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ARTICLE
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 280-293

Death by 1,000 Cuts: Road Politics at Sumatra's Kerinci Seblat National Park


Department of Geography, University of Hawai'i at M?noa, Honolulu, HI, USA

Correspondence Address:
Keith Bettinger
Department of Geography, University of Hawai'i at M?noa, Honolulu, HI
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.145143

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Date of Web Publication20-Nov-2014
 

   Abstract 

This paper examines how decentralisation reforms have led to an increase in road proposals in the districts around Sumatra's Kerinci Seblat National Park (KSNP). Roads through KSNP, which is still under the authority of the central government, are illegal, but the newly empowered districts argue that KSNP's existence is an unfair obstacle to regional economic development, and that the roads would aid in improving the local economies. The article examines Sumatra's extractive economy in a historical context, arguing that past economic patterns have helped in shaping the conflicts over access to resources in KSNP. District elites are attempting to maximise their access to, and benefits from, natural resources by using a variety of strategies to push for the construction of roads through KSNP; these strategies include the discursive construction of a new district geographic identity, the use of formal powers to encourage informal and illegal activities, and the formation of ad-hoc coalitions across scales. Using three case studies, I describe how the road proposals illustrate the different manifestations of centre/district struggles to gain control over, and access to, natural resources.

Keywords: national parks, political ecology, road construction, decentralisation, conservation, access, Kerinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia


How to cite this article:
Bettinger K. Death by 1,000 Cuts: Road Politics at Sumatra's Kerinci Seblat National Park. Conservat Soc 2014;12:280-93

How to cite this URL:
Bettinger K. Death by 1,000 Cuts: Road Politics at Sumatra's Kerinci Seblat National Park. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2014 [cited 2017 Nov 17];12:280-93. Available from: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2014/12/3/280/145143


   Introduction Top


The execution of Wang Weiqin unfolded in the middle of a crowd of soldiers and onlookers who had gathered to watch the most severe legal penalty the Qing state could impose. Two soldiers brought forward the basket holding the knives that the procedure required. Others stripped the victim and bound him by his queue to a tripod in such a way that the front of his body was fully exposed to the state executioner and his assistant. The executioner began by slicing off pieces of flesh from the convict's breasts, his biceps, and his upper thighs...

-Brook et al. 2008: 1.

Death by 1,000 cuts, or lingchi chusi, refers to a form of execution used in China for approximately 1,000 years until it was banned in 1905. Lingchi chusi was reserved for the very worst crimes in Imperial China and conjures up images of a slow, tortured, and inevitable doom. I use this gruesome form of execution as a metaphor to describe a process currently underway at Kerinci Seblat National Park (KSNP), a 1.4 million ha protected area on the Indonesian island of Sumatra [Figure 1], where conservationists and park managers say that the spectre of road construction poses an existential threat to the massive protected area. KSNP is an arena for an ongoing struggle between the central government under the auspices of the Ministry of Forestry (MoF), which is tasked with protecting and administering the park, and the 15 districts and administrative municipalities that surround the park 1 . As a conservation territory (Zimmerer 2000) the park is off-limits to all but a few very specific forms of human activities, and so the districts and municipalities argue that they receive no benefits from its existence. Instead, they say they are unfairly expected to shoulder the burdens of biodiversity conservation. These districts, like all districts in Indonesia, now enjoy greater autonomy and decision-making authority than they did during the corrupt, highly centralised rule of President Suharto and his New Order regime, which came to an end in 1998. At the same time, however, they also bear a greater responsibility for regional economic development. Hence, the districts around KSNP say they have been charged with greater responsibility but without adequate resources to fulfill their obligations. These contradictions are manifested in the more than 30 roads that the various districts have proposed to be built through KSNP. On Sumatra, and in Indonesia in general, roads are visible symbols of development. Roads make it easier for farmers to get their produce to market and create new opportunities for commerce. Roads are also important tools for patronage in local politics, and they allow local elites greater access to state resources. These benefits, however, come with costs. Roads often lead to adverse environmental outcomes and social tension. The benefits and harms of roads are distributed unequally, with benefits generally accruing to political and economic elites while those unconnected to networks of patronage, control, and access suffer the environmental and social 'bads' that the roads make possible.
Figure 1: Map of Sumatra and Kerinci Seblat National Park

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This article describes how road proposals are used by district elites as they challenge the central government's definition of, and claim over, forest resources. I describe strategies, both legal and illegal, used by district elites to contest access to forest resources. Indonesia's recent decentralisation reforms are the proximate trigger for the new developments currently unfolding in and around KSNP, but the issues involved are not new. Moreover, the issues at KSNP are ultimately rooted in the economic and political history of Sumatra, and of Indonesia in general. These long term conditions influence the contestation over resources that is currently taking place, as well as the results of these struggles. This story deals with classic conservation and development issues-parks versus people, centralised versus decentralised authority, conservation versus economic development and market integration.

I utilise a framework rooted in political ecology to examine struggles over access to resources in and around KSNP. I provide an historical overview of commodity extraction on Sumatra to understand how historical factors influence the structure of the economy, and how benefits deriving from this structure have been shared through Indonesia's recent history. I argue that the distribution of benefits, the form of ongoing contestation over access, and the relative power between actors at various scales is influenced by the form of government, focusing on contrasts between authoritarian and decentralised regimes. I describe how decentralisation has created opportunities for district elites to challenge the central government's claim over forest resources and the benefits that flow from the control of these resources. These challenges are manifested in several populist strategies utilised by local elites to make the case for the proposed roads. These local elites employ a particular discourse which frames KSNP as an obstacle to regional development, discursively constructing a dichotomy between conservation and development. They draw on this discourse to garner support in district elections, making road proposals a political fulcrum. District elites also avail themselves of formal powers, transferred to them from the central government by decentralisation reforms, to create conditions conducive to informal and illegal practices. In this way, they are able to directly and indirectly derive rents from forest resources within KSNP. Decentralisation has also led to the emergence of temporary, locally-rooted coalitions of actors at different scales, which are mobilised to support road construction proposals. Using three case studies, I describe how the road proposals illustrate different manifestations of centre/district struggles to gain control over, and access to, natural resources.


