The Government is urged to swiftly implement the Palm Oil Moratorium in Papua.

Last November, the head of the Awyu ethnic group in Boven Digoel Regency, Egidius Pius Suam, sent a letter to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, with copies also sent to several ministries, the Governor of Papua Province, Boven Digoel’s Bupati and leaders of civil society organisations in Papua and Jakarta. The letter detailed the Awyu indigenous people’s oppostion and grievances against seven large-scale plantation companies that have been trying to set up on the Awyu’s traditional lands.

The letter was also signed by five clan chiefs, the heads of Metto, Hobinanggo, Ujung Kia, Kapogu villages and of Ki sub-district and the head of the LMA Boven Digoel, along with the support of three other heads of ethnic groups in Boven Digoel: Wambon, Kombai and Korowai.

The seven companies referred to in the letter are: (1) PT Perkebunan Boven Digoel Sejahtera (with a concession of 39,440 hectares); (2) PT Perkebunan Boven Digoel Abadi (37,010 hectares; (3) PT Boven Digoel Budidaya Sentosa (39,190 hectares); (4) PT Perkebunan Sawit Kifofi 19,940 hectares); (5) PT Perkebunan Dugu Fofi (38,160 hectares); (6) PT Perkebunan Papua Sentosa (38,725 hectares); and (7) PT Indo Asiana Lestari (38,525 hectares).

The companies’ concessions cover part of several administrative sub-districts: Subur, Ki, Jair, Mandobo and Fofi, all in Boven Digoel, Papua Province. The total amount of forest under threat of being handed to these oil palm plantation companies is 250,990 hectares.

The reason these community leaders are opposing the company is because of the threat it poses to their land and culture; they risk losing sites where they carry out cultural rituals and obtain customary artefacts as well as their food sources and sources of livelihood, as well as the loss of biodiversity, damage to the environment and social conflict.

“We are asking the Indonesian President to cancel and revoke the companies’ permits, and put a stop to the process of allowing oil palm plantation companies to operate in forested areas on the land of the Awyu indigenous people, based on a consideration of Law 29/2009 concerning the environment, Constitutional Court Decision No 35/PUU-X/2012, Presidential Instruction 8/2018 concerning a moratorium and re-evaluation of permits for palm oil plantations, and the rights of the Awyu indigenous people.”, asked Egedius Pius Suam in his letter.

However, the community has still not received any meaningful replies to the letters they sent. In the meantime, the company has kept up its attempts to influence members of the community to accede to its plans.

“According to our research the majority of these concessions are located in the area where plantation companies owned by the Menara Group obtained plantation business licences in 2011 and then got permits to release state forest land from the Forestry Minister in 2012. However, those companies did not make optimal use of the land and were then sold to new owners based in Malaysia: Tadmax Resources Bhd and the Pacific Inter-link Group”, explained Franky Samperante from the Pusaka Foundation. Read More »

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Maranatha Resolution for Human Rights Day 2018

Today, (8th December 2018), as we approach Human Rights Day, we, as indigenous people’s representatives and leaders and members of religious and civil society organisations, have discussed the current situation of indigenous peoples and victims of human rights violations, including violations of both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights, as well as problems concerning land and forest.

At the present time, indigenous men and women and our ancestral domain is threatened – under pressure from government policies and large-scale development projects that are planned or underway on our customary lands, such as logging, plantations and mining, which take place for commercial gain.

We feel the impact, loss and the poverty caused by the exploitations of forests, deforestation and mineral extraction, such as the loss of livelihoods, the loss of forests and sago groves which provide our food, the loss of rivers and the difficulties in obtaining clear water and quality food, as well as the loss of cultural knowledge around indigenous management of natural resources.

We experience intimidation, physical violence and human rights violations, we are brought into conflicts with companies and breakdowns in harmony within our communities, including conflict with people who have recently moved to the area.

The government issues policies, initiates programmes and issues business licences to companies and the wealthy without consultation, without prior consent, without transparency, without sufficient information, without an honest evaluation of environmental impacts and without affected communities making free decisions. Our lands, and the natural wealth they contain, pass out of our control to others who are given ownership and use rights, but who do not hand on the benefit to the local communities who are the real owners.

