INDONESIAN LAND RIGHTS: VISION AND REALITY
Indonesian land laws and regulations, as in many other countries, provide a fine vision of egalitarian, prosperous smallholder farmer communities, producing food and other crops on sustainable farms with secure tenure. But this contrasts sharply with the situation existing on the ground. In this chapter I will raise the question: what kinds of land tenure regimes are needed in Indonesia and similar countries, to promote just and equitable access to land for those who need it, and who can make good use of it for the benefit of themselves and society?
The Indonesian Constitution and basic land laws, developed in the early years of independence, are quite clear about the need for land to have a ‘social function’ and to be used for the ‘greatest possible prosperity of the people’. We find for example, in the Indonesian Constitution: ‘The earth, water and natural resources contained in them are controlled by the State and [are to be] used for the greatest possible prosperity of the people’, and in the Basic Agrarian Law of 1960: ‘The State's right of control gives it the authority […] to determine and regulate the legal relations between people and earth, water and atmosphere’, and ‘All rights to land [should] have a social function’.
In recent years new laws on food, on protection of agricultural land and on the protection and empowerment of farmers have given further shape to this vision, including the obligation of the State to guarantee security of tenure, to provide land to those smallholder farmers who need it, and to increase employment opportunities in agriculture, underlining consistently that the regulation of land tenure, food production and support to farmers must be based on principles of ‘cooperation, equality, sustainability, and justice’, and with special priority for small farmers:
The organization of food production will be based on the principles of sovereignty, self-sufficiency, security, safety, utility, equality, sustainability and justice.
The National and Regional Governments have the obligation to provide a guarantee of provision of agricultural land [by] facilitating access to state land […] providing loans to farmers empowering them to obtain agricultural land [… and] providing rights to leasehold and use-rights [and in all these activities giving] priority to farmers who own less than 2.0 hectares of farmland, and landless farmers who cultivate less than 2.0 hectares.