Were cement company interests behind change of forest land classification?

The Radar Sorong newspaper, on 19th April 2017, published a story about the Environment and Forestry Minister signing an agreement to change the land use designation an area of protected forest in Gunung Botak (bald mountain), Momiwaren sub-district, South Manokwari Regency, West Papua province.

According to the head of the Papua Barat Province Forestry Agency, Hendrik Runaweri, the local government recommended a change of land use designation, where 2000 hectares of protected forest around Gunung Botak would be classified as production forest, and the minister agreed to 40 hectares. It was also reported that this protected forest had its status changed to accommodate the interests of PT SDIC Papua Cement Indonesia, which has a cement works in Maruni, Manokwari Regency, West Papua Province, as a source of raw materials for cement production.

No information is yet available about how the local government or the minister managed to fulfill various conditions and procedures needed to change the land use classification of the forest, such as a study by an integrated team, a study of impacts and an agreement on boundaries involving local communities. Because of this, opinions have been voiced that the government has neglected to carry out these steps and has been overly accommodating to corporate interests.

In 2014, the Environment and Forestry Minister (at that time still just the Forestry Minister), issued decree SK710 about changes of use and function of the forest estate, and land being excluded from the forest estate, which included classifying Gunung Botak in Momiwaren sub-district as an area of protected forest. According to the Strategic Environmental Review in the Papua Barat Provincial Spatial Plan (2013), Gunung Botak is a hilly and mountainous karst area, and also a zone with a risk of disaster. In accordance with the Ministerial Regulation 17/2012 from the Energy and Mineral Resource ministry which establishes Karst Landscapes, this area of state forest should ideally be maintained with a classification of protected forest.

The Government policy to change the land use and issue a permit to exchange the forest area also disregards the land rights of the local indigenous communities and their right to participation. Community leaders and clans who claim ownership of the land, the Sayori, Ainusi, Tirirbo and Mukiri clans living in and around Siep, Yekwandi and Mawi village, have said that there has still not been any decision-making meetings with the government and companies to discuss the use of the Gunung Botak area. (Further reading (Indonesian): PT SPCI Membohongi Masyarakat Adat Pemilik Gunung Botak)

The local community explained the mythology of Gunung Botak as it related to their cultural identity and ancestors, such as the story of the Yaimeki cave or source. This is also their source of food and water catchment. This sort of knowledge and value is rarely considered when making decisions about development projects.

The government is using the pretext that the extraction of quartz sand from Gunung Botak would reduce the price of the Conch brand cement SDIC produces which currently costs 57,000 Rupiah per sack on the local market. Quartz sand is currently being brought from Kalimantan, which increases the price. However, the strange thing is, Conch cement produced in Manokwari is being sold in Tual (Maluku) at 46,000 Rupiah per sack.

This sort of change in policy which only takes into account the group’s interests and is based solely on a cost-benefit economic analysis will only bring conflict, injustice and discrimination, to the benefit of certain groups and individuals. Read More »

Posted in Around West Papua | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

Moi indigenous people block the road in opposition to oil palm

The sky was blue that morning and the sun’s intense heat would burn your skin. Hundreds of people from the Moi indigenous community in Sorong Regency, West Papua arrived at the crossroads at the entrance to the administrative centre of Klaso sub-district, blocking the street while they unfurled banners stating their opposition to oil palm expansion in their ancestral domain.

Moi people from three sub-districts in Sorong Regency took part in the road blockade on the morning of Wednesday 22nd March – Klaso, Saengkeduk and a new prospective sub-district Selekobo. It was timed to coincide with a meeting between the Sorong Regency government and oil palm operator PT Mega Mustika Plantation with the local community, which would take place in the administrative centre of Klaso sub-district.