   Background Top


Kerinci Seblat National Park and its Surroundings

Kerinci Seblat National Park, which is larger than the US state of Connecticut, and approximately twice as large as Bali, is the second largest terrestrial protected area in Indonesia, behind only Papua's gigantic Lorenz National Park. The 1.4 million ha park stretches for 350 km from northwest to southeast along the Bukit Barisan mountains, ranging in altitude from below 300m to 3,800 m above msl. The park is a land of superlatives-it is the largest continuous area of undisturbed primary forest on Sumatra (Werner 2001); it is home to the world's largest and tallest flowers (Rafflesia sp. and Amorphophallus titanum respectively); it houses the highest lake (Danau Gunung Tujuh) in Southeast Asia along with the highest active volcano (Mount Kerinci) in Indonesia. To conservationists the park is important because it protects a wide range of ecosystems at scales ranging from the local to the global, and biomes ranging from lowland tropical to alpine forests. It is also the largest remaining habitat for the critically endangered Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) as well as hundreds of other species of endemic plants and animals. Moreover, the park serves as the watershed for several major rivers that flow through primarily agricultural regions of south and central Sumatra, providing hydrological and other ecosystem services for millions of people.

The park, which is administered by the central government through the MoF, covers parts of 15 districts and municipalities in four provinces 2 . Since its establishment in the late 1980s, KSNP has faced most of the challenges common to protected areas in tropical countries-illegal logging, illegal mining, poaching, and encroachment. These activities were mainly viewed by park officials as opportunistic acts perpetrated by residents of villages surrounding the park rather than coordinated challenges to the central government's administration of the park. Scott (1987) referred to these sorts of behaviors as "everyday resistance", because although they do signify widespread dissatisfaction with conditions of distribution, access, and control, they are mainly perpetrated by marginal elements in society and so they do not represent a true threat to the established order (Robbins et al. 2006; Robbins et al. 2009). In the years just after the park's designation, park managers had limited enforcement resources, and so in some areas fields and agroforests that predated the park's founding were allowed to remain.

In the mid-1990s the KSNP was the subject of a World Bank funded integrated conservation and development project (ICDP) 3 . One of the goals of the ICDP was to stimulate development in the villages around the park by using a system of village grants and conservation agreements, and so the heads of scores of villages as well as the governments of the then nine districts around the park were involved in various aspects of implementation. During this period the aforementioned illegal activities continued on a small scale in some places in and around the park, and in some instances district level elites were likely involved, but it was not until after the fall of Suharto that rates of illegal logging spiked at KSNP (Hitchcock and Meyers 2006; Hartanto 2009). The ICDP project was initiated during the New Order years of President Suharto, and while some district officials certainly were involved in corrupt activities, they were appointed by the central government and had to operate within the formal and informal constraints of the Suharto system (Dauvergne 1993; McCarthy 2006). Thus the widespread logging networks involving military and district officials that operated in other parts of Sumatra were largely absent from KSNP, in part due to the fact that the it was the subject of international scrutiny.

However, in 2001 4 sweeping decentralisation reforms, enacted in the wake of the fall of longtime President Suharto and his corrupt New Order regime, transferred a wide range of powers and authorities to the districts (Seymour and Turner 2002; Aspinall and Fealy 2003). These authorities included virtually every aspect of government with the exception of foreign affairs, defense and security, judicial and monetary affairs, fiscal, and religious affairs 5 . Since this time, challenges to KSNP's integrity from governments and people living around the park have intensified. Decentralisation, by dismantling the old system of upward accountability, has given official voice to the general discontent with the park's existence. During the Suharto years, district headmen were appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, and a significant percentage of those chosen for this office were high ranking military officials (McCarthy 2006, 2007; Kimura 2012). Appointment to these positions along with access to the benefits of office helped to ensure loyalty to Suharto, but at the same time the districts were closely monitored by the central government, with budgets and development priorities being determined by Jakarta (Mietzner 2009). The decentralisation reforms not only increased the powers and responsibilities of the district governments, but they also made district headmen and representative assemblies downwardly accountable to district residents through direct elections 6 . Aspiring elites at the district level understand the political value inherent in the widespread dissatisfaction with the park, so an anti-park rhetoric is used as a means for garnering support in political campaigns. While challenges to the park prior to decentralisation mostly came in the form of everyday resistance, after the reforms were initiated, the districts, now relatively independent from the central government, increasingly began to question the contribution of the park to district coffers and local livelihoods.

One of the most contentious debates revolves around the issue of roads. Road construction through national parks is forbidden by national law without the consent of the MoF. The MoF has not approved any of the proposed roads not only because of their ecological impacts, but also because roads pose a threat to the MoF's control over forest resources (Peluso 1992, 1995). The MoF, like other bureaucratic entities responsible for land, forests, and other natural resources, is both regulator and rent seeker (Bryant 1997; Peluso and Lund 2011), and so increased access for district elites potentially decreases the ability of the MoF to reach lucrative conservation and/or exploitation agreements with multinational corporations, international nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), and other non-state actors. Roads are also opposed by local, national, and international conservation organisations, but they have widespread support from most other sectors of society. District governments, for example, argue that roads provide an economic advantage, providing shorter routes to existing markets and additional routes to new markets. For farmers in the mostly agricultural communities surrounding KSNP, new, shorter, and better roads decrease transportation time and costs. Other commonly used justifications for road projects are that they will help in opening up isolated and underdeveloped areas or that they will reconnect villages and regions that have traditional or historical ties.

Most of the districts around the park argue that it is an obstacle to development. Not only can they not benefit from the timber, ore, and land sequestered within the park, but the ban on existing roads serves as an enforced isolation that puts them at an unfair disadvantage in relation to other districts. In many instances this is true, e.g. Kerinci district in Jambi province, which is a densely populated enclave completely surrounded by the park, is accessible only via three roads, which adds to travel times and increases the cost of consumer goods. It takes 12 hours by road to reach the provincial capital (Jambi City) and seven hours to reach the nearest port (Padang). However, the role of road construction in district politics cannot be ignored.

Sumatra's extractive economy

Much of the tension between the park and the surrounding districts stems from the economic geography of Sumatra, which in turn is the result of historical developments. Kerinci and other regions of the park share an orientation towards agriculture and commodity extraction, and gradual integration into the global economy based on primary sector activity. For hundreds of years, the island has been a destination for traders who have come from as far away as China and western Europe to barter for its natural riches (Reid 2005). The people of Kerinci have been indirectly and directly involved in this commerce, first trading gold and forest products with the Sultanate of Jambi (Kathirithamby-Wells 1986; Andaya 1993; Burgers 2004; Hartanto 2009). The Dutch and English were both interested in accessing gold in the Kerinci valley and other places around what is now KSNP, including the area that is now Lebong district, but these remote locations proved to be impenetrable until the beginning of the twentieth century. After the Dutch conquered the Kerinci valley in 1903, they built two roads into the area, one from the port of Padang and the other a direct route from the west coast (Aumeeruddy 1994). With these roads came increased cinnamon and rubber cultivation with swidden farms being converted to agroforests. As cash crop agriculture further penetrated the region, more and more farmers moved from subsistence to market-oriented farming (Werner 2001). These economic trends continued through the early post-colonial period.