We wish to highlight the weakness in oversight and neglect we observe in the law enforcement apparatus’s approach to incidents of violence and human rights violations, and environmental crimes. The government is still unable to meet its obligations to find a resolution to past cases of human rights violations, crimes against humanity and environmental crimes. Indeed, the physical and verbal violence experienced by human rights defenders and defenders of the environment still keeps happening again and again.

We want to make clear that land, forest in our ancestral domain, and the natural riches they contain, are the source of our livelihoods, have always supported us, and will support not just the present generation, but generations to come. This is why, since the time of our ancestors we have have taught ourselves to protect nature, use land in a just and wise manner, peacefully and without making people feel they are our enemies, using indigenous knowledge and customary law.

We as indigenous Papuan women and men, have a fundamental right to live freely, to freedom of expression and opinion, without discrimination. We have a right to justice and to equal treatment before the law, a right to not be tortured or enslaved, a right to determine and participate in development, a right to customary land, a right to a good and healthy environment. All this is legislated for for in the constitution, national laws and the Papuan Special Autonomy Law, as well as international instruments concerning civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. Read More »

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Mpur people return 100 million Rupiah to PT Bintuni Agro Prima Perkasa, attempt to take their land back.

On 5th June 2018, the Mpur people of the Kebar valley, in Tambrauw Regency, Papua Barat Province, went to the worksite plantation company PT Bintuni Agro Prima Perkasa as bulldozers were working and confronted the company it continued to clear their forest for an corn plantation.

After an angry exchange of words they proceeded to the company’s field office, where the Ariks clan explained that they were going to return the money they had received from the company a few years before. Holding a package containing 100 million Rupiah, Semuel Ariks, representing the clan, informed company workers “We have already asked the company to stop working but the company continues to clear land. For this reason, we are taking back our customary land and we are returning the money.”1

Nobody from the company was willing to accept the money, as doing so would weaken the company’s claim to use the land, so Semuel Ariks simply left it at the company office and departed with the rest of the indigenous people. The company passed the money to the local police, who have been encouraging the Ariks clan to take it back, but they have refused.

The Ariks clan were aware that in February this year the Arumi clan had also tried to return money to the company, 50 million Rupiah, but were obliged to bring the money back home after the company refused to accept it.

Neither of the clans, nor the four other landowning clans so far affected by PT BAPP’s 19368 hectare corn plantation, disputes having accepted money from the company. The problem, they claim, is that the company was not honest about its plans.

The first contact the clan leaders had with the company, was when they were summoned to a meeting in Arumi village. No-one is sure of the date, they think it was in 2015, although it may have been 2016. They waited until 3pm when the representatives finally showed up, and described their plan to plant corn in the Kebar valley.

Clan members allege they were told that the plans were for a two year trial study, and they believed it would only be on small grassland areas. At this stage the company had actually already planted an area of corn on grassland, after meeting with two administrative village heads. The representatives offered ‘tali asih’ money, a deliberately vague term often used by plantation companies in Papua which translates vaguely as ‘cords of friendship’, but which companies later claim represents a relinquishment of land rights by the indigenous recipients. The money offered was 50 or 100 million Rupiah per clan, all the clans accepted, and the representatives left the same afternoon.

None of the clans imagined that they had surrendered their rights to their ancestral land that day. They say that the information that they received was minimal and misleading. They weren’t even told the name of the company, the people who spoke at the meeting made it seem as if they were planning to implement a programme initiated by the Tambrauw Regency Agriculture Agency (Dinas Pertanian). At no point were they shown a map or asked to participate in an exercise to establish customary land boundaries. They were never given any copy of whatever documentation the company had taken away with them.

When the company moved beyond the grassland areas and started clearing forest and sago groves, people started to protest. They challenged the company out in the field, but had to abandon their protest after armed police and military showed up.

There are now around ten members of the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) tasked with protecting the company. The atmosphere of intimidation has meant that the local people are cautious in expressing their opposition to the plantation, but protests have continued.

People have appealed to the church to support them. After representatives of the Synod of the GKI (Evangelical Christian Church in Tanah Papua) managed to get documents from the company last year, they found out that it actually had a permit, issued by the local Bupati, for a 19368 hectare plantation which would stretch along the whole Kebar valley, over 40km from end to end.

It was also only after protesting that people realised that this project had nothing to do with the local government Agriculture Agency but was a private company named PT Bintuni Agro Prima Perkasa. They then realised that this was the same company which had met them in 2014, in the sub-district office, to propose an oil palm plantation. They had emphatically rejected that proposal at the time.

