
KSPPM on a spurious legal technicality; it was allowed to reopen
two months later but continued to be harassed. KPS, for its part,
was founded in 1991 and became involved in labor organizing in
the Medan area and incurred the wrath of the local government
and military for allegedly fomenting wildcat strikes.
HKBP under Nababan’s leadership was thus challenging
important economic and political interests in North Sumatra. Long
before the overt intervention of the military to oust Nababan in
1992, for example, the Indorayon management was supporting the
opponents of Nababan and calling for his overthrow.
A second reason, that became linked to the first, was the
reported desire in 1992 of the regional military commander, Maj.
Gen. Pramono, to become governor of North Sumatra. Precisely
because of the concentration of industry and agribusiness in the
province, the governorship is a highly lucrative position.
Technically, governors are chosen by the local parliament from a
list of candidates put forward by the Minister of Home Affairs. But
HKBP’s size and strength, with over two million members, has
traditionally made it something of a kingmaker. Pramono,
according to this explanation, needed HKBP support, but it was
clear he would not get it as long as Nababan was ephorus. He
therefore decided to actively intervene on behalf of Nababan’s main
opponents, PWT Simanjuntak and Siahaan, who later announced
in Sinar Indonesia Baru that they were making Pramono an
honorary minister in the Batak church. In doing so, Pramono
reportedly had the support of Indorayon, even though the ministers
of both religious affairs and home affairs warned him about the
dangers of taking sides in the church dispute.
A third factor, according to AP-SSA loyalists, was the
frustrated desire of a prominent retired army general, Maraden
Panggabean, to become head of HKBP. Panggabean was one of
the most prominent New Order generals; he had been commander
of the army in 1969, then deputy commander-in-chief of the armed
forces, then head of the powerful internal security agency,
Kopkamptib in 1971, and in 1978, coordinating minister for politics
and security. He became a member of the governing board of
Golkar, the ruling political party, and from 1982 until his retirement
was head of the largely ceremonial National Security Council. After
his retirement, he reportedly wanted to become recognized as a
tokoh or influential figure among his own people, the Batak, and
the best way of doing so was to become the head, or the de facto
head, of HKBP. In 1990, he had made his first attempt to do so by
becoming a candidate to replace Dr. Nababan as head of the
national Indonesian Council of Churches, Persatuan Gereja
Indonesia or PGI. But he was not selected, and he turned to the
internal affairs of HKBP. There he, like Pramono, saw Dr. Nababan
as the major obstacle to his ambitions and by 1992, was reportedly
backing Pramono in his bid to oust the latter. Panggabean also
reportedly received support from the Indorayon company.
The initial intervention of the government in the HKBP
dispute in November 1992 was thus overwhelmingly the result of
local political and economic interests. But once the damage had
been done and local political actors had thrown their support to
SAI-Tiara, the conflict only deepened and made its resolution more
difficult. To the extent that Pramono and Panggabean tried to
mobilize support beyond the province of North Sumatra, up to and
including President Soeharto, it became impossible for the
government to back down from support of one faction and led to
supporters of the other being branded as opponents of the
government. Expressions of resentment against Nababan,
apparently sometimes well-founded, for perceived arrogance and
authoritarian actions, became seen by the AP-SSA side as assaults
on the integrity of the HKBP structure. And resentment over
government interference not only in the choice of ephorus but in
daily religious activities strengthened the militancy of aggrieved
HKBP supporters, including within the social action organizations
that the church had helped found.
Background to the Conflict
The roots of the HKBP conflict go back to 1986 and the
decision of the church, on the occasion of its 125th anniversary, to
engage in a more pro-active program of social action to directly
address the problems of poverty in North Sumatra, the church’s
main base of support. Dr. Nababan, a controversial minister and
theologian who was then head of the Indonesian Council of
Churches, was urged by church activists to become a candidate
for ephorus and was duly elected as such during the Grand Synod
in February 1987. His main rival was a pastor named PM
Sihombing, then secretary general of HKBP.
Nababan’s autocratic style, his use of Jakarta-based
charismatic preachers for evangelical work, and some of his social
programs generated resentment among the more traditionalist
circles of HKBP, and an anti-Nababan movement appeared, led by
the defeated candidate for ephorus, Sihombing, complete with
published tracts accusing Nababan of everything from womanizing
to Communist tendencies.
In reaction, Nababan ensured that disciplinary action was
taken against the rebel pastors at the next synod, and Sihombing
and eighteen other were expelled from the priesthood and any
posts they held within the HKBP organization. Nababan was
warned at the time by the Minister of Manpower that the dismissals
were in violation of Indonesian labor law.The opposition to
Nababan as a result of these measures only intensified.