During the Suharto years the resources of the outer islands were increasingly exploited to finance development projects, but access rights were granted to cronies of the regime at the expense of local stakeholders (Peluso 1992; McCarthy 2006). The result was that while the majority of Indonesia's exports came from the outer islands, profits accrued disproportionately to those with connections to the ruling regime (Dauvergne 1993). One legacy of this 'Java bias' (Kingsbury 2005) is that the outer islands in general lag behind Java, Madura, and Bali in terms of economic development. In addition, while Java has developed a substantial manufacturing sector, the outer islands are reliant primarily on exports of unprocessed natural resources for income and government revenue. As a result, the Kerinci valley and other regions around the park, much like most of Sumatra, are still largely oriented towards smallholder agriculture, but district governments looking to enhance future revenues turn to mining and plantations as growth areas. Thus while the top-down structure and upward flow of resource rents that characterised the Suharto regime are gone, the pattern of extractive activity remains. Moreover, according to the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia's Economic Development (MP3EI), central Sumatra's main role in the nation's economic future lies in supplying natural resources, with a heavy emphasis on coal, rubber, and palm oil (BAPPENAS 2011). The southwest coast of Sumatra is currently experiencing the beginnings of a coal boom, with new mines opening up and new port infrastructure being constructed in Bengkulu province. Because of this, transportation infrastructure linking up isolated but potentially productive areas figures keenly into the economic development trajectory of Sumatra. The condition of road infrastructure also has a direct bearing on the ability of districts to attract outside investment, because transport costs could make the difference between profit and loss in the case of commodities like coal and timber. District officials don't want to be left behind, but KSNP, with its elongated shape, sits athwart the mineral rich Bukit Barisan mountains, thus limiting access to the coal and gold contained within, as well as limiting access through the mountains. Against the aforementioned historical trajectory, the KSNP exists as a sort of anti-historical anomaly.

Impacts of roads

The main argument against the road proposals is that they will adversely impact KSNP. Roads directly impact protected areas by increasing edge effects and fragmented habitats, which leads to a wide variety of avoidance behaviors among key species (Forman and Alexander 1998). This is of particular concern at Kerinci Seblat, where research (Linkie et al. 2006) has shown that Sumatran tiger presence is negatively correlated with distance to roads. Roads can also act as conduits for invasive species (Forman and Alexander 1998).

These impacts are compounded by the economic and physical contexts in which roads are constructed on Sumatra. Road construction in Indonesia is rife with corruption from the sub-district level all the way up to the national level (Olken 2007). Aspinall (2009) demonstrates how local elites collude to control the tendering and bidding process, while Kuncoro et al. (2013) describe how elected officials solicit bribes and kickbacks from businessmen in exchange for road construction and maintenance contracts. As a result, to recoup costs, contractors often use lesser quality materials and techniques when constructing roads, leading to an inferior product. Interviews with district officials indicate this type of corruption is characteristic of the districts around KSNP as well. These negative outcomes are made more apparent by geographic factors. In the mountainous areas surrounding the park, steep, non-armoured road cuts through deeply weathered regolith undermine slope stability, which when coupled with high rainfall leads to frequent landslides which wash out the roads. In addition to temporarily cutting off communities from the outside world, landslides alter stream hydrology and can affect species composition (Coffin 2007).

Conservationists and park officials also point to the secondary effects of road construction, asserting that new roads would provide a point of entry for illegal loggers and poachers as well as frontier encroachment on either side of the road. A significant body of research from around the world support this conclusion (Rudel and Horowitz 1993; Chomitz and Gray 1996; Laurance et al. 2001). Observations and anecdotal evidence from KSNP and the surrounding buffer zone forests suggest that this should be a major concern for park managers.


   Theoretical framework Top


This essay utilises a political ecology perspective to analyse the discursive practices and strategic actions undertaken by powerful district level actors to further their road construction objectives. Political ecology is "an approach to environment-society relations that examines how people negotiate, cooperate, or fight over the access, control, use, and character of the Earth's environmental resources, with a strong eye to the historical, regional, and ecological contexts" (Kull 2004: 22). Political ecologists have generally been interested in how different groups create institutional arrangements that dictate access and control over resources as well as the formal and informal arrangements that affect the distribution of costs and benefits of resource exploitation and the associated environmental degradation (Blaikie 1989; Ribot 1998; McCarthy 2006). As McCarthy explains (2007: 154):

… as actors struggle to benefit from the productive use of natural resources, they make use of a range of social, economic, and legal mechanisms. Legal frameworks, institutional power, group membership, social or ethnic identity, social status, the dynamics within a resource-controlling group, access to the state, to capital, to material resources, to customary authority, to markets, to knowledge and the ability to use institutional mechanisms are all factors that affect the process of gaining access to resources.

Struggle over access and control of resources is ever-present and ongoing, and involves both state and non-state actors and interests. Political ecologists understand that governments are not monolithic, rather they are made up of competing interests and agendas (Kull 2004; Hall 2011), "riven horizontally and vertically by internal fractures with sometimes competing agendas and mandates, each seeking to acquire, maintain, and strengthen its own legitimacy, power and influence" (Baker 2005: 8).

Thus contestation over access and control is a mundane element of everyday politics (Gezon 2005; Peluso and Lund 2011). However, from time to time the basic ground rules that enable certain actors and constrain others change in a manner political scientist T.J. Pempel (1998) has labeled a "regime shift". Pempel describes a regime shift as "a break with the past" (1998: 13) characterised by a move towards a new equilibrium with new institutionalised processes. Regime shifts are watershed events that fundamentally alter power relations, in some cases toppling or weakening old elites while providing opportunities for aspiring ones to improve their position in an emerging web of new relations. For Indonesia, this event was the resignation of President Suharto in 1998. Suharto's New Order government, which ruled the country from 1966 until 1998, was characterised by a top-down pyramidal structure of power. The Suharto regime was marked by institutionalised corruption (which was an important part of patron-client relationships) and highly centralised control (Hutchcroft 2001). In the wake of Suharto's resignation, Indonesia's national legislature passed a series of sweeping decentralisation reforms, partly to keep the country from disintegrating, partly to make a clean break from the old system, and partly to ensure their future in the new political order. These reforms effectively dismantled the old vertically articulated, upwardly accountable system.