PT Mega Mustika Plantation is one of several oil palm companies which has been issued permits by the local government. Bupati decree 66.1/127/2014 awarded the company a plantation business licence for 9,835 hectares, based on the location permit 221/2011 which had previously been issued on 23rd December 2011

According to Agus Kalalu, who is from the Moi ethnic group, this action to close the road was an expression of the people’s frustration, because none of their previous actions had been met with a meaningful response from the company or government.

“This is the fifth time that people from the three sub-districts have taken action”, Agus said.

The first action started in Saengkeduk village, and was followed by a second action in Klaben village in 2012. The third action was in front of the Sorong District Legislative Council building in 2016 and then most recently during a meeting with the Sorong Regency Forestry Agency in 2016.

David Ulimpa, a Moi indigenous community leader as well as being one of the customary landowners in Klaso sub-district, stated the reasons for opposition to the oil palm plantation in a speech, believing that it would have no effect on the community’s economic wellbeing. On the contrary it would bring hardship.

The people would not only lose their ancestral domain, they would also end up as labourers on their own traditional lands. He took as an example a case from Klamono sub-district, where PT Henrison Inti Persada, the company working in the area, has fired workers, local people, just because they were demanding their rights. Read More »

Posted in Around West Papua | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

The commercialisation of ancestral forest

In late 2016, President Joko Widodo signed a decree to officially grant legal status to the customarily-owned forest of nine indigenous communities in different parts of Indonesia, covering a total area of 13,100 hectares. This amount of land is insignificant in comparison to the millions of hectares of forest and other land which Jokowi had promised to acknowledge or give to people around Indonesia during the two years he has been in office.

The objective of establishing this customary forest is in general predominantly for conservation and President Jokowi stressed that this customary forest cannot be bought and sold, either now or in generations to come. This stipulation not to commercialise customary forest and keep it for conservation is in line with the perception that regulation is necessary and that indigenous people need protection from the threats and pressures of the power of capital.

The reality on the ground is that indigenous communities hold over their customary land is continually being gnawed away at by the power of capital through various means which result in the exclusion of indigenous communities, which can even lose their access to their land and customary forest entirely. According to Derek Hall et al (2011), there are four interconnected powers which exclude people from their land – Regulation, connected either with state laws or other forms of regulation within society; market through economic relationships which exclude the people, legitimation through government claims to make administrative decisons based on economic and political reasons or moral justifications, and force, which includes state military power or violence from non-state actors.

The majority of indigenous people, possessing low social capital, do not manage to avoid capitalist snares which over many years forcibly gnaw away at community social and economic systems, changing value systems concerning land. Concepts of land and ancestral forest, which once prioritised their social value and function, change to regard forests as sources of commercial commodities and disputes over claims of ownership between groups or individuals emerge. Being trapped into dependence on the market for their families’ subsistence needs forces them into deciding to sell commercially assets such as land, ancestral forest and other commercial property to which capital-rich investors assign a sale value.

This kind of commercialisation of customary forest which leads to the exclusion of indigenous communities has been experienced by Papuans living in Arso, Keerom Regency. In October 2011, timber company PT Victory Cemerlang Indonesia Wood Industry was able to obtain a statement of agreement to release rights over customary land from five clan leaders who owned the land. PT VCIWI plans to convert around 6000 hectares of natural forest along the Begonggi River to an oil palm plantation. The heads of the village administration, the Arso sub-district administration, the customary council and the customary chief are also all aware of this letter. The commercialisation of ancestral forest enabled by these letters of agreement to release land rights is being used as a justification to issue permits, including a location permit in 2013 and a plantation business licence in 2015.

PT VCIWI has been in the commercial timber business in the area for many years. The company has created a dependency in the community on capital resources under the company’s control. This dependency and a desire for envisaged profits have captured the local indigenous elite and persuaded them to release the land, making their ancestral forest commercially available to the company. Aside from this, the company has used techniques of deception accompanied by promises of welfare.