In the meantime, HKBP’s new social activism, involving
efforts at legal education and community empowerment, was
generating a backlash from the government. That backlash became
more pronounced in 1989 and 1990, as HKBP under Nababan led
the protests against the Indorayon plant. One form it took was
support for Nababan’s rivals within HKBP.
In August 1990, the North Sumatra police refused to give
HKBP a permit to hold a synod in the town of Pematang Siantar.
At the time, they said that because the area was largely Muslim, a
Christian conference would contribute to intergroup tensions. But
in a letter dated September 5, 1990, the national police commander
(Kapolri) accused HKBP of engaging in political activities. Nababan
wrote back, asking the police to present evidence to back up the
charge, but he never received a response.
About the same time, General Panggabean and seven other
serving generals formed a “Peace Team,” formally sanctioned by
the then minister of religion, Munawir Sjadzali, in a memo dated
September 6. The team was set up ostensibly to settle the conflict.
But without consulting the Nababan-led HKBP hierarchy, its
members set up cells in each HKBP district. According to an
AP-SSA document, the main aim of the “Peace Team” was to
overthrow Nababan, and Panggabean admitted as much in a
“safari” to the town of Sibolga on September 30, 1990. His efforts
drew support from some key Nababan rivals, including the
secretary general of HKBP at the time, O.P.T. Simorangkir, and the
management of Indorayon. The “Peace Team” had the full
cooperation of the military at the provincial, district and subdistrict
levels, with officers of the Kodim 0210 of North Tapanuli being
particularly active in urging residents to attend meetings organized
by the team. Such meetings took place in Sipoholon on September
29, 1990; Sibolga on September 30; Pematang Siantar on October
1; and Medan on October 2. Speakers cited Nababan’s arbitrary
sacking of ministers as one reason why he should be dismissed,
but his sponsorship of NGOs that challenged the established order
was a key reason behind the government’s distrust of him.
Government efforts to build support for Nababan’s ouster
reportedly continued through 1991 and 1992, although his
opponents claim that moves for the ouster were coming from within
HKBP to the point that he no longer commanded a majority in the
church’s governing council. They say he therefore set up a new
forum and changed the rule of the HKBP organization, stripping the
Secretary General of his powers and had directors of departments,
institutions and bureau chiefs report directly to the ephorus rather
than the Secretary General.
On October 13, 1992, the North Sumatra provincial
government set up a United Working Group to Settle the HKBP
Problem (Kelompok Kerja Terpadu Penyelesaian Masalah HKBP).
Members included the regional commander and the provincial
head of police, and one of its first actions was to issue a statement
that neither Nababan nor his secretary general, Simorangkir, could
be a candidate for ephorus in the upcoming synod, scheduled for
November. Nababan’s followers, however, ignored the directive and
nominated him anyway.
The 51st Synod And Its Aftermath
The extent of military intervention at the district (Kodim),
resort (Korem) and regional (KODAM) levels at the 51st Synod,
held from November 23 to 28, 1992 in North Tapanuli, was
unprecedented and took the conflict to a new level. If before,
military support of the anti-Nababan forces within HKBP had helped
polarize two sides of an internal conflict, the use of troops to close
down the synod and appoint a new ephorus transformed that
conflict into a situation of serious civil strife, often involving
violence, that will take years, perhaps generations, to heal. Active
government support of one side and severe military abuses against
what has become known as the AP-SSA faction have placed the
conflict far beyond the bounds of a leadership struggle and
removed the possibility that anyone associated in any way with the
government can play a mediating role.
Details of the 51st Synod have been published elsewhere.
In summary, hundreds of armed troops, led by Colonel Daniel
Toding, commander of Military Resort (Korem) No.021/Kawal
Samudera, and Lieutenant Colonel Paris Ginting, deputy head of
intelligence for Regional Command (KODAM) No.1, surrounded the
meeting in Tarutung, which had been marked from the beginning
by organized disruptions.
According to the AP-SSA faction, Nababan’s opponents, led
by S.M. Siahaan and P.W.T. Simanjuntak, tried to prevent the
synod from taking place. According to the opponents, Nababan
had tried to rig the meeting in advance by firing key members of
the governing council the day before the synod opened. In a
circular written by a leading figure in the SAI-Tiara faction, Dr. S.M.
Siahaan, entitled “The Turmoil in the HKBP, How and Why,”
Nababan “even prevented anybody he didn’t like to enter to Synod
by using the police and military personnel of the district
commander, a lieutenant colonel friendly to him.”On the last day,
Nababan, as ephorus, dissolved the synod before it had formally
concluded. Ginting locked all participants in the meeting hall as
Toding held a closed meeting with some members of the governing
council — not including Nababan. When the meeting was over,
Toding announced to the participants that the HKBP issue was
now in the hands of the government. The next day, November 29,
Toding issued a statement that Nababan was forbidden to perform
any functions as ephorus.
