CDA on Mesuji’s case
CDA Analysis on The Article “Three Different Areas, Actors and Causes”
(The Jakarta Post, December 30th
By Denny Kodrat*
Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) attempts to uncover one of the article entitled “Three Different Areas, Actors and
Causes” taken from The Jakarta Post on December 30th
, 2011. The aim of the CDA is to uncover the underlying
ideology behind the text based on eight principles of method suggested by Fairclough and Wodak (2000:153). The
finding is that The Jakarta Post showed Mesuji case in certain perspective which exposes the power relation and
Keywords: Discourse, Power relation, ideology
The story of Mesuji has become a main topic in almost all national media. During the case, national media
play an influential role in telling "the truth" to people among many interests appeared in this issue. The parties
directly getting involved in this incident are the companies which hold an industrial forest concession or HGU (Hak
Guna Usaha), people in Mesuji and the government. Since media are not "ideologically free" in publishing this
story, the use of Critical Discourse Analysis is important to uncover "the social, cultural, economic, and political
ways in which people are inequitably positioned" (Pennycook, 1997:23; Paltridge, 2000:153). The text taken from
The Jakarta Post article, entitled “Three different areas, actors and causes” written by Hasyim Widiarto is analyzed
by using eight principles of theory or method suggested by Fairclough and Wodak (1997). These are:
1. Critical discourse analysis addresses social problems by examining the linguistic character of social and
cultural processes and structures. Thus, social and political processes have a (partly) linguistic or
discursive character that is reflected in the use of certain linguistic and discourse strategies and choices.
2. Power relations are exercised and negotiated in discourse. Thus, power operates through language and is
negotiated through language.
3. Discourse constitutes society and culture in that language not only reflects social relations but is a part of
them and reproduces them.
4. Ideologies are very often produced through discourse. Their production includes ways of representing and
constructing society such as relations of power, relations of domination and exploitation, and relations
based on gender and ethnicity.
5. Discourse cannot be considered separately from the discourses that have preceded it and that will follow
it. Nor can it be produced, or understood without taking these intertextual relations and sociocultural
knowledges into consideration.
6. Critical discourse analysis makes connections between social and cultural structures and processes and
properties of texts. These connections are, however, complex, and more often indirect than direct: that is,
they are very often mediated.
Denny Kodrat |Three different areas, actors and causes 1
CDA on Mesuji’s case
7. Critical discourse analysis goes beyond description and is both interpretative and explanatory. Further,
these interpretations and explanations are open and may be affected by new readings and new
8. Critical discourse analysis, by uncovering opaqueness and power relationships, is a form of social action
that attempts to intervene and bring about change in communicative and socio-political practices.
1. CDA addresses social problems
As written in the article, The Jakarta Post identified Mesuji case as the dispute between the companies and
residents. It can be obviously seen in each sub-headings, "Register 45 residents vs PT. Silva Inhutani Lampung" (line
1); "Sungai Sodong villagers vs PT. Sumber Wangi Alam" (line 44); "Tanjung Ray residents vs PT. Barat Selatan
Makmur Investindo" (line 84). These sub-headings give clear indications that there is a social problem (conflict) in
Mesuji and it involves people and the companies. The Jakarta Post mentioned the sequences of the problem as
three phases. (1). The villagers were deceived, by paying some money or giving their certificate to get the land
from the so called "leader" as they assume so. It can be observed as follows, "Some farmers said they paid
between Rp. 5 million and 10 million for every hectare of land in the area to Megou Pak community leaders, in
exchange for land-gift certificate, which they later found out were neither official nor legal." (line18-20). "The
villagers, led by prominent local figure Syafei Hasan, known as Haji Jalang, claimed that they had submitted a total
of 534 land certificates to SWA in 1997 in exchange for financial compensation and the rights to manage 1,068
hectares of land in company's oil palm plantation area under a small-holder scheme. However, as of today, the
company had only managed to allocate less than 300 hectares of land for the villagers" (line 55-58). (2). The
company promised to give people the land as stated in line 92, "The villagers also claimed that the company had
once promised to involve them in a "plasma cooperation scheme". And (3). The company refused to acknowledge
the promise and it took over the land from the villagers, as written in line 24, 59, 95-98.