From this story, it is very clear that this is a case of land-grabbing. The company has not engaged in a valid or sincere process of negotiation with the six clans, which Indonesian law recognises as the legitimate land rights holders on the land in question. Stories like these are commonplace in Papua, where companies routinely present any document they have persuaded indigenous leaders to sign as proof that the entire community has relinquished its collective rights to the land. Since the land law is full of ambiguities and lacking in specifics, it offers little formal protection for indigenous communities against these powerful and unscrupulous companies.

The people of Kebar are now calling for the company’s permits to be revoked. It turns out there are a series of serious irregularities in the permits which would mean this is entirely justified.

First of all, there is no environmental impact assessment. A preliminary framework was prepared in April 2016, but the process of discussing the final document has been suspended due to opposition. That means that there has been no evaluation of the environmental effects of a plantation on the ecological richness of the Kebar valley, a landscape like no other in Papua, being a mid-altitude mosaic of grasslands and marshes interspersed with forest, which could be expected to host unique ecological communities and possibly its own endemic species. Virtually the whole valley bottom is included in the permit area. There has been no evaluation of the impact to the two conservation areas of the Arfak and Tambrauw mountains which surround the valley, nor the effects of vast amounts of agricultural chemicals pouring into the headwaters of the Kamundan River, which flows for hundreds of kilometres through the forests and swamps of the Bird’s Head peninsula. There has been no study of the effects the introduction of industrial agriculture on the lives of the indigenous people of the Kebar valley, or a chance for them to have their say about the impacts.

The permit allowing the land to be released from the forest estate is also highly problematic. It was issued by former forestry minister Zulkifli Hasan on his last day in his job, 29th September 2014, when he seemed to be clearing his desk by signing all pending requests, in many cases without due care and attention. In this case, the decree he signed stated that of the 32390 hectares 13021 ha would not be released because it was primary forest, and therefore only 19368 ha would be released. However the accompanying map of the area showed the full 32390 hectares – somebody had made a mistake. This 13021 ha now has no state protection whatsoever.

Furthermore, the intended use in the 2014 forest release was explicitly stated as oil palm, yet the company has started planting corn. What appears to have happened, is that after it became apparent that there would be widespread opposition to an oil palm plantation, the company approached the Bupati of Tambrauw Regency, Gabriel Asem. On the 28th September 2015 he issued a location permit to the company (SK 521/296/2015), and then on the same day, issued a business licence for food crops (SK 521/297/2015).

Both permits were for 19,368 hectares, the area released from the forest estate by Zulkifli Hasan. However, the accompanying maps show that the company were aware of the former forestry minister’s mistake, since they do not include the primary forest areas.

Needless to say, this is not how the permit system is supposed to work. A location permit is issued first, valid for three years, so the company can go about trying to meet all the other requirements, including preparing an environmental impact assessment study for evaluation. After this has been completed, a business licence can be issued (the relevant legislation for Food Crops Business Licences is Agriculture Ministry Regulation 39/2010). According to the Forestry Ministry’s own regulations valid in September 2014 (Forestry Ministry Regulations 33/2010 and 28/2014), forest cannot be released unless the company possesses a business licence (and has therefore gone through the EIA process). However, Zulkifli Hasan routinely ignored his own regulations as he released over 900,000 hectares of Papua forest from the forest estate during his five year term of office.

It also appears that the company has used this flawed business licence and the permission to use indigenous land which it obtained through deception to successfully apply for cultivation rights (Hak Guna Usaha), a 35-year lease, on a portion of the land.

The company is also clearing land which has been established as the ecological zone of a Peatland Hydrological Unit, and so is therefore violating government regulation 57/2016 which prohibits the clearance of these zones, even for companies with existing permits.

This swampland is the main habitat for sago palms which are the traditional staple food of Papuans in the Kebar valley. The company has left a few individual sago trees standing as it clears the other forest, and they now stand surrounded by corn plants with no chance of surviving in the long term now the wetlands are drained.

PT Bintuni Agro Prima Perkasa is one of six plantation companies in Papua linked to the Salim Group. Three are actively clearing forest: PT Rimbun Sawit Papua, PT Subur Karunia Raya and PT Bintuni Agro Prima Perkasa, and there is known to be active community opposition in all three Three more are believed to have all the key permits required to operate: PT Menara Wasior, PT Tunas Agung Sejahtera and PT Permata Nusa Mandiri.