General Pramono called a meeting on December 18 of the
senior figures in HKBP that Nababan did not attend. On December
23, 1992, in his capacity as head of the regional internal security
agency Bakorstanasda, he issued decree No.
Skep/3/Stada/XII/1992, appointing Dr S.M. Siahaan as “acting
The appointment was to be on an interim basis until a
special synod could be held. But the immediate reaction was one
of outrage on the part of those upset with heavy-handed
interference in church affairs and the violation of the HKBP
constitution. The month of January 1993 was marked by a
concerted military crackdown on protestors trying to retain control
of HKBP headquarters in Tarutung, North Tapanuli, and its
considerable financial assets. They failed, and on January 18, the
faction later to be known as SAI-Tiara took over. The crackdown in
Tarutung, Medan, and elsewhere led to dozens of arrests, many of
them unlawful and arbitrary, and allegations of torture and severe
beatings during interrogation.
The special synod was nevertheless held on February 11 to
13, 1993 at the Tiara Hotel in Medan, and the Rev. P.W.T.
Simanjuntak was elected ephorus. Nababan’s supporters charged
that the only requirements to be a delegate were to agree in writing
to recognize Simanjuntak as ephorus and to acknowledge that
Nababan had no claim to speak for HKBP. After the synod, AP-ASS
ministers began to be systematically replaced by their rivals, but
their parishioners remained loyal, and clashes began to break out
on Sundays over which faction would hold services in any
particular church. The months of April and May saw particularly
violent clashes in the North Sumatran towns of Tebingtinggi,
Pematang Siantar, Tanjung Morawa and Medan. Members of the
AP-SSA faction in Tebingtinggi were arrested in May for possession
of molotov cocktails; they in turn charged that the army had hired
thugs to try and take back a church there for the SAI-Tiara faction.
In late May, President Soeharto appointed T.B. Silalahi,
Minister for the Utilization of the State Apparatus, who happened
to be a Batak, to mediate between the two factions. On June 14 in
Jakarta, he succeeded in bringing about an agreement between
Nababan and Simanjuntak. In the agreement, Nababan
acknowledged the authority of Simajuntak as ephorus pending
another synod to be held in accordance with HKBP by-laws. They
agreed that Simanjuntak would cease the practice of replacing
AP-SSA ministers with his own loyalists, and that churches should
remain open for use by all groups wishing to meet for worship. But
the dispute had already gone far beyond a leadership struggle, and
on the first Sunday after the agreement was announced, AP-SSA
supporters stormed a church in Medan where SAI-Tiara supporters
Throughout July and August, sporadic clashes took place,
many of them sparked by efforts of the SAI faction to evict AP-SSA
ministers from their HKBP-owned homes or AP-SSA attempts to
hold services in churches in the face of determined opposition from
SAI partisans, backed by the army and police. It was clear that
support for the SAI-Tiara faction among the general populace in
North Tapanuli and other parts of North Sumatra was insufficient
to hold on to the physical structures that symbolized HKBP
leadership without outside force. AP-SSA sources allege that
Simanjuntak and his associates began hiring preman — local thugs
— as early as mid-1993, working in conjunction with the regular
One source of thugs was Pemuda Pancasila, or Pancasila
Youth, an organization later accused of having a hand in the
anti-Chinese incitement in the labor unrest in Medan of April 1994.
HRW/Asia obtained a copy of three letters from Drs. A.T. Sitio of
the SAI-Tiara faction, identifying himself as Security Coordinator of
HKBP, District 10, Medan-Aceh, to Pemuda Pancasila. The first
letter, dated October 30, 1993 asks for help of the West Medan
branch of the organization in “securing and emptying” a house of
the Nommensen University Foundation on November 2. Two
subsequent letters were addressed to the head of the Medan
branch of Pemuda Pancasila. One, dated November 5, 1993, asked
for help in emptying official HKBP houses in Binjai, outside Medan,
of their AP-SSA occupants. The letter concludes, “We know that
with the help of Pemuda Pancasila, together with the faithful and
the relevant agencies, we can easily clear out these houses.” The
next day, Drs. Sitio sent another letter asking for helping providing
security for a service that was to take place the next day, Sunday,
in the Glugur church on Jalan Pembangunan III in Medan. Several
further letters indicated that the Glugur church had become a major
point of contention between the two factions, and that the AP-SSA
faction was also using violence against their opponents.