These sequences depict the social problem vividly. The villagers who need lands for their life should face the
companies which own a legal document for planting in that area. Even though the villagers become the victim, the
company along with the government takes over the land with a physical violence. By mentioning words such as
“has refused to acknowledge”,” strongly deny”, “a raid”, “the dispute”, “a deadly brawl”, “the clash”, “killed”,
“furious”, “shot”, The Jakarta Post addresses the social problem, that is, the domination of the companies--the
capitalists-- to dominated people, and it successfully unveils the social identities by naming "Moromoro", "farmers
from Java, Bali and Lampung" in one side, and stating the "Silva is a subdiary of Sungai Budi Group--a diversified
Denny Kodrat |Three different areas, actors and causes 2
CDA on Mesuji’s case
company with headquartervin Jakarta", "SWA is owned by businessmen Muhammad Akib, former president
director of publicly listed plantation giant PT. London Sumatera" in another side. The representation of these social
identities indicates that the discourse is influenced by power and ideology (Paltridge, 2000; Fairclough, 1992)
2. Power relations are discursive
There are two big problems in Mesuji case. First, the problem in land concession which involves people
and companies. Second, the position of government which supports a capital owner (a company) (Munir, 2012).
These problems show the existence of power relation in a discourse. Media, in this context The Jakarta Post, have
a power to control the discourse (van Dijk, 2004), showing marginalised and oppressed people when people spent
some money to get the illegal land from Megou Pak communiy leaders (line 15-20), although it is denied strongly
by the leaders (line 26-27). There is no evidence to decide who is telling the truth, people or Megou leaders.
However, the foregrounding strategy is used by The Jakarta Post, as it puts "the people spent some to the leaders"
at front, and later "the confirmation by the leaders". This strategy could affect the interpretation of the readers. By
putting it at the first, the readers will assume it as something true, and will assume the next as something untrue
while The Jakarta Post could have put the leaders’ statement in the first and people confession in the second. This
foregrounding strategy is the way to manipulate "the truth" exercised by the media (Hodge and Kress, 1993 ),
while in this case, the truth should be proven in front of the court. The way The Jakarta Post picturing the case can
be based on the two big problems as explained earlier. First, it pictures the oppressed position of villagers that
there is an unfair situation in Mesuji. The second, The Jakarta Post takes its position in people’s side as a response
to the human right violence in Mesuji, it is strongly supported in line 118.
The article exposed the relation between the company, the Lampung governor, and police department, as
it is seen in line 32. They tried to solve the case by establishing a joined team. The Jakarta Post described it with a
dramatic style of narration. The violence indicative words such as “raid”, “was killed”, and “allegedly shot” show
how the power of state institution deals with common people. The article indicates the appearance of power
misuse towards people and publishes the suffered people when they are killed, raid and shot by the state
institution. In this part, The Jakarta Post uses its power as a media to represent this event which benefits those
who want to use it. Since the violence action done by the government to its people is probably considered as a
violence to human rights, then the human right activists and those who are government opponents can take
advantages from this description.
3. Discourse constitutes society and culture
To see how this discourse constitute society and culture, the three broad domains of social life, that is,
representations, relations and identities (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997) are analyzed. From the text, the dispute in
Mesuji is represented as the dispute of company (supported by the government) and people. This representation is
exposed again and again by presenting the role of company, government and police department (including Army)
Denny Kodrat |Three different areas, actors and causes 3
CDA on Mesuji’s case
chronologically. The company, government and police are as one party and people as the opponent. From this
depiction, there are not only two conflicting parties, but also unequal position of the parties. The first, a
dominating party (the company, the government, police) and a dominated party as the second. The Jakarta Post
shows us how a dominating party treats a dominated party as The Jakarta Post stated as “human right violations”
Mentioning the detailed identities of the involved actors, such as “Silva is a subdiary of Sungai Budi
Group” (line 31), “Lampung Governor Sjahroedin ZP” (line 32), “Adj, Sr. Comr. Priyo Wira Nugraha and First Brig.
Setiawan” (line 38), “PT. Sampoerna Agro” (line 50), “Local figure Syafei Hassan” (line 55), The Jakarta Post
convinces the readers that the actors who are getting involved are not usual actors. In a broader perspective, this
conflict is not only about the conflict between the company and people, but also it is about how the government
tends to support the capital owner in handling the land dispute. As it is stated deliberately that the raid to the
villagers was supported by Lampung governor, Police and military (TNI) officers (see line 32-39, 101, 111-112).
4. Discourse does ideological work
Ideology is the fundamental beliefs of a group and its member (van Dijk, 2004: 7). It may control not only
what we speak or what we write about, but also how we do so (van Dijk, 2004: 28). Furthermore, van Dijk gives a
strategy to examine an ideology in a discourse by presenting the structures of a subtle ideological analysis, they
are: “Emphasize a positive thing about US” and “Emphasize a negative thing about THEM” (van Dijk, 2004: 44).