The central government has long asserted sole claim to the nation's rich forest resources, placing them under the administrative authority of the MoF. This claim has persisted into the post-Suharto era. The decentralisation regime shift has changed the balance between actors at different scales of government as well as the relationships between them. This opens up space for renewed and reinvigorated struggles over access to resources as district level elites seek to improve their positions vis-à-vis the central government (Rhee 2002; Thorburn 2002; Pradnja 2003; Siswanto and Wardojo 2005). These enhanced centre/district struggles are quite visible at national parks, which are seen as key tools used by central governments to secure access to resources (Neumann 1998; Gibson 1999). Hollenbach (2005) describes four perverse incentives for district elites that could potentially affect the integrity of protected areas in Indonesia.

The first is the imperative to increase locally generated revenue. During the Suharto era, virtually all taxes, fees, and other revenue was funneled to the central government, where it was redistributed to villages, districts, and provinces. Many districts still receive the majority of their operating funds from the central government, which they use to cover routine operating expenses such as salaries. As during the Suharto era, districts don't have much discretion over how these funds can be spent. Decentralisation has brought an important change to the old system, though, in that districts are able to retain a higher percentage of royalties from natural resources, which provides an incentive to increase production. During the Suharto years, all taxes and fees from mining and forestry were collected by the central government, but now only 20% goes to the central government, with the remainder being split between the provincial governments (16%) and the districts (64%). Mining and timber then are major sources of locally-generated revenue, over which the districts have far greater autonomy in terms of determining how the money can be spent.

Second, Hollenbach notes that newly empowered local politicians demonstrate a disturbing tendency to ignore the law and abuse their powers. In Hollenbach's (2005) analysis this takes the form of "issuing tacit approval (i.e. turning a blind eye) to illegal logging in local protected areas in light of the personal benefits such an act is likely to yield" (81). His last two incentives, the absence of an effective conservation funding mechanism and their weakened enforcement capability, are related in that they contribute to a lack of accountability for local elites seeking to benefit from access to natural resources. All of these perverse incentives can be observed at KSNP, which has in the past benefited from a high level of international funding, but now receives virtually no external support and has only 70 active rangers to patrol its 2800 km border. Thus we can see institutional antagonism between local governments and the MoF, and how decentralisation has created new opportunities for district governments. This antagonism comes to a head in the form of the proposed roads.

In the three case studies that follow [Figure 2], I demonstrate how aspiring district elites use a particular discourse of the park to gain popular support in district elections. This allows these elected officials to assert an electoral mandate for road construction; they can claim they are representing the aspirations of their constituents as they seek to maximise the flow of benefits from construction contracts and natural resources to themselves and their supporters. The first case study describes a form of counter-mapping which is used to discursively construct a geographic identity for a new district. The second case study demonstrates how district elites make use of the formal powers to facilitate and encourage illegal activities, which undermine the park, and from which they benefit through new informal networks and arrangements. The third case study demonstrates how the interests of district elites and long neglected villages converge in the form of a proposed road. Decentralisation reforms have created conditions in which stakeholders at these two scales find common cause, but the eventual development of the road would most likely lead to a divergence of interests, with the costs and benefits being shared unequally between the district and village level stakeholders.
Figure 2: Case study roads

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Lastly, two additional issues of concern to political ecologists stand out as relevant to this discussion. The first of these is that an over-reliance on technical solutions often masks embedded sociopolitical issues and impacts (Hecht 1985; Bryant and Bailey 1998). Roads are the quintessential 'technical solution' to development problems in central Sumatra; district leaders assert that roads will enhance development by decreasing the distance to market for farmers and will open up new trading opportunities for entrepreneurs. Roads enjoy widespread support; they are favoured by politicians, bureaucrats, and common people. But each of these groups favours the opening up of new roads for different reasons. This leads to the second postulate: costs and benefits associated with environmental change are for the most part distributed among actors unequally. Because these different groups have varying levels of power and influence, their capability to determine the ultimate outcomes of development projects like roads is unequal. More influential actors will reap more of the rewards and shoulder less of the burdens, while weaker actors tend to experience more of the environmental hardships while enjoying fewer benefits. Using the tools of political ecology we can tease apart these various interests to understand where they converge, and predict where they will diverge in the future and what the consequences of this divergence will be. By looking at the strategies that are used to mobilise support for a particular road project, and by observing how support for road projects coalesce, we might be able to identify potential sites of future environmental degradation and social dislocation.


   Methods Top


Political ecologists rely on a variety of methods and analyses across temporal and spatial scales (Batterbury and Bebbington 1999). This includes oral histories from individuals to understand their perceptions and experiences of resource management and environmental change. Special attention is also paid to institutions and legal and political frameworks that structure formal access to resources as well as informal networks that influence access. Political ecology analysis generally contextualises field data in terms of broader historical processes. This research project was structured with an orientation towards these principles. Research was conducted during 12 months of fieldwork between August of 2011 and August of 2012 at Kerinci Seblat National Park. The project utilised ethnographic and archival research methods. Interviews were semi-structured based on a list of questions specific to each type of informant (village heads, elected officials, park officials, forest police, and so on) developed prior to the beginning of the research project. These questions focused on various aspects of the park's relationship with its neighbors as well as general questions about the history, economy, and social aspects of villages around the park from different perspectives. Interviews with elected and appointed officials at the district level also dealt with politics and governance within the districts as well as economic development priorities. I interviewed district planning officials in nine of the 15 districts and municipalities, and district headmen or vice headman in four of the 15 districts and municipalities. I also interviewed officials from various district forestry departments. All informants are treated as anonymous in this essay to protect their identities. From these interviews I learned about the development priorities of each of these political entities as well as their perceptions towards the KSNP. These interviews enable me to make a number of generalisations later on in this article. In addition, I conducted interviews and focus groups with more than two dozen park staff, ranging from the park director to forest policemen, which provided insight into the history of relations between the various political entities and the park as well as the legalities behind road building and the park's official stance on the roads. I interviewed representatives from six local/regional conservation and community empowerment NGOs, one national conservation NGO, and one international conservation organisation. I collected and reviewed official planning documents and statistical yearbooks from three of the four provinces covered by the park, as well as ten of the districts and municipalities 7 . I reviewed thousands of pages of official documents from the park's archives describing management and enforcement activities at the park. I also visited villages in 11 of the 15 districts and municipalities where I conducted interviews with village heads, village secretaries, adat leaders 8 , and focus groups with village residents. Focus groups included between six to ten informants and discussed aspects of the village economy along with village relations with the national park. While conducting work in villages I visited seven of the more than 30 proposed road sites, including all of the sites described in this essay. During my year of fieldwork in Indonesia, I monitored a number of newspapers, ranging from national and provincial dailies with content available online to district tabloids and weeklies only available in print. This material helped me to understand how proposed roads are discussed in the media and how roads become objects of political contestation.