None of these companies are directly owned by Antoni Salim himself, but there is ample evidence that they are controlled by the group, possibly through nominee agreements which allow a beneficial owner to stay off the share register. The Salim Group has never publicly denied its links to these plantation companies, which are currently operated as the Indogunta Group.

As one of Indonesia’s largest processed foods producers, the Salim Group is a major consumer of corn. Much of this is used by its snack food business, which it’s Indofood business operates in a joint venture with Pepsico. This company, Indofood Fritolay Makmur has the franchise for Pepsico products in Indonesia, including corn snacks Cheetos and Doritos. Acting on a specific complaint about workers’ rights in the Salim Group’s IndoAgri oil palm plantations, and non-specified other complaints about the groups deforestation and social/land conflicts, Pepsico insisted that this joint venture ceased to source palm oil from IndoAgri mills in January 2017. This commitment was for palm oil only, however, it has not made a specific commitment regarding corn.

Kami sudah minta perusahaan harus setop pekerjaan tetapi perusahaan tetap membongkar terus. Dengan demikian, tanah adat kami kami cabut kembali, dan uang kami kembalikan.

  1. Kami sudah minta perusahaan harus setop pekerjaan tetapi perusahaan tetap membongkar terus. Dengan demikian, tanah adat kami kami cabut kembali, dan uang kami kembalikan.  

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“It’s forest that we can live from, not oil palm”

“A protest was made in 2015, but the government’s response was a permit to release state forest”

Jakarta – A civil society coalition took action outside the Environment and Forestry Ministry on Friday (23/03/2018), protesting a permit to release state forest land near the Wosimi River in Naikere and Kuriwamesa subdistricts of Wondama Bay Regency, Papua Barat which was issued to an oil palm company, PT Menara Wasior.

A statement of community opposition to the permits issued to this company had already been sent to the ministry in 2015, to which no response has ever been received. On the contrary, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar has now issued PT Menara Wasior a permit SK No. 16/1/PKH/PMDH/2017, dated 20 September 2017, for an oil palm plantation.

Stephanus Marani, a representative of civil society from Wasior who attended the action, explained how the company’s plans threatened to destroy the areas where the Wondamen, Torowar and Mairasi ethnic groups lived.

A similar point was made by Yohanes Akwan, the chair of the Federation of Indonesian Trade Unions (GSBI) for Papua Barat province, who said that the one-sided practice of permits being issued in Jakarta was highly detrimental to Papuan indigenous communities.

“It’s forest that supports our livelihoods, not oil palm; we can’t eat oil palm if our sago groves have been converted into palm plantations” Yohanes said in his speech.

According to him, the people in this area had been the victims of violence from the security forces in 2001. The violence, which became known as ‘Bloody Wasior’, was to be described by the National Human Rights Commission as a Gross Human Rights Violation in 2004. The aggression took place between April and October 2001.

In July 2004, the National Human Rights Commission’s Adhoc Team for Papua investigated the 2001 Bloody Wasior case and the 2003 Bloody Wamena case, uncovering data about how the violence escalated, and came to the conclusion that there had been structural violence from both the police and the military.

The director of Yayasan Pusaka, Franky Samperante drew attention to the inconsistencies in Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla’s government. He said that during 2017 the government had issued forest release permits to three companies in Papua, comprising an area of 60,000 hectares. Not only plantation companies received permits, an area of 85,000 hectares was also allocated to mining companies. Read More »

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They’re killing the Koroway with mercury and precious metals.

[This is one of the images which circulated on social media in early 2018, purporting to show a new helicopter landing pad made by illegal gold miners in the remote forests of the Koroway people. Now it appears that mining was already taking place in the area three years ago]

At the start of this year, several photographs showing illegal gold mining in the Koroway lands went viral on social media. The photos show work to build a helicopter landing pad to drop off and pick up mining equipment, believed to be near the head of the Deiram River. The authenticity of these photos can’t yet be confirmed. However, a similar case had previously occurred in the Danowage area three years ago, in 2015 or thereabouts. Our knowledge of that incident comes from the reports of Koroway schoolchildren. They told their teacher about illegal gold mining around Danowage. These schoolchildren had been working for the gold miners.