The head of the Keerom Customary Council, Servo Tuamis, said “The Victory company says it will us the land adjoining existing oil palm plantations PTPN II and PT Tandan Sawita Papua, in fact it is taking the customary forest that makes up the Arso people’s golden triangle”, lamenting the company’s dishonesty and that the community leaders had already signed the document.

This time round, the company didn’t need to use violence from state forces, as had been the case in the past when state-owned company PTPN II started work in the area in 1983. The new company is using non-state power, the legitimation of the clan leaders’ decision and that of traditional and local government leaders to obtain rights over the land and permits to use the land, forest and the commercial timber. The position of the elite assuming exclusive power, and the power of the company in a relationship of production has already excluded the interests of many people, including that of the indigenous people of Arso over their ancestral forest. Read More »

Posted in Around West Papua | Tagged , | Comments closed

Freeport: Student solidarity for change.

[awasMIFEE note: after a month where the giant Freeport mine became a topic for national debate across Indonesia once again, focussed as always on whether or not the US company should be obliged to hand over a controlling stake to the Indonesian Government,  Papuan students have been asking why no-one ever talks about the mine’s destructive impact on Papua amidst this outpouring of Indonesian economic nationalism. On 20th March, students demonstrated in Jayapura and Timika in Papua and in cities across Indonesia where Papuan students were joined by Indonesian supporters from the solidarity network “FRI West Papua”. The text below is a statement from the organisers of the demo in Jayapura, which reportedly attracted 500 people.]

Student solidarity for change.

United Student Front to shut Freeport [FPM-TF]

Shut Freeport and all foreign companies, which are the mastermind of crimes against humanity and environmental destruction in Papua.

“Allow freedom and the right to self-determination as the democratic solution for the Papuan people” 

On Monday, 20th March 2017, a peaceful demonstration tookk place, co-ordinated by students. This action took place in several areas simultaneously, including Jayapura city, Timika, Jogjakarta, Bandung, Manado, Bogor, Palu and Jakarta. The demands of the actions were to close the Freeport mine and to allow freedom and the right to self-determination.

The following is a reflection and statement of opinion written by the United Student Front to Shut Freeport in Jayapura City.

Whether or not Freeport should divest its stake in PT Freeport Indonesia, as legislated for in Presidential Regulation no 1/2017, is now becoming a hot topic for debate within Papuan society, ranging from Governor Lukas Enembe who supports Indonesian policy to institutions which have related interests, and also the Papuan bureaucracy. However, all those who support the plan to divest 51% or an extension of the contract of work, whether they are Papuans or from elsewhere, are drawing naive conclusions.

The squabble that divides the Indonesian Governent and Freeport, whether the company should divest a 51% stake or not, whether Freeport’s legal status in Indonesia should be changed to a special mining liscence (IUPK) or remain a Contract of Work, is a polemic played out between the vested interests of capital and bureaucrats claiming to speak on behalf of the people. In particular, it does not reflect the interests of the people of Papua.

This chaotic situation has already created many victims amongst the casual workers employed by PT Freeport Indonesia. They have been dismissed without their need for a livelihood having been taken into account(ie severance pay). It is very clear that it is a principle of capitalism that workers are needed in times of capital expansion and accumulation. In times of crisis, they are not troubled to think about the fate of workers.

The same is true for the social situation of the West Papuan people. PT Freeport Indonesia is known internationally as one of the biggest mining companies in the world. But what do the Papuan people get from this? Poverty, human rights violations, genocide, colonialism, and its nature destroyed by a capitalist system that produces more and more without consideration of the laws of nature and the effects on human life. Read More »

Posted in Around West Papua | Tagged | Comments closed

Malalilis oh Malalilis, what fate has befallen you?