   Results and discussion Top


Case 1: The Kambura Road and the Formation of a Geographic Identity

Official district-produced maps of Solok Selatan, a mountainous area on the southern periphery of West Sumatra province, show a road linking Muara Labuh, the largest town in the district, with Kambang, a village in Pesisir Selatan district located on the western coast of Sumatra. The road is also portrayed in the district's spatial plan for the period 2011-2031 (rencana tata ruang wilayah, RTRW), a document which illustrates and describes the long term development vision for the district. The road figures prominently in the strategic plan because it provides a direct route to the coast for the district's expanding mining output. The 'Kambura' road is named for the towns that bookend its path through the hills and down to the coast. However, though this road is featured on the map, it has not yet been built. Officials in Solok Selatan say the road is still in the planning stages, but they see its eventual construction as an inevitability. The reality is a bit more complicated; since the road would pass through KSNP, it would require special approval from the MoF. Though the MoF has already rejected the road, district officials have resubmitted the proposal and have budgeted money for costs associated with the road's construction.

The maps produced by the government of Solok Selatan are an interesting case of counter-mapping, which has, over the years, been used in Indonesia for the purposes of 'appropriat[ing] the state's techniques and manner of representation to bolster the legitimacy of "customary" claims to resources' (Peluso 1995: 384). Typically those that employ counter-mapping techniques are local communities and indigenous groups supported by NGOs and international donors. This case differs from most instances of counter-mapping in that it is an official political entity that is using maps to challenge the central state's authority. The maps are part of a broader narrative of the impact of KSNP on the district as well as an important part of the district's emerging geographic identity. This identity serves the interests of district elites empowered by processes set in motion by decentralisation, who are seeking the road in order to enhance the benefits they already realise from privileged access to natural resources.

Solok Selatan is a new district, formed in 2003 after being split off from Solok district to the north. The formation of the new district was facilitated by decentralisation laws which allow for the creation of new districts and provinces. The rationale for the district split was that Solok district was too large, which hindered administrative efficiency, and the resource endowment of what would become Solok Selatan district was sufficient to support a new administrative entity. Some local informants, however, say the split was driven by well-connected local elites seeking to take advantage of new laws to increase their access to state resources, both in the form of grants to districts from the central government and access to the new district's natural resources. Those pushing for the creation of the new district were eventually elected to powerful positions in the new government, giving them access to a wide array of patronage powers. The result has been the establishment of a new centre of political power and decision making that is relatively remote from larger markets for its agricultural produce and ports from which to ship raw materials.

For these elites the road is very important because it will decrease the distance to port facilities in Pesisir Selatan. Conservation activists insist that this is part of a larger plan which would enable district elites to more easily and profitably ship timber, mined ore, and other commodities out of the district. These elites would benefit directly because they own land that would be mined and indirectly as they would be able to issue licenses to mining companies in exchange for kickbacks. According to local conservationists the park would suffer in two ways: first from the construction of the road corridor through the park, which would fragment habitat and provide a point of entry for loggers and poachers, and secondly because increased mining and logging would lead to encroachment since the companies would, with the sanction and protection of the district government, move beyond the official borders of their concessions and mine and log within the park.

This obviously is not the sort of justification that is likely to gain the approval of the MoF, and so the district's administration has been working to construct a narrative of the new district's geographic identity, which includes historical connections to Pesisir Selatan district. Officials in Solok Selatan say that there was a well-travelled route between the two districts that for centuries was used by locals to trade potatoes, sugar, and other inland products for fish and other coastal specialties. As a result of this commerce, the two areas share kinship ties and cultural affinities, but when the borders of the park were established in the mid-late 1990s, the route was severed as access to the footpath was circumscribed. They argue that in addition to general economic development, the road would foster a renewal of these historical ties. Villagers on either end of the proposed road admit that there were trading relations between the two areas, but that traffic on the road dried up in 1990 when roads in both areas were upgraded, which improved access for vehicles on either end of the road. Better roads encouraged local villagers to take longer, but easier to traverse routes.

The local government also claims that the route is needed as an evacuation route. In interviews they point to the number of active faults in the district as well as the district's proximity to Mount Kerinci, the highest active volcano in Indonesia. The new road is needed because in the case of a natural disaster, the existing roads out of the district would quickly become clogged, which would hamper access for emergency crews and relief supplies. This vulnerability also forms an important part of the district's geographic identity, an identity that necessitates the construction of the Kambura road. Local conservation NGOs dismiss this logic, though, since the proposed road would take a steep and winding path through one of the most seismically active parts of the district, thus greatly limiting its functionality as an escape route.

Though these justifications for the road are rejected by local NGOs, they are effective at mobilising support amongst the voting public. The concern over evacuation routes seems to be widespread in the district, and many people in other parts of the district feel that renewing historical ties is a legitimate justification for the road. Indeed, some people in the district already think the road exists. But the road is not universally supported in the district government. High ranking bureaucrats admitted to me that the road has drawn attention and resources away from more pressing issues in the district, and while they personally are not in favour of the road project, they are compelled to publicly support it because they were appointed and can be dismissed by the district's headman. The road, according to many informants, is the most important political issue in the district, and this is due to the district headman's dogged insistence that it be built 9 .

The Kambura road case illustrates how district elites discursively create and promote a particular vision of the district's geographic identity that places great weight on the construction of the road. The case also shows how decentralisation has led to fragmentation in planning processes and how planning is subject to the whims and priorities of local elites. In Solok Selatan the road would greatly aid local elites as they seek to maximise their benefits from natural resources. In Pesisir Selatan district, on the other hand, the road is not as vehemently championed by the local elites. It appears neither on spatial planning documents nor on maps for the district, which lends support to the aforementioned hypotheses.

