Academic journal article Borneo Research Bulletin

Resource Claims between Tradition and Modernity: Masyarakat Adat Strategies in Mului (Kalimantan Timur)

Academic journal article Borneo Research Bulletin

Resource Claims between Tradition and Modernity: Masyarakat Adat Strategies in Mului (Kalimantan Timur)

Article excerpt

Since the introduction of administrative and fiscal decentralization in 1999 and their implementation in January 2001 through law 22/1999 and law 25/1999 respectively, Indonesian local politics have been undergoing thorough revisions. (1) Whereas many aspects of local governance were under direct control of the central government during the Orde Baru, law 22/1999 delegated a number of wide and varied powers and responsibilities to lower administrative levels and to the districts (kabupaten) in particular. Many local governments instantly set to work in implementing changes in administrative, social and economic policies so as to fit central regulations to local circumstances. At the same time, the reformasi that was the cause of decentralization brought about a wave of spirited public participation in local politics that called for a return of local identity which had for years been secondary to Indonesian unity and nationhood. Inspired by this desire to "do things the local way," local adat returned to the fore of social life and public administration (e.g., F. and K. von Benda-Beckmann 2001, Sakai 2003). In representing and emphasizing local identity through ceremonies, distinctive architecture, and the like, adat has for years been a useful instrument to the national government for limiting local diversity to subjects harmless to matters of national unity (e.g., Acciaioli 1985), but in as far as it is concerned with matters of national interest such as claims to land or natural resource management, local adat and national government frequently have opposing views regarding each others' authority. (2) Although Indonesian land law includes references to adat land claims and acknowledges their existence, the status of adat claims to land and other natural resources is far from unconditional recognition and the law allows the government to make numerous limitations to adat rights (Article 5/Basic Agrarian Law (Undang-Undang Pokok Agraria), see Haverfield (1999:51-54) for a more elaborate discussion) which limited their recognition under the Orde Baru mostly to a theoretical principle.

Since the beginning of reformation, conflicts over adat land have become widespread throughout the archipelago and pose difficult problems for local and central governments alike. Adat claims to land and natural resources have become a source of criticism of government planning, of demands for formal recognition of rights to land and of the return of adat lands to communities. The government approach to land conflicts tends to evaluate land claims by considering to what extent they have formerly been recorded by official procedures of land registration. Yet, as land administration policies do not allow for the registration of communal claims to land shared by all members of an adat community (a phenomenon often referred to as hak ulayat in scientific and legal discourse, but found in an enormous variety of names and concepts throughout Indonesia) there is hardly any evidence of the continued existence of such land usage in official files, and claims to adat land have to compete with registered concessions that are supported by official archives and individual user certificates issued by relevant government authorities. Perhaps this is what the head of Badan Pertanahan Nasional (BPN, the national land agency) referred to when he mentioned on television that adat lands continue to exist in West Sumatra alone. (3) As Indonesian land law does not allow BPN to register communal claims to adat land, it is impossible for BPN to recognize such claims because no proof can be found in its archives. On the other hand, adat groups claiming rights to land tend to have little use for BPN's archives, but base their claims on oral history, social relations, and other unwritten sources that are difficult to verify and usually unknown to people not part of the adat community. In return, this has given rise to the development in administrative and research discourse of the concept of "adat revivalism" which assumes that adat disappeared from daily life and had been replaced by state law, hence viewing recent claims as an artificial matter not in the interest of the community but inspired by individual hopes of personal prestige or material gain. …

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