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Wage the struggle for land reform! Decent housing for workers! 

Political statement of Indonesian Confederation of United Workers on the National Farmers’ Day 2020

Indonesia commemorated the National Farmers’ Day in an unprecedented situation. In March, Indonesia entered the era of pandemic. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated to a worrying pace in the last seven months as the new cases constantly hit a new highest daily record with 4,000 new cases and more than 100 fatalities per day. Indonesia has turned into a horrifying hotspot of COVID-19 pandemic in Asia contingent. People must bear the horrifying situation. The virus has infected all layers of society ranging from ministers in the cabinet, election commissioner, head of local administration, to hundreds of Epson workers in Bekasi. What happened in Epson just exemplified the massive infection of virus in one of 46 factories in Bekasi.      

On this National Farmers’ Day, the hands of the ruling class and the pandemic hit people simultaneously. The ruling class’ omnibus bill is viciously hammering the tractors, hut, barn, and all aspects of the farmers’ life. Various articles in the omnibus bill of Job Creation will be imposed to strangle the neck of the farmers while at the same time blow fresh air to the capital and investment. Land grabbing for the interest of mine business, Special Economic Zone, and tourism is speeding up and being facilitated. The interest of corporations is disguised under the interest of the public.  

The omnibus bill will authorize the government to arbitrarily decide lands as business or development objects without the people’s consent. The bill will provide land for the interest of business by dismissing the proper study and acquisition of the relocated land.  

Furthermore, the omnibus bill will institutionalize Land Bank. The bank as a profit oriented can be financed not only from state budget but also stock market, third party, loan, and other sources. The bank is designed to make Indonesia a land market for the business interest. The Land Bank will become an additional feature to worsen the land monopoly, escalating the land conflict, and promote land grabbing ways faster than before. The land bank will also facilitate the speculation and land monopoly, enrich the few and suffer the majority of the people.  

The omnibus bill will explicitly and shamelessly affirm the land monopoly. The period of Rights to Cultivate Land (HGU) will be extended to 90 years. The barbaric period would go beyond imagination of the colonial government in exploiting the colonized natural resources. The statement of President Jokowi that criticized the Rights to Cultivate Land from Prabowo Subianto might just be a slip of the tongue. He might grant the bill to compensate the wound inflicted to his current ally. Besides the rights, the bill will echo the story of hundreds of years of land monopoly for plantation, agriculture corporation, and elites by the too familiar elite.   

The death bell of the land reform will ring louder and louder from the presidential palace and the parliamentary complex. The sound will wake those who daydream of the land reform promoted by the President Jokowi. The illusion of the land reform, which is just land certificate distribution, demonstrated the unwillingness to redistribute land and tackle the wide discrepancy of land ownership. We are fully aware that all kinds of land reform slogans are merely unverified without the actions to liquidate the land monopoly from the landlords and the corporations. Only the drunk will consider the land registration as land reform.  

Labor movements must explicitly support farmers as our ally in waging the struggle for land reform. Land reform is a base for national strategic industrialization. Without the shifting of the structure of land ownership in the rural area, the working class will constantly catch themselves in the cheap labor market. The urbanization of the children of the farmers and the peasants to the city will constantly inflate the number of job-seekers in the industrial parks. This law of supply and demand leads to the practice of outsourcing and the “reserve force” of the working class. Industry needs a massive reserve of the working class to decrease the price of labor.      

On this National Farmers’ Day, the working class not only unconditionally support the struggle for land reform but also fight for a just space of life in the urban area. Millions of the working class live in the unhealthy and inhumane slum. The urban areas have demonstrated not only a technocratic zoning but also a sharp class contestation. The rich dominate the space of life. A handful of rich people live luxurious houses, equipped with expensive shopping malls, recreational and tourism destinations when the poor are thrown into the corners of slums with tons of social problems. 

The state has never been concerned about developing an industrial park integrated with the housings and public facilities for workers. The parks merely consist of factories, offices, and other commercial buildings. Never have the government required the allocation of a part of the wide land for the workers’ housing. The use of land in the city has never been distributed fairly for the interests of the population, including the working class.   

The state shows a fragile commitment to fulfil decent housing for its people. The valid indicators of numbers in the state budget confirmed the assumption. In 2019, the state only allocated 2 percent of its budget to develop people’s housing. The amount only met 30 percent of the subsidy required to develop inexpensive housing for the lower income. People cannot access the mortgage either. The Indonesian rate for mortgage only counts for 2.9 percent of its GDP, compared to 22.3 percent in Thailand and 38.4 percent in Malaysia.  

The housing backlog in 2019 reached 7.63 units and 2.38 million houses are not decent for living. The real figure in fact may be bigger than the official data. The data also mentioned there were 10,000 hectares of slums, where many workers live together with other urban poor people. People, including new marriage couples, need at least 700 thousand units of houses. The government does not demonstrate any intention to provide the houses. The issues of a just land management for the majority of the people in the urban area is intertwined with the problems of housing for the people and workers.  

Indonesia is currently entering the era of economic recession. The economic development will certainly contract in the second and third quarter of 2020. As of the first semester of this year, more than 6 million workers were laid off. The domestic consumption has declined resulting in 0.10 and 0.05 deflation in July and August. All the indicators have met the requirements for an economic disaster. Without the need to understand the stock market, common people can tell the story of the situation which became worsening day by day. Unlike the previously failed and stagnant, idea of politics, the social movement now must have a clear idea of politics; to unite the muscle of workers and farmers in the right ideas and actions for the right struggle. 

Therefore, considering the above elaboration, on this 2020 National Farmers’ Day, The Indonesian Confederation of United Workers (KPBI) stated as follow: 

  1. Support farmers in continuing and promoting the true land reform struggle to liquidate the domination of land ownership by a handful of people. 
  2. KPBI is unconditionally up for partnership to work hand in hand with any progressif movement to complete the agenda of land reform. This commitment has no time and condition limitation. 
  3. Rejecting the omnibus bill, that hurts the life of the farmers and the workers. All the articles in the bill that burdens the life of the people shall be dropped. 
  4. Demanding a just and human management of space of life in the urban area by stopping the domination of the interests of the business and the privilege of the rich. 
  5. Demanding the decent and modern integrated workers’ housing. The construction of the new industrial parks must concern the workers’ housing aspects as an inseparable plan for the park development. 
  6. Call for the farmers and workers to strengthen the consolidation as a foundation for the social movement in Indonesia, rectifying the existing struggle, producing new ideas for the right practice and struggle. 


Jakarta, September 23, 2020 


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