Malalilis is a village belonging to the Moi people in Sorong Regency, Papua Barat Province. The village is located quite far from the main road and with few inhabitants, but with an immense forest. What is it like now? Maybe it was because the forest was so vast and the inhabitants sparse that outsiders considered that the forest had no owner, and so cleared 40,000 hectares and planted an oil palm plantation. This area used to be part of a logging concession,but has now been converted into a lease title for cultivation. Now the Moi people in this place live a precarious live in the middle of an oil palm plantation owned by PT Henrison Inti Persada (HIP) What follows are the stories of the inhabitants, recorded when participants in the Conference for Indigenous Communities affected by Investment in the Land of Papua visited on Sunday, 4th December 2016. How sad it was….!

“We’re not against development, but as we understand it, development has to benefit us too. But what has been happening? They tear down our forest, they don’t respect us, their behaviour towards us is as if we weren’t the landowners. Some of the ways they treat us include: We’re not allowed to walk around the plantation in search of food during the daytime, they say if we want to look for food, go ahead, but just do it at night-time; 2) We are not able to keep livestock at home. They go from house to house and kill our animals, especially dogs, but those are the dogs we use to go hunting and find food”

“There’s a lot more we have to put up with. We’ve shouted about this all over the place, but it seems that all the doors are closed for us. Our young people who fight for our rights are just arrested by the police and put in prison. And then the men or women who work as labourers on the plantation, they have been fired without a reason and without severance payments. And at the same time, we no longer have the forest with which to sustain ourselves.”

“Even more cruelly, we used to work for the company when it first started, and when we were thirsty and asked for water to drink, they just said to us to drink the water from the ditch. Before the forest was felled we could drink water from pools, swamps, rivers, and even without boiling it we never got sick. Now they use so many chemical sprays and then tell us to drink the water. Where do you come from? Who are you anyway? Why are we being told to drink ditch-water full of chemical sprays?”

“They have cleared land for smallholdings [a contractual obligation to provide a new livelihood for local people- tr]. They’ve felled our forest down to the bare earth, and you can see for yourself the weeds and thick undergrowth over there. We don’t know if there’s any government looking after us or not, because it seems that they’re just leaving us on a road to obliteration. The women that work have to leave for work at 4.00am, and what about the children they leave at home, our future generation? Are they deliberately trying to wipe us out? Are we citizens or aren’t we? If a woman is suffering from period pains and wants medicine from the clinic, she has to show sanitary pads as proof before they will attend to her.”

“Now it is as if we are living in prison. If we want to leave to the city we need to report to the security post and it’s the same when we arrive back home. Being treated like this drives us to oppose the planting of oil palm trees on the smallholding land. Just leave the cleared forest, leave it alone, eventually the forest wil grow back” Read More »

Posted in Around West Papua | Tagged , | Comments closed

PT Agriprima Cipta Persada clears the Mahuze Kewamese Clan’s Ancestral Forest.

Titus Mahuze, a resident of Afkab Makmur village in Muting District, Merauke Regency, has complained about how oil palm company PT Agriprima Cipta Persada has cleared land and ancestral forest belonging to the Mahuze Kewamese, without meeting with the community first and obtaining their agreement.

In 2015, PT ACP started to conduct a survey of land potential and concession boundaries within the ancestral land of the Mahuze Kewamese and Basik-Basik Alizan clans. The company carried out this work without holding a meeting to reach a consensus or waiting for the Mahuze Kewamese clan to reach their decision. In April 2016, PT ACP followed this up by clearing the ancestral forest and bulldozing the land which has now been planted with oil palm.

The people did not resist and made no effort to stop the company’s work. “Our clan-members could only watch and accept submissively, there was nothing we could do”, said Titus Mahuze, the leader of the Mahuze Kewamese clan.

There had once been an invitation to engage in negotiations over its use of the land, in the presence of the Mahuzes as well as other clans that own land in the area in 2014. That meeting was attended by the village head, members of the military and Titus Mahuze, but PT ACP was not present and nor were other clan members.

“The meeting was a failure and we erected markers as a customary prohibition against using land, forest and sago groves belonging to the Mahuze Kewamese clan, but then the company cleared our forest anyway”, Titus Mahuze said.

