Hundreds of farmers demonstrate against rice imports

Source – November 18, 2005
Banner reads 'Stop rice imports' (Tribune)
Banner reads 'Stop rice imports' (Tribune)

Arin Widiyanti, Jakarta – The importation of rice from Vietnam which is being done by Bulog (the State Logistics Agency) with the permission of trade minister Mari Elka Pangestu, has been opposed unconditionally by hundreds of farmers. This is because the price of rice at the moment is good so they believe the policy is intentionally being implemented to “kill” them.

The demonstration by around 500 farmers was held in front of the Department of Trade building on Jalan Ridwan Rais in Jakarta on Thursday November 17.  Permission to import rice of as much as 70,050 tons was issued on November 1 and will be conducted up until the harvest period.

The farmers – who were from the Indonesian Farmers United Federation (FSPI) – came from Kawarang, Bogor, Lampung, Batang and Banten. During their action they wore traditional bamboo hats and brought dry unhulled paddy.

In a speech, the FSPI’s policy deputy, Achmad Ya’kub, said Pangestu, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Vice President Jusuf Kalla and the House of Representatives are made up of people who have already caused farmers to become even poorer.

“Withdraw [permission to] import rice. We have come far in order to open their ears up wide. Look at farmers’ conditions who are suffering even more and colonised by its own nation wearing the mask of state officials”, he shouted. Ya’kub also believes the Ministry of Trade is acting unfairly and arbitrarily towards farmers. “We must teach them how to express thanks to farmers”, he asserted.

Ya’kub also believes that the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is little different from the World Trade Organisation (WTO), that it is a coloniser in a new form because it kills farmers. “We will continue to oppose rice imports, Indonesia’s leaders don’t side with the people”, he said.

There were at least seven demands expressed by the farmers during the action, implement agrarian reform, uphold farmers’ basic rights, provide subsidies to farmers, reject rice imports, remove the WTO [role in] farmers’ issues, uphold food sovereignty and arrest and try the perpetrators of violence against farmers in Awu, Lombok.

FSPI plans to hold the action until 2pm after which they will hold a similar action at the State Palace and the national parliament building. (umi)

[Translated by James Balowski.]