People need land: to live on, to grow foodstuffs and to obtain the many natural resources required in the global economy. Control over land and its riches hence is a powerful asset. “Who Owns the Land?“ is a multidisciplinary study of discourses of land rights and control over land to shed new light on the creation, maintenance and functioning of authority in East Kalimantan.
In 1998 the Southeast Asian economic crisis hit Indonesia, and brought an end to more than three decades of authoritative rule by the New Order regime. What followed was Reformasi –reform- a process of reinventing Indonesia. More presidents took and lost office than in all preceding years, democracy arrived with a vengeance and the shape and future of Indonesian society was the subject of serious national debate. Decentralization of legislative power to regional government was seen as a desired solution in the post-authoritarian state. Yet decades of New Order rule left its mark, notably in a widespread social understanding of clientelism and nepotism, rather than democracy and liberalism as characteristic of governance.
Decentralization thus created an arena in which reformers, New Order conservatives, local elites and such forces as materialised along ethnic and religious lines, could have it out.
“Who Owns the Land?” deals with the effects of decentralization on control over land in the sparsely populated and resource-rich province of East Kalimantan. Laurens Bakker takes a socio-legal perspective in researching the effects of decentralization on access to land, and approaches the issue of land rights and their regulation through official legislation as well as from the perspective of the local population. This study deals with how land rights are argued, with the strategies of obtaining rights. It seeks to find out how rights are formulated, based on which criteria, and by whom. Based on extensive field research among rural and semi-urban population groups, among NGOs and inside the newly empowered regional bureaucracies in East Kalimantan, the focus of the book lies on the argumentation and success of claims rather than on their legal validity; on the discourse rather than the code.
This book thus offers a unique insight into the legal situation of land tenure, the ways in which authority functions, regulatory rules are formulated, complied with, and enforced in post-New Order, Reformasi Indonesia.