PT ACP promised it would give compensation money for the clan’s land which would be cleared and turned into an oil palm plantation. However the Mahuze Kewamese clan has still not received this money and does not even know how much it is supposed to be, and no agreement has been reached about the use of this land – even though the trees have already been felled and the land planted with oil palm. Read More »

Posted in Merauke News | Tagged , , | Comments closed

Three Clans in Yang Village Oppose new Plantation Companies

[awasMIFEE note: The letter below, from members of the Auyu ethnic group living near the Kia River, is in reaction to pressure to accept a new investor on their land. An Auyu man, vested with some authority from the local government, has been acting as a broker, in this case reportedly pushing people to reject one potential investor in favour of a new one, getting them to sign documents they didn’t understand and also giving them money. The community now fear that if two companies have rival claims over their land, and they are being pressured to take sides this will produce a conflict in which they will become involved.

Here’s a little bit of background on the companies involved: PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu is one of seven Menara Group concessions which obtained permits in Boven Digoel, and the only one which was not sold on to a Malaysian company. That company distributed money as compensation for taking the Auyu people’s land back in 2013, and even though that process was also coercive and manipulative (the company did not allow a proper decision making process, it held one meeting in the regency capital and then distributed cash) the community recognise that this transaction will in practice give PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu rights over their land. The new companies are PT Perkebunan Boven Digoel Abadi, which has been allocated an area of 37,010 hectares in Subur subdistrict, PT Bovendigoel Budidaya Sentosa, with an area of 30,190 hectares in Kia sub-district, and PT Perkebunan Bovendigoel Sejahtera, with an area of 39.440 hectares, however maps of the concessions are not available. Although the ownership of these companies cannot be confirmed, all three are registered at the office of an oil palm company called PT Bumi Mitratrans Marjaya, which is owned by Vence Rumangkang, one of the founders of the Demokrat Party].

A statement of opposition to the new companies which wish to operate on PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu’s concession by the indigenous people of the Kia River watershed in Boven Digoel, southern Papua.

PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu is a subsidiary of the Menara Group. In April 2013 PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu paid money to the indigenous community to release their customary land to the company – the Woboi and Afu clans in Meto village were given this money on Monday 22nd April 2013. Since then the company has disappeared and has yet to surface, now in 2017 entering the fourth year. We don’t know whether or not the Indonesian State has any regulations to deal with companies which disappear in this way, such as revoking their permits.

PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu’s disappearance without a trace was perceived as an opportunity by other companies. So in early November 2016, one of the three companies whose permits were signed by the Bupati of Boven Digoel regency in November 2015 came to Asiki, accompanied by an official of the Boven Digoel Indigenous People’s Association (LMA) and encouraged the local people to oppose PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu, with the reason that the company had been absent for so long leaving no way to be able to get in touch with them.

The LMA official prepared a letter of agreement with the new companies, pushed the people who felt they were being held in Asiki without consent to sign a letter of opposition, giving each of them an envelope containing 1 million Rupiah. They were told that their signatures were only for the attendance list, but it seemed that a lot of signatures were required, and the attendance register was a thick book. It appeared we were being forced to sign, (in particular by the LMA official). Now we feel we were lied to and forced to sign something which we didn’t ourselves properly understand.

The Woboi and Afu clans in Meto and Yang villages are clans whose ancestral forest is part of PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu’s concession and is now targetted by other companies as explained above. The following are some of the clear points which arose from a meeting of the Woboi and Afu clans which took place in Yang village on 2nd January 2017. Read More »

Posted in Around West Papua | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

The traps and manipulations that place control in the hands of capital

Oil palm companies in Papua refer to themselves as a pioneer industry, opening up the interior, trailblazers for new investment and stimulators of local economies. The government has prepared various pieces of legislation to facilitate investment, permits and economic incentives to smooth the way for this pioneer industry, even providing security through the use of state security forces.