By September 1993, the involvement of the regular army on
the SAI-Tiara side intensified. On September 3, troops joined about
a hundred SAI partisans to evict two ministers from their official
residences in Siborongborong. A similar incident took place the
next day in Pakpahan, personally led by the military commander of
North Tapanuli. On October 15, about one hundred SAI supporters
tried to take over the house of the HKBP superintendent (praeses)
in the Porsea district. In this case, the minister had agreed with
local authorities that he would vacate the house as long as no one
else occupied it, and the house remained empty. Other attacks on
HKBP property took place in October and November in Samosir,
Pematang Siantar, Kisaran and Medan. In each case, the army was
used to back up SAI attempts to physically occupy HKBP-owned
In addition, governments at the district and provincial levels
took other measures against AP-SSA leaders and sympathizers that
violated their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. On
September 11, the governing council of North Tapanuli issued an
order calling on all HKBP members in the district to recognize the
leadership of Simanjuntak; the order also banned Nababan from
speaking or preaching. On September 24, a telex from the office of
the Governor of the North Sumatra forbid any HKBP activities
inside or outside church buildings unless participants formally
accepted the results of the SAI-Tiara synod of February 1993. On
April 6, 1994, the office of social and political affairs in North
Tapanuli sent a telex to all the camat in the district announcing that
Nababan was planning to speak in Narumonda and that masses
of people from outside the area would probably try to come. “To
prevent an undesirable situation from arising such as a physical
confrontation,” the telex read, “you are requested to work together
with the Muspika [army and police commanders] to block people
from your area from attending the above program.”
The government made efforts as well to prevent HKBP
members from exercising their right to freedom of association and
religion as well. On April 9, the regional military command asked all
subdistrict heads (camat) in North Tapanuli to submit lists of names
to their respective subdistrict military commanders of all civil
servants who supported Nababan. On May 19, the North Sumatra
office of the Indonesian civil servants association, KORPRI (Korps
Pegawai Republik Indonesia) issued a directive to KORPRI officers
at the provincial and district levels to ensure that all civil servants
in the province uphold the decision of the government and
acknowledge the leadership of Dr. P.W.T. Simanjuntak as the
rightful ephorus. KORPRI officials were instructed in a handwritten
note on the second page to get a photocopy of the directive to all
KORPRI members with their signatures as proof that they had seen
Creation of a Civilian Militia
In January 1994, Rev. Siahaan announced the
establishment of a civilian militia called Satgas SAI-Tiara. The militia
only formalized what was already in existence, an unofficial
paramilitary force composed, at least in part, of hired thugs that
had been working with regular security forces to take control of
HKBP assets. With training (but no firearms) reportedly provided by
local military commands, Satgas forces emerged over the next few
months in Tarutung, Medan and Pematang Siantar. Their
emergence coincided with two other developments in North
Sumatra that were not unrelated: renewed activism against the
Indorayon plant and intensified labor unrest in Medan.
On November 5, 1993 a chlorine tank had exploded at the
Indorayon plant in the village of Sosorladang, subdistrict Porsea in
North Tapanuli, causing fears of another Bhopal. Hundreds of
villagers fled their homes to escape what they thought might be
poison gas, and the next day, angry villagers burned cars, offices
and over 100 houses belonging to the factory and its employees.
As it turned out, the explosion did not lead to any immediately
visible injuries but it generated renewed demands from villagers,
backed by a coalition of social action and environmental
organizations, for the factory’s closure. The depth of local outrage
seemed to take the factory management by surprise, although
protests against the damage and destruction wrought by the pulp
plant had been going on since 1989.
But the factory embarked on a public relations campaign in
January that, among other things, involved token gifts of wall
clocks and petromax lamps to local churches and the use of
Pemuda Pancasila youth to spread its message of goodwill. The
combination of outreach to churches and involvement of Pemuda
Pancasila, combined with strong statements against NGOs made
not only by the factory but also by the governor of North Sumatra,
almost certainly meant more funds for SAI-Tiara and its Satgas,
especially given Indorayon’s record of support for anti-Nababan
forces. (AP-SSA partisans say that Indorayon security guards or
SATPAM have been used in Satgas operations.)
The second development was growing labor unrest. Medan,
Indonesia’s third largest city, and surrounding towns had been
wracked by strikes and demands of workers for rights guaranteed
by Indonesia’s own laws throughout early 1994. As the Muslim
holiday Lebaran approached, worker demands for holiday bonuses
increased, as did demonstrations and wildcat strikes. Most of the
unrest was centered in industrial estates on the outskirts of Medan,
where HKBP-linked NGOs had been active in organizing workers,
but it extended to Pematang Siantar, another HKBP stronghold.
