Two Freelancers Covering Land Dispute Are Murdered

A wealthy palm oil plantation owner is suspected of being the mastermind behind the murder of two campaigning journalists in Indonesia.

The two Maraden Sianipar, 55, and Maratua P. Siregar whose age was not given were found dead in a ditch with numerous stab wounds all over their bodies.

A motorcycle they had borrowed to travel to a meeting with the landowner was nearby. The location of the ditch was near the oil palm plantation run by the firm PT Sei Alih Berombang, also known as the multibusiness cooperative (KSU) Amelia, which is located in Wonosari village in Jakarta on 30th of October.

The businessmen was identified only by his initials, WP, and he was linked in with the killing as the mastermind after the arrest of the four people believed to have been directly involved in the murder, were also only identified by the initials of DS, JH, VS and SH. Three other people again identified only by their initials of JS, R and HS are still being sought.

The two journalists were actively involved as freelancers covering land disputes between powerful individuals and local farmers and it was a land dispute that triggered the killing according to North Sumatra Police chief Insp. Gen. Agus Andrianto. He said the businessman had paid JS Rp 15 million to have a farmer named Ranjo Siallagan murdered to bring to end a lengthy dispute but the farmer had survived the murder attempt.  He said they believed that WP then directed JH to kill Maraden who turned up at the plantation together with Maratua where the suspects with the exception of the businessmen and JH were there to meet them. 

The suspected killers had armed themselves with a bladed weapon known as a kelewang and the policeman said: “The suspects asked the victims why they had come to the plantation before a quarrel broke out, which ended in murder.”

The policeman said the businessmen had paid DS Rp 1.5 million in cash for the killing and that afterwards DS allegedly received an additional Rp 40 million from the treasurer of WP’s company, with Rp 7 million to be given to JS, Rp 17 million to DS, Rp 9 million to HS and Rp 7 million to JK.

VS and SH allegedly struck Maraden with a piece of wood and threw the body in the ditch. DS, meanwhile, reportedly recruited R and hacked Maraden’s head and left palm with a kelewang. He also choked Maratua to death, police allege.

The businessman was arrested by the police in the CBD Medan Polonia housing complex.

If found guilty, the suspects face the death penalty, a life sentence or 20 years in prison under Article 340 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on premeditated murder.

Before working as freelance journalists, Maraden and Maratua worked for local weekly Pilar Indonesia Merdeka (Pindo Merdeka).

The two were also known for their activism and advocated for locals involved in land disputes.