From the discourse built in the article, US can be defined as people, and THEM can be regarded as the company.
The reason is, first, people are generally presented as an intimidated party, no negative depiction can be included
for people. On the other hands, the company is depicted as a powerful party, and no positive depiction can be
included for it. The second, the physical violation and human right issue are the strong reason to determine US and
THEM. Even though the company has a legal document to own the land and because of this document the
government is indeed in the position to justify it, The Jakarta Post shows not many things to support that fact. As a
matter of a fact, The Jakarta Post should do so. Nevertheless, the physical violation by killing or the conducting of
raid by the ‘dominant’ side is not disapproved by The Jakarta Post. That is why, in the article, the legal document is
not discussed deeply. The discussion is more about how the company, government and police (also TNI) face the
people without explaining it from the legal perspective, which might help the company, government and police
position to be considered rightful.
In this text, the ideology works by emphasizing a negative thing about the company, the government and
police department, as it can be observed, for instances in the sentences, “Overwhelmed with the situation, Silva
requested support from Lampung Governor Sjachroedin ZP, who established a joint team last year, supported by
officers from the Lampung Police and Public Order Agency, to implement an organized plan to evict the illegal
Denny Kodrat |Three different areas, actors and causes 4
CDA on Mesuji’s case
farmers from the company’s land.” (line 32-34), “In a raid held by the joint team on Nov. 6 last year, a Megou Pak
tribesman, identified as Made Asta from Pelita Jaya hamlet, was killed after he was allegedly shot by a Lampung
Police officer.” (line 35-36), “As illegal harvesting and looting continued earlier this year, SWA hired dozens of
private security guards to help secure its harvests —a move approved by local authorities.” (line 72-73), however
by emphasizing a positive thing about people, such as, “The Post’s investigation has found that most of the new
settlers bought land from Megou Pak community leaders, who claimed the company’s idle land as part of
sanctuary land belonging to Lampung’s indigenous people.” (line 16-17), “Some farmers said they paid between Rp
5 million (US$550) and Rp 10 million for every hectare of land in the area to Megou Pak community leaders, in
exchange for land-gift certificates, which they later found out were neither official nor legal.” (line 18-20), “The
villagers, led by prominent local figure Syafei Hasan, known also as Haji Jalang, claimed that they had submitted a
total of 534 land certificates to SWA in 1997 in exchange for financial compensation and the rights to manage
1,068 hectares of land in the company’s oil palm plantation area under a small-holder scheme.” (line 55-57). Why
there are two polarizations in the text, the underlying ideology appears in the line 118-119, that is, the human
right issue, which means that The Jakarta Post supports the supremacy of human rights. The simple sentence “the
case has strong indications of human rights violations” (line 118) points out that The Jakarta Post is concerned
much with the human right issue, while the violation towards human rights must be determined by the court.
5. Discourse is historical
The readers will understand much about how the case happens if they have a prior knowledge, especially
the Mesuji situation in 1990s, and the regulations in land production (UU. Pengurusan Agraria) and natural
resource exploration (UU. Sumber Daya Alam). As the writer mentioned the background and historical event of
Mesuji in the late 1990s, the problem does not coincidentally happen without a historical background and a
reason. Furthermore, there is a problem with the regulation itself. On the one hand, the regulation of land
production allows people to use and plant in a state land or non-productive land, on the other hand, the regulation
of natural resource exploration prohibits people to use the land of HGU, even though the land has not been
produced yet by the HGU-owned companies.
So, when the readers do not know the historical background of the case, they tend to see the violence actions
done by the company, the government and the police, or the readers will focus on human right violation issue
without considering the broader contexts, such as the chronological event from the past to now, the legal
regulation, or even, who is the person like Megou Pak community leaders. Do the leaders here mean the
government-appointed leader, like Lurah, or Camat? Or the leaders are elected by people, like Kuwu, Kepala Desa,
or Tetua. Such terms should be clarified to avoid the vague in the readers.
6. The link between text and society is mediated
Denny Kodrat |Three different areas, actors and causes 5
CDA on Mesuji’s case
The way to report the Mesuji case by The Jakarta Post will be based on its ideology as “media ideologies of
journalists control their ways of writing or editing news, background stories or editorials” (van Dijk, 2004: 28).