On the ground, companies introduce a system of contract law relating to transferral of land rights, in which this is a legal requirement and a condition to obtain cultivation rights title (Hak Guna Usaha). Traditions and customary law around land tenure and land use are stripped away, and they are obliged to follow national laws and corporate management protocol. If there is any recognition of indigenous traditions and precepts, such as a ritual to ask permission or a gift, then it is only undertaken as a formality, a matter of business ethics.

The Worait clan, along with the majority of the Aifat people living arounf the Kais and Kamundan rivers in South Sorong and Maybrat Regencies, and the Puragi people around the Metamani River, South Sorong, are currently having to deal with one of these pioneers of oil palm plantations, part of the ANJ (Austindo Nusantara Jaya Tbk) Group. Three subsidiaries of ANJ are operating in the area: PT Permata Putera Mandiri (PPM), PT Putera Manunggal Perkasa (PMP) and PT Pusaka Agro Makmur (PAM), with a total planned plantation area of 82,468 hectares.

The majority of the ANJ Group’s licensed area is forest land which was formerly part of PT Wanagalang Utama’s logging concession, which was part of the Kalimanis Group owned by timber mogul The Kian Seng alias Bob Hasan. Then, in 2011, 2012 and 2014 the government issued a series of decrees to release the land, which had been classified as production forest which may be converted, to be turned into oil palm plantations by ANJ’s three subsidiaries.

The minister gave his approval to release forest land, changing its intended use from forest to non-forest (ie. deforestation) to become an oil palm plantation, only based on technical considerations from state bodies concerned with forestry, accordance to spatial plans, and of course economic and political considerations under the pretext of being a “national programme” and in the name of development. The minister issued his decrees without consultation or agreement of the local community. Such policies and practices still work on the assumption that the state has an absolute right of control. It is in contradiction with the Papuan Special Autonomy Law which recognises the rights of indigenous Papuans.

The way that business works in Papua is that corporations use government decrees as assets and a means to consolidate power, and then take control of the land. The majority of the people are not able to reject government decisions and company plans to use forest products and land, just as they couldn’t stop the logging companies that used to exploit the forests in this area, destroying sacred forest areas, clearing social and cultural sites, logging areas which provided food and economic resources for the community.

Memoria passionis, the memory of irregular incidents, violence, discrimination and violations of basic rights that have occurred time and time again in decades past, and continue to the present day, has made the community choose a defensive attitude, preferring to giving in easily rather than being subjected to more violence and insinuated allegations, and the risks of other kinds of aggression. Read More »

Posted in Around West Papua | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

In 2016 plantation expansion in Papua slowed due to international pressure – but can it last, and can indigenous Papuans set the agenda?

In 2016 indigenous opposition to new plantations has continued around Papua: In Muting, Merauke some clans from the Marind, Yei and Mandobo ethnic groups have declared that their land is not to be used for oil palm. Representatives of the Auyu, Wambon and Muyu ethnic groups in Boven Digoel and members of the Aifat people in Maybrat have complained that they have been deceived by palm oil companies operating in their areas. People in Sorong and Maybrat regencies have demonstrated to demand the revocation of plantation permits in their areas. In Keerom, the Marap people have established customary law blockades and held protests at state-owned company PTPN II’s plantation, saying they were taking back the land the company grabbed decades ago. The Yerisiam people in Nabire have also opposed a palm oil company which started clearing their sacred sago groves for a smallholder program, when the community had expressly requested the company to leave the groves alone just two months before.

These local conflicts are not a new phenomena, Papuans have been determined to defend their rights to ancestral land for many years. In recent years, as more and more plantations are established in Papua, many communities realise they have more to lose if their forest is destroyed than they might gain from the plantation economy. Opposition from local indigenous communities has been successful in halting several plantation projects in Papua, where potential investors regularly cite the problems of obtaining rights to indigenous land as one of their main obstacles.

