New publication: ‘A 150-year old obstacle to land rights’

Article by Ahmad Dhiaulhaq and Ward Berenschot in Inside Indonesia: ‘A 150-year old obstacle to land rights’.

This year marks the 150th birthday of one of the most consequential laws in Indonesian history. In 1870 the Dutch adopted the Agrarische wet or undang undang agraria. This law contains the provision that would become known as the domein verklaring: ‘all land not held under proven ownership, shall be deemed the domain of the state’. With this ‘domain declaration’ the Dutch colonial rulers claimed ownership of most of the land in Java. This ownership would later extend beyond Java. This domain declaration is important because it has facilitated the colonial exploitation of Indonesia by weakening Indonesian control of their land. Western plantation and mining companies are able to acquire access to land without having to buy it from rural Indonesians.

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Photo: Protestors calling for land reform, Jakarta, September 2019. Dhemas Reviyanto / ANTARA FOTO.

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