Case 2: Renah Pemetik: encouraging frontier settlement

The second case centres on an isolated enclave of Kerinci district called Renah Pemetik, a smaller, fertile valley that is connected to the main Kerinci Valley by a narrow pass. According to local sources, due to its remoteness Renah Pemetik was virtually unpopulated until the 1940s when, during the Second World War, farmers moved into the area to grow rice, fleeing the Japanese occupation forces who were at the time appropriating all rice surpluses produced in the main valley. When the Japanese were defeated, these farmers moved back to their homes, abandoning their fields in Renah Pemetik. In the 1950s, a few farmers from the closest village outside the valley began planting cinnamon in the area, but utilisation was still limited because of the valley's isolation. In the 1970s, a new wave of farmers entered the valley to clear farmland, forming settlements that would eventually grow into the five administrative villages that exist today.

Though a dirt road was constructed into Renah Pemetik in the 1980s, access was still difficult by motor vehicle in the dry season and often impossible in the rainy season. These factors have limited migration into the valley, and in 2010 there were approximately 700 families there. That year the district government began improving the road, widening, smoothing, and hardening it while altering the route to shorten travel times. This endeavor is a pet project for the current district head, who has kinship ties with the families of the initial settlers 10 . The new road is 6 m wide and has been hardened to a village in the centre of the valley, with work continuing to one of the more remote villages. The road has concrete lined 1 m deep drainage ditches on either side, which are designed to channel water away from the road during the rainy season and are not found on other roads in the district. This road, which represents a significant investment for an area populated by 700 families in a dead-end valley with no through traffic, has greatly improved access into Renah Pemetik.

This may seem like a profligate use of scarce resources until one considers the geographic context. Since construction began, the district head has proclaimed his intentions to convert the sparsely populated area into a 'lumbung padi' ('rice barn' 11 ). The fundamental reasoning behind this is sound, since the valley is relatively flat and covered with rich volcanic soils and has ample water resources. From an economic perspective, though, the valley's isolation decreases the potential for commercial agriculture there. To address this, the district head has announced plans to develop irrigation infrastructure and two additional roads linking the region with the main Kerinci Valley as well as an adjacent district to the east, which would presumably provide a ready market for Renah Pemetik's increased agricultural produce. The district has also already built a new school and clinic in Renah Pemetik.

The problem with this plan is that the two additional roads would pass through the park and would hence need to be approved by the MoF. Though there are no signs that approval is forthcoming, the district leadership seems convinced that the roads will become a reality. Interestingly, in all of the district head's public statements about the road and the development of the Renah Pemetik area, he makes no mention of the park. According to local NGOs as well as field interviews and observations, the population of Renah Pemetik is increasing rapidly. Farmers are highly confident that the proposed roads will be completed, and this is fueling the influx of migrants. However, along with the increase in population has come an increase in deforestation in the national park surrounding the enclave. According to local informants, many of the newcomers are not spontaneous smallholder migrants but are rather sharecroppers working on land 'owned' by district elites. There are even indications that certain village heads in Renah Pemetik are selling park land with the informal sanction of the district head. According to numerous residents, park land is currently being sold for two million rupiah (about USD 222) per hectare if the buyer clears the land himself, or four million rupiah (about USD 444) per hectare for cleared land 12 . This is significantly cheaper than land in other parts of the district. Moreover, this opportunity is not available to everyone; only those with connections to district elites are permitted to buy in. Thus it can be said that much of the new clearance is based on speculation that the roads will be built and is facilitated by district elites.

This information gathered from field informants is supported by an event that occurred in October 2012 which was widely reported in local newspapers (Jambi Ekspres 2012, Januar 2012a,b). A task force consisting of personnel from the park, district police, and army conducted an operation and arrested five farmers that were present on 100 ha of illegally cleared land 13 . In the days that followed, hundreds of district residents converged on the district legislature's office building to demand the release of the five encroachers. As the story unfolded, it was revealed in the newspaper accounts that those arrested were merely working land controlled by powerful district elected officials. Park officials publicly acknowledged these connections and drew attention to the scale of the clearing, which they argued could not have been done by smallholders and was instead evidence of stronger backing and greater influence. Eventually the encroachers were released.

The fact that the population is increasing in Renah Pemetik allows the district government to make the case that this 'isolated area' should be linked up with other regions. As noted above, any new road through the national park would require approval from the MoF; in other words, an exception to national law. It might be difficult to justify this exemption for a mere 700 households, but the more people that move into the area the greater the demand there is for improved infrastructure and the easier it is to make the case that there indeed should be a road. Thus by widening the road and informally encouraging migration the district government has created a positive feedback loop. Better roads lead to more immigration into the valley, which in turn strengthen calls for additional infrastructure.

The district headman has been able to leverage formal powers assigned to him by decentralisation reforms to encourage this migration. But the dismantling of the Suharto system of upward accountability comes into play as well, as he has also used his formal powers to directly undermine and weaken the park. On one of my field visits to Renah Pemetik, I discovered by using my handheld GPS unit that the road connecting the two valleys passes illegally through the park. When I asked a park staffer about this, the informant told me that I was mistaken, so I double-checked the route on a subsequent visit. During our next conversation my informant told me that the road was indeed built illegally through the park but that this fact is not common knowledge. According to this source and others the district government instructed the contractor to reroute the road during construction so that it diverged from the originally planned route to take a slightly shorter course through the park. KSNP officials admit a degree of embarrassment since they only learned about the 'intentional mistake' after the road was completed and nothing could be done. This episode highlights the difficulties faced by the park's managers as they struggle to control the park's long boundary with a skeleton crew of forest police. It also illustrates the lack of accountability for district governments in terms of implementing programmes and projects that directly undermine or damage the park, and the district headman's understanding and strategic use of this lack of accountability. The new road through the park has already been flanked by extensive coffee cultivation on either side, and erosion of the slopes where the cut was made is already clearly visible.

The benefits deriving from the increased access to Renah Pemetik are not shared evenly among all district residents, though. This case study indicates that group membership, in this case close ties to, or membership in, the current district headman's regional group, plays a strong role in determining access to resources. Previous research (Berry 1989) has shown that cultural ties including kinship or village membership are in fact very important factors in resource control, but in most cases around KSNP these ties have generally been utilised informally, beyond the bounds of formal government. The case in Renah Pemetik shows that decentralisation has created the conditions whereby these group ties become institutionalised at the district level.