However, a major change this year is that action at a entirely different level also seems to be changing the outlook for the palm oil industry in Papua, limiting its expansion, which would be good news for the forest, and probably forest-dependent communities too. In 2016 several international environmental organisations have chosen to focus on companies involved in Papua, which they are starting to see an important frontier for forest protection.

As a result, several oil palm companies have halted planting, and it looks likely that the pace of forest conversion will have significantly slowed as a result. But it is by no means certain that this trajectory is set to continue, it could still go either way depending on whether a new push for sustainability manages to transform the industry or whether it fails and settles back into business as usual.

The main mechanism being used to drive this change is through companies’ supply chains. In 2013 and 2014, key palm oil trading and refining companies bowed to pressure from their major customers and signed up to policies saying they would not source palm oil from companies engaged in deforestation, draining peat bogs or exploiting local people or workers.

At least 60% of palm oil traded around the world is now supposed to be covered by these ‘no deforestation, peat or exploitation’ (NDPE) commitments. The three largest trading companies, Wilmar, Golden Agri Resources and Musim Mas, which were all well-known for terrible records of deforestation, were convinced to sign up, and this had an important direct result for Papua as all three groups abandoned plantation plans which would have involved deforestation (Wilmar c.160,000 hectares of sugar cane plantations, Musim Mas 160,000 hectares of oil palm plantations and GAR 20,000 hectares of oil palm). Read More »

Posted in Related Developments | Comments closed

The Auyu people strategise to defend their rights.

The problems around local objections to oil palm companies menacing the territory of the Auyu people around the Digoel and Ki rivers in Boven Digoel regency are not over yet. Now, local government has issued location permits to three new palm oil companies.

The three companies are PT Perkebunan Boven Digoel Abadi, which has been allocated an area of 37,010 hectares in Subur subdistrict, PT Bovendigoel Budidaya Sentosa, with an area of 30,190 hectares in Kia sub-district, and PT Perkebunan Bovendigoel Sejahtera, with an area of 39.440 hectares. These companies all come from Jakarta and operate from the same address: 11th floor of the Graha Pratama building, Jl. MT Haryono Kavling 15. The three companies were issued with location permits in decrees issued by the Bupati of Boven Digoel in November 2015.

The communities in Meto village in Subur sub-district and Watemu village in Kia sub-district, admitted to feeling anxious as company staff and government officials showed up, accompanied by organisers from the official indigenous association (LMA) of Boven Digoel Regency.

Lukas Kemon, a community leader from Meto village related that “The government and the head of the Boven Digoel LMA, Fabianus Senfahagi, brought the company here to take away our land. They didn’t hold a consensus meeting with the community, and we fear the company will destroy our entire forest”.

Some time ago, company staff and Fabianus Senfahagi, who as well as being head of the LMA is a well-known figure amongst the Auyu people and is head of Satpol PP (Civil Service Police Unit) in Boven Digoel, came to visit villages near to the Ki river, in Subur and Kia sub-districts. They attempted to persuade the community to accept the companies’ plans. Company workers also carried out a survey and entered the forest without the community’s permission.

Lukas Kemon gave a summary of the plans, promises and offers the company and government had made: They told us that the Auyu people should not continue to be poor, to live in poverty in the forest, asking for handouts and suffering. We’re bringing you a good company, they said, its leadership includes religious leaders, it’s sure to do good work. You have to accept these companies moving onto the Auyu lands.

In 2011, exactly the same thing had happened, community figures at the regency and sub-district level showed up with government officials and staff of the Menara Group oil palm company, approached the community, gave them donations, compensation money, and then asked for their agreement and signatures so the company could obtain land for an oil palm plantation. Tens of thousands of hectares of land and forest belonging to the Auyu people in Subur, Kia and Jair sub-districts is now in the company’s clutches, and meanwhile the community has descended into conflict and disharmony. Read More »

Posted in Around West Papua | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed