Land reform has been an indisputable part of Indonesian revolution. The consequent execution of development programmes for nation-building have provoked intense hostility over territorial rights. Global market forces in Indonesia have seen increasing flows of transnational investments, technology and resources that have resulted in great demand on sea and land spaces.
In this momentum of change, several aspects of rural culture including indigenous populations, like the Orang Suku Laut (people of the sea) of Riau have been deemed by the state architects of development programmes to hinder progress. For generations, the sea and coastal places have been the life and living spaces of the Orang Suku Laut and they claim ownership to these territories based upon customary laws.
The developmental pressure thus generated has led to intense struggles over territorial rights. It has also raised issues concerning the social assimilation of indigenous peoples as citizens, religious conversion and cultural identity.