Case 3: The Serampas road: cross-scale convergence of interests

The third case study shows how local aspirations in a formally peripheral area have been appropriated by district elites to lobby for a road that would greatly benefit these elite interests. Serampas is the name given to an area and its inhabitants in Merangin district in Jambi province. While historically Serampas has been a difficult to reach corner of Sumatra owing to its rough topography, it has been populated for hundreds of years and has a strong adat tradition and oral history (Neidel 2006; Hariyadi 2008). Indeed, in many areas around central Sumatra, including Kerinci Valley and parts of Mukomuko in Bengkulu province, people claim that their ancestors that founded their current villages originated from Serampas. The region consists of five villages; two of these are located on a sealed road that connects to the district capital, but the other three (Tanjung Kasri, Lubuk Mentalin, and Renah Kemumu) are located within the national park along a poorly maintained spur road that dead ends at the most remote village (Renah Kemumu). There is also a 20 km footpath through the park linking Renah Kemumu with a complex of villages in Kerinci district. Traditionally there has been a significant amount of traffic along this path and there are strong kinship ties between the Kerinci villages and the Serampas. Over the years traffic has decreased along this path, but some people, including groups of school children, use the path to make the seven hour trek to Kerinci from Renah Kemumu.

The road through the park which links up these three villages to the main district road has long been the subject of a great deal of tension between conservationists and the park on the one side and the residents of Serampas on the other. As mentioned previously, access to these villages has historically been limited by geographic conditions, but this situation is not unique to Serampas. Throughout central Sumatra there are inland valleys that until recently could only be accessed by foot, and there are a number of villages in upland areas around the park where access remains difficult during the rainy season. However, while roads to other villages have been improved over the past twenty years, the situation in Serampas is complicated because Tanjung Kasri and Renah Kemumu are located completely within the borders of the park, and so the types of road upgrades that have been completed elsewhere have to be approved by the MoF. Serampas residents have long objected to this enforced isolation, and many residents maintain that the lack of a good road is a violation of their constitutional rights as Indonesians. Prior to decentralisation though local residents' complaints fell on deaf ears, both among district officials and park managers. In fact, until very recently the road to Tanjung Kasri was passable only by two-wheeled vehicles and only in the dry season. Renah Kemumu, which is separated from its neighbor village by two rivers, was not accessible by motor vehicle at all. However, when a large earthquake struck the region in 2009 the lack of access hampered relief efforts, resulting in increased casualties. In the wake of this disaster, the national legislature allocated funds to improve the road and the MoF approved the plans with a number of caveats regarding the dimensions of the road.

Though the road to Tanjung Kasri has been improved, the continuation to Renah Kemumu has stalled because money has run out. Residents of the area attribute this to corruption in the road construction process. Clearing has been completed about half the distance between the two villages, with steep gradients and cuts through hills to create a passable dirt path where previously there was only a footpath. Though at the time of my fieldwork there was still some heavy equipment parked along the route, the project seems to have been abandoned, and so the steep gradients and cuts into the hillsides have been left without any kind of buttressing, reinforcing, or other improvements to reduce erosion, which is very noticeable on the uncompleted road.

The residents of Renah Kemumu, and to a lesser extent Tanjung Kasri want the road to be completed. The reasons for this are understandable; in Renah Kemumu the price of gasoline in 2012 was 12,000 rupiah per litre (USD 1.25), compared with the subsidised rate of 4,500 rupiah per liter (USD 0.47) at the pump. In Tanjung Kasri the price was 10,000 rupiah per litre (USD 1.05). Moreover, since most people in Renah Kemumu don't have motorcycles they have to pay for transport to the main district road; from Renah Kemumu and Tanjung Kasri the price is 2,000 rupiah (USD 0.21) and 1,500 rupiah (USD 0.16) per kilogram of cargo, respectively. These high prices have the double effect of lowering the profitability of all agricultural produce in the area, while simultaneously inflating the cost of all goods brought in. It also limits the crop choices available to the farmers, and according to them the encroachment that occurs in the area is driven by the fact that the only way for farmers to make money is through expansion of tree crops like cinnamon. Renah Kemumu residents also want the 20 km footpath from Renah Kemumu to Kerinci district upgraded so that it is passable using a motorcycle (approximately 1.5 m wide). This would allow them to transport their cinnamon to the large market in Kerinci district, which geographically is much closer than the district capital and market centre of Merangin district.

Improvements to the existing road and permission to upgrade the forest path are not forthcoming, however. A special independent fact finding team was dispatched to the area by the MoF in 2011, and although the proposed road from Serampas to Kerinci is still being deliberated within the MoF, there are indications that it will not be approved. This continued lack of action has increased tensions between Serampas residents and the park. The resentment is so high that villagers speak of a detailed plan to sell dozens of hectares of land to a group of approximately 60 families from outside the region for 900 million rupiah (USD 95,000), which would be divided amongst the households of Renah Kemumu 14 . The plan is being coordinated by two influential retired government officials in the district capital. These officials are said to have reached an agreement in principle with a well-known financier who has already organised the migrants. The people of Renah Kemumu have not decided whether to approve the sale yet. While some members of the community are quite defiant, they realise that this would be an irreversible step and might invite strong intervention from the central government. Moreover, they worry about land availability for their descendents and recognise that they might begin to lose control if outsiders begin to outnumber natives. Regardless of these considerations, residents of Renah Kemumu describe the plan in terms of an ultimatum to the park and MoF to approve the road upgrades.

Meanwhile, the next election for head of Merangin district was scheduled for late 2013, and several of the candidates have made repeated trips to the area, promising to push for the road's approval. Since decentralisation reforms made district officials directly elected by their constituents, the road has become a political issue, and aspirants for office have appropriated the plight of the Serampas to make themselves more attractive as candidates. These politicians stand to gain more than votes from their support for the road project, though. If they are elected then they will be able to appoint cronies and supporters to the district's bureau of public works, which would be responsible for coordinating the tendering and bidding processes for any construction project. The fact that the budgeted improvements following the earthquake were never completed strongly suggests the presence of corruption.