From the article, it seems that the case can be constructed based on the Marxist theory “a class struggle”, which
justifies people as a proletarians by all means fight against the company, the government and police which are
regarded as a bourgeois (Thompson, 1984). The proletarian is dominated party (people) and the bourgeois is
dominating party (in this case is the company, the government and police). The Jakarta Post plays its significant
role in mediating the proletarian and bourgeois based on its perspective. Then, where is the position of The
Jakarta Post in depicting Mesuji case? Considering the media ideology controls their story (van Dijk 2004), the
position of The Jakarta Post can be traced from the line 116-119 “The government must settle the land dispute
problem to prevent similar violence from occurring. The case has strong indications of human rights violations, with
witnesses claiming shots were fired by the police at close range.” From the discourse, concerning with the
suggestion to the government and human rights violations, The Jakarta Post is placed itself in the people’s
7. Discourse analysis is interpretative and explanatory
CDA is aimed at uncovering how discourse is shaped by the ideology and power (Paltridge, 2000).
Moreover, discourse can be interpreted in different ways (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997). From this point, The
Jakarta Post seems to picture the human right violation as the main issue, beside a similar event also takes place in
Bima NTB, for instance. In Bima, a group of people, the traditional mining workers, occupied the Port Sape. They
were protesting the Bupati regulation about the mining exploration operated by big companies. Similar to what
happened in Mesuji, seven people were killed and hundreds of people were seriously injured in Bima case.
In the perspective of US and THEM, it is clear that two parties are involving in the conflict. They are people and the
company. According to this perspective, THEM uses an unfair and unjust approach in dealing with US. THEM is
supported by the (local) government and police while US is not. This imbalanced position is pictured by The Jakarta
Post by revealing the human right violation in each event and requesting the government fair action, as it can be
observed in another heading on January, 2nd
2012, “Conflicts can flare up in resource-rich areas: Walhi”, and on
2012, “Fact finding team reports human rights problem in Mesuji”.
8. Discourse is a form of social action.
Critical discourse analysis, by uncovering opaqueness and power relationships, is a form of social action
that attempts to intervene and bring about change in communicative and socio-political practices (Fairclough and
Wodak, 1997; Paltridge, 2000). The power relationship in the text appears when the social identities (the company,
the government, police) are uncovered. The Jakarta Post plays also its power when it writes the chronological
events and the violence activities.
Denny Kodrat |Three different areas, actors and causes 6
CDA on Mesuji’s case
The active clause such as in line 39, “Adj.Sr.Comr.Priyo Wira Nugraha and First Brig. Setiawan, who shot into the
crowd” will form a social action. It is because the link between actor and process is strengthened. The actor is
directly attached to the verb (Hodge and Kress, 1993). From the clause, the readers, as a part of social
communities, will believe that the actor with police attributes (Adj.Sr.Comr; First Brig) commits the human right
violation, that is, shooting into the crowd.
Fairclough, N. 1992. Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Policy Press
Fairclough, N and Wodak, R. 1997. Critical Discourse Analysis, in van Dijk, T. (ed.). Discourse as Social Interaction,
London: Sage, pp. 268-284
Hodge, R and Kress, G. 1993. Language as Ideology. Routledge
Paltridge, B. 2000. Making Sense of Discourse Analysis. Gerd Stabler. Antipodean Educational Enterprises
Pennycook, A. 1997. Critical Applied Linguistics and Education. In R. Wodak and D. Corson (eds), Encyclopedia of
Language and Education, Vol. 1: Language Policy and Political Issues in Education. Dordrecht:Kluwer
Thompson, Jhon. B. 1984. Studies in the Theory of Ideology. University of California Press: Barkeley, Los Angeles
Van Dijk, T. 2004. Ideology and Discourse: A Multidisciplinary Introduction. Pompeu Fabra University: Barcelona
Munir, Nurdiman. 2012. Kasus Mesuji Akibat Pemodal Manfaatkan Ketidakmengertian Warga Soal hukum.
Available in (www.lensaIndonesia.com20120104kasus-mesuji-akibat-pemodal-manfaatkan-
ketidakmengertian-warga-soal-hukum.html.) accessed on January, 5th
The Jakarta Post. 2012. “Conflicts can flare up in resource-rich areas: Walhi” available in
Accessed on January, 2nd
The Jakarta Post. 2012. “Fact finding team reports human rights problem in Mesuji” Available in
Widiarto, Hasyim. 2011. “Three different areas, actors and causes”. Available in www.thejakartapost.com/news/
2011/12/30/three-different-areas-actors-and-causes.html. accessed on January, 2nd
*Denny Kodrat is a lecturer at STBA 11 April Sumedang, teaching Writing VI.
Denny Kodrat |Three different areas, actors and causes 7