To the extent that local officials, civilian and military, saw the
AP-SSA faction as linked to labor activism, they may have been
more willing than ever to back SAI-Tiara — particularly after the
mass demonstration of thousands workers on the streets of Medan
on April 14 and 15 in which one Chinese businessman was killed.
The perceived linkage between AP-SSA and the labor movement
was made explicit by the current regional military commander of
North Sumatra, A. Pranowo, in the last edition of the Jakarta news
weekly, Editor, shut down by the government on June 21. In an
interview, Pranowo said, The HKBP led by S.A.E. Nababan used
to have an NGO called KSPPM. This NGO was banned, but then
this other NGO sprang up. SBSI also emerged from KSPPM. Amosi
Telaumbanua [the head of SBSI Medan who is currently detained
in connection with the worker demonstration last April] was a
KSPPM leader for labour relations.
To the reporter’s question of whether this meant that HKBP
and the labor unrest were linked, Pranowo replied, “It could well be.
We’re still looking into it. Because the supporters of HKBP who call
themselves SSA consist of a variety of groups, including NGOs.
The connection is complex.” When asked if North Sumatra was
becoming a testing ground to overthrow certain officials, he replied,
“Not just North Sumatra — Java, too.”
Satgas SAI-Tiara made its first public appearance, complete
with uniforms, on April 8, 1994, in Narumonda, Porsea. It was the
Friday before Easter, and over 100 uniformed youth, in gray
uniforms and red berets, armed with traditional spears and knives,
led by a failed businessman named Columbus Hutajulu who had
extensive ties to the Medan underworld, tried to break up
preparations for Easter Sunday at the Narumonda church, a HKBP
church controlled by the AP-SSA faction. As they approached,
according to one eyewitness, women preparing food in a kind of
outdoor kitchen chased them away. But even as the Satgas
retreated, a mobile brigade (Brimob) force moved in, consisting of
about 200 men. Armed with bayonet rifles and tear gas, they
succeeded where the Satgas had failed in dispersing the
parishioners and taking over the church.
On April 10, Easter Sunday, thousands of AP-SSA loyalists
tried to enter the Narumonda church in spite of the Brimob forces
trying to prevent them. Because Dr. Nababan was personally
leading the service, churchgoers from all over North Sumatra were
flooding into the town; eventually their numbers became too great
even for the troops, who finally allowed people into the church, but
Satgas SAI-Tiara forces, backed by armed police and soldiers, tried
to blockade the main entry routes to the town. A major
confrontation took place on the road in from Tarutung, where
AP-SSA men and women threw stones at the troops blocking their
way and set vehicles on fire, and soldiers fired bullets into the air
and used tear gas against the crowd. One youth was shot in the
Attacks by Satgas SAI-Tiara increased throughout April, with
homes of AP-SSA ministers a particular target. AP-SSA supporters
fought back, and in one clash on May 2 in Siraituruk, in Toba
district, a crowd lynched a policeman thought to be helping the
Satgas. Soldiers and police descended on the town and burned
over 100 homes, according to residents.
Columbus Hutajulu, one of the Satgas commanders, denied
that the Satgas was trying to terrorize anyone as alleged by the
AP-SSA faction. “Our task is to liberate churches from occupation
by irresponsible persons. After we secure the churches, we turn
them over to police and ministers.” Nevertheless, the atmosphere
of fear had become so pervasive not only in North Sumatra but in
other HKBP congregations that in June, some 200 HKBP ministers
went to Jakarta to demand guarantees of protection from the
AP-SSA partisans in many cases were responsible for
violence themselves in efforts to recover use of their churches,
forestall seizure of church property and prevent SAI-Tiara
supporters from meeting or speaking. The government clearly has
a right to arrest those responsible and charge them with the
appropriate violation of the Indonesian Criminal Code. But the
government in this case is an active party to the conflict and used
its powers not only to arrest AP-SSA supporters for suspected
criminal offenses but to coerce them, sometimes through torture,
to recognize the church leadership that it had installed. SAI-Tiara
members and the thugs they employed were not arrested, nor were
investigations into acts of vandalism against property belonging to
AP-SSA loyalists seriously pursued. A series of measures
promulgated by military and civilian authorities were used to deny
the AP-SSA members their internationally-recognized rights to
freedom of religion, expression, association and assembly.
|The riot in Porsea and Tarutung, North Tapanuli.||The demand of closing down the paper pulp company, PT Inti Indorayon Utama. At first, the demonstration was in order. The riot began after the police force started to shoot the demonstrators. The situation then became out of control.||