In the case of the Serampas road, the interests of the district elites and the village residents converge. Both want the road, but for different reasons. Moreover, district officials would prefer a 6 m road from Renah Kemumu to Kerinci, whereas locals want a paved motorcycle path. The difference would be in the amount of traffic passing through the park. The goal of local residents is increased access to Kerinci for themselves only, whereas district officials envision a new inter-district artery. Therefore although interests at different scales merge behind the idea of the road, if it were to be approved these interests would likely diverge. District elites would control virtually all aspects of the road's construction, and the improved access would most likely encourage in-migration, since as mentioned above migration often follows road construction. The new road would also likely lead to increased penetration of the state, which could have dire consequences for locals. Hall (2011: 837) describes the ongoing global "land grab" as it relates to commodity booms in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. As access to the Serampas area increases, it could potentially become a frontier for cash crops, with state actors, private corporations, and migrants all competing against local residents for access to land (Hall 2011). Since the residents of Renah Kemumu and Tanjung Kasri live within KSNP, they have no formal title to their land, which makes them vulnerable to various strategies employed by powerful actors attempting to usurp control over land (Potter 2001; Hall 2011; Li 2011). Currently there is some in-migration, but numbers are low and male migrants must marry into the community to have access to land. Thus until now the Serampas have been able to control movement into their territory which has enabled their traditional land management institutions to persist. However, it has been shown convincingly that outside migrants can disrupt and weaken traditional management systems in Indonesia (Bebbington et al. 2004, 2006). This disruption takes at least two forms. The first due to shear numbers; vast numbers of migrants overwhelm an area, increasing stress on local institutions of government and resource management. The second effect is by exposing and aggravating divisions within the local community (Li 2002). Presumably, as in other cases, village elites might ally with outside interests to sell access rights to village or park territory to outsiders, as has happened in many places around KSNP, including the previously discussed case of Renah Pemetik. These village elites and their district level partners could stand to benefit greatly from this type of arrangement, but the rest of the villagers would likely be worse off, especially if adat systems were weakened.


   Conclusions Top


Political and economic processes play a large role in how natural resources are managed (Daniels and Basset 2002). This essay has demonstrated how Indonesia's decentralisation reforms have invigorated formal and informal struggles over access to natural resources at Kerinci Seblat National Park. I have argued that resource extraction historically has been the backbone of the Sumatran economy, both at the micro-scale and for larger political units, and so this legacy of extraction shapes development trajectories into the future. The decentralisation movement has made access to resources much more valuable to local elites, and so the national park has become what Peluso and Lund (2011: 668) call a "new frontier of land control": "a [site] where authorities, sovereignties, and hegemonies of the recent past have been or are currently being challenged by new enclosures, territorializations, and property regimes". Road proposals have become an important weapon in the arena of struggle between the districts around KSNP and the central government. The case studies have demonstrated the ways in which newly empowered local elites seek to build support for road proposals.

This article has shown how district governments facilitate challenges to central authority by utilising formal powers devolved to them by decentralisation reforms. Two examples are illustrated, the first demonstrating how district officials conjure the Kambura road, allowing it to be treated as an inevitable part of the district's development process. The second case shows how formal powers are used to construct roads and other infrastructure, which facilitates migration into Renah Pemetik.

Robbins et al. (2009: 560) note that in conservation areas, "the reality of resource use and access is often characterised by informal negotiation, illegal extraction, and rule bending". These authors refer to the realities that structure these dynamics as 'hidden institutions'; although these activities are illegal there are defined rules of access. One of the major contributions of the case studies is that they illustrate the potential utility of roads in structuring the rules of rule-breaking in favour of district level elites. These elites understand that the park's enforcement capacity is limited, and so there is great potential for rule-breaking in the form of selling land as well as access to trees and minerals in the park. Thus the case studies reveal the evolution and emergence of hidden institutions of access at KSNP.

Lastly, although most clearly articulated in the final case study, these examples clearly demonstrate how decentralised politics, which has empowered districts while making them downwardly accountable, has led to a convergence of interests between district elites and villagers. District elites benefit from roads in several ways. The simplest and most universal is through corruption associated with road building contracts. But we also see from these case studies that local elites can benefit from improved access to natural resources. Villagers also benefit from improved access because transport costs are lowered. To the list of beneficiaries we must also add migrants, who benefit from increased access to land in KSNP. However, this essay has demonstrated the temporary nature of these conditions, since after roads are built, the costs and benefits from road construction, and particularly the substandard roads that are generally built on Sumatra, are distributed unevenly.


   Acknowledgements Top


I would like to acknowledge the generous support of the United States-Indonesia Society and the Mellon Foundation, without whom this research would not have been possible. I would like to thank Krisna Suryanata, Ehito Kimura, and Wendy Miles, all of the University of Hawaii, for their comments on earlier drafts. I would also like to express my gratitude to the two anonymous reviewers whose comments and suggestions made this a much better essay.[66]


   Notes Top


  1. Districts (kabupaten) and horizontally equivalent administrative municipalities (kota) are the middle level in Indonesia's five-tier administrative hierarchy. At the highest level is the national government, followed by the provincial, district, sub-district (kecamatan) and village (desa) units, though in some places there are minor variations to this structure.
  2. Bengkulu, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Sumatra.
  3. The Kerinci Seblat National Park ICDP included a Global Environment Facility (GEF) grant for USD 15.5 million and a loan of USD 21.3 million, making it the largest ICDP in the world when it was proposed in 1994 (Wiratno et al. 2004).
  4. The two most important laws, Law 22 Concerning Regional Governance and Law 25 Concerning Fiscal Balance Between Central and Regional Governments, were passed in 1999 but took effect in 2001.
  5. The law also reserved for the central government 'authority in other areas', which includes conservation and the utilization of strategic natural resources, which allowed the central government to maintain control over state forests and protected areas.
  6. This was accomplished with the passage of Law 32 in 2004 which revised and replaced Law 22/1999. Under 22/1999 district headmen were chosen by, and accountable to, district legislative assemblies.
  7. The national government recently passed a law requiring all regional spatial plans, including those at the kabupaten and provincial levels, to be rewritten consistent with new standards and guidelines. At the time of my research several of the kabupatens' spatial plans were still in draft stages.
  8. Adat is generally literally translated as 'customary law'; it refers to a variety of local systems and codes of administration, organisation, governance, and access. I find the term 'customary law' an inadequate equivalent for adat, and so in this essay I will simply use the Indonesian term.
  9. It is also remarkable that the governor of West Sumatra province, of which Solok Selatan and Pesisir Selatan are parts of, has publicly stated that the road is not needed.
  10. The original settlers came from the current district headman's village complex in Siulak, Kerinci, and until very recently Renah Pemetik valley, though separated by mountains, was in the same administrative subdistrict as Siulak.
  11. This expression is similar to the English expression 'breadbasket'.
  12. Since these transactions involve park land they are illegal and hence there is no title of ownership. This in part accounts for the discounted price, but those buying land in this system are demonstrating their faith that the district leadership will eventually prevail.
  13. The amount of land here suggests external backing and involvement that extends beyond these five farmers. Most encroaching smallholders cultivate between 1 and 2 ha, which on average is the maximum that can be worked by a family.
  14. The land that would be sold is, all land in the area, in the park, and so the villagers have no legal title to it. The people of Serampas claim adat rights to thousands of hectares, a claim that is not acknowledged by the MoF.


 
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