Written by: Een Irawan Putra
Seated in his hut and seeing his community harvest their rice, R. Kondo Lada’ said that the area was the Ambalong’s rice barn. A few decades ago, before Sae was opened for rice paddies, the community had to buy or ask for rice from their families in Seko Padang. “At that time our paddies were not enough to produce rice for the entire community. Since we opened up the land again – Sae and the surroundings – which we inherited from our ancestors, we have no longer had to go to Seko to buy or ask for rice,” he continued. During the DI/TII rebellion (one intending to turn the republic into an Islamic state), a war between the Kahar Muzakar’s troops and the Indonesian Army broke out in Sae – the Ambalong customary territory. All the rice paddies were abandoned as the community fled the area. As can be seen, the area is the life of the Ambalong; they will never let the area be submerged for a hydroelectric power plant project. “No compromise when it comes to this land,” he asserted.
Kondo Lada’ regretted the government’s failure to acknowledge what the Seko really needed. The Seko have tried to help the government save the money allocated for cheap rice for the Seko but it was the government itself that would impoverish and inflict suffering to the Seko through the plan to wipe up their rice barns. “With the loss of our rice barn, my community will definitely get poor. They will possibly die from famine if the government insists on submerging our rice barn,” said he. He added that his own paddies could produce up to 100 sacks of rice annually. He is always willing to help others in need of rice. Alex, one of the Ambalong, who was harvesting his rice at that time, said that he also grew coffee and cocoa in addition to rice. “My rice paddy is not large, producing only 30 sacks annually but I can harvest one ton of coffee and cocoa annually,” he noted. Agreeing with Tobaro R. Kondo Lada’. Alex confessed that he had no other land to work on for livelihood but the land inherited from his ancestors.
With a permit from the district government of North Luwu, PT Seko Power Prima will build a 480-MW hydroelectric power plant in Central Seko. The Betue River, which flows through the Ambalong’s customary land – Sae, will be blocked to divert the water to Ratte where the turbines are located, through three 18-km-long and 8m diameter tunnels. The tunnels will also cut through the hill, groves, cliffs, cropland, and hamlets. It is the government and company’s plan that has troubled the Seko and disturbed their long-standing peaceful lives.