This article is based on the stories four Koroway schoolchildren told to their teacher in early February 2018. The name of the teacher is being withheld in this article, and the names used for the children who gave evidence are not their real names.

‘Silver Water’

Yakobus told of how he had worked for a gold miner in the Landslide area, to the south of Danowage, 15 minutes away by katingting (a boat with a small motor). As he explained to his teacher, he had worked for straight-haired (a term for migrants from outside Papua) miners, from the Bugis ethnic group. He was given the task of building a base camp, carrying equipment, splitting firewood and other odd-jobs. However Yakobus claimed he had witnessed the whole mining process from start to finish. The person Yakobus was working for was called Koprak.

Yakobus told his teacher that the people who came to mine gold used a water pump, carpet, cloth for straining, pans and also ‘silver water’.

“The silver water is so heavy, even half a jerry can of cooking oil is so heavy, I can’t even pick it up”, said Yakobus.

Yakobus explained in simple language how silver water forms into balls, as if it were from outer space. He compared the weight of the jerry can with a battery from a solar panel system which weighs around 48 kilogrammes.

Obviously when Yakobus said silver water, he was referring to mercury, a heavy metal.

“Did they throw the silver water in the river?”, the teacher tried to make the question clearer, trying to get more information from Yakobus.

Yakobus said no. The illegal miners used the silver water to process more gold.

However the teacher was still not satisfied, and so asked Yakobus to describe how the silver water was used.

Yakobus related how the silver water was used to separate gold from black sand. The method used was to add a little water and silver water to the gold and sand mix and then stir. Then the gold would automatically be separated from the sand, and was kept, while the remaining water and black sand was thrown away. The silver water was poured into a bottle, and then strained through a cloth to filter out the water.
“After that they stored the silver water to use again and threw away the left-over water”, Yakobus said.

Yakobus didn’t know that the left over water which still contains mercury poses a danger to the environment. He went on to say that this water would be  thrown anywhere, into the bushes, on the ground, or even into the river.

This practice represents a serious risk to the Koroway people’s livelihood, bearing in mind that the Koroway community depend on the Deiram river for their lifelihood, including transportation, a source of food and a source of clean water.

The miners gave Yakobus 900,000 Rupiah for 12 days work. During those twelve days they were working, the yields had been low. So after 12 days they stopped mining and moved to Yaniruma. The miners asked Yakubus to come with them to Yaniruma, but Yakobus refused saying he wanted to go to church, as it was a Saturday when they asked. Read More »

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The Salim Group and land conflicts around West Papua.

In May 2016, awasMIFEE published a story titled “The Salim Group’s secret plantations in West Papua”, about four concessions owned by the Salim Group in West Papua. A year and a half later, the Salim Group is still aggressively expanding, and threatening more areas of remote Papuan forest. Evidence connecting these companies to the Salim Group’s established businesses is also becoming clearer.

The Salim Group is a diverse industrial conglomerate that developed rapidly during the Suharto dictatorship as its founder Soedono Salim (Liem Sioe Liong), was the president’s most trusted business partner, and through patronage networks helped his family members and cronies build up their own business empires. When the government and economy collapsed in 1998 Salim was hit harder than most, but his son Anthony has rebuilt the empire. The company’s best known brands are under the Indofood label, including Indomie instant noodles, which are sold around the world.

The Salim Group’s main plantation division is Indofood Agri Resources, which is listed on the Singapore stock exchange. Anthony Salim is the President Director of Indofood (the parent company of Indofood Agri Resources) and holds a significant stake (although not a majority). However, there is another oil palm grouping, which has not been widely publicised as being as part of the Salim Group. It was previously referred to in job adverts etc. as the Gunta Samba group, but now seems to be trading as the Indogunta Group. Known plantation concessions under this group are all located in Kalimantan and Papua. The Indogunta Group’s structure, and the evidence linking it to the Salim Group, will be examined in detail below.

The Indogunta Group in Papua.

In Papua, the Salim Group has two oil palm plantations and one corn plantation which are already clearing land, all of which started planting since 2014. It also holds two other concessions which are believed to hold most of the permits necessary to operate, and potentially several more which still lack important permits. Conflicts between the company and local indigenous people have been reported in some of these concessions, and there is a high risk that they will emerge in others. Read More »

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September 29th 2014, a terrible day for Papua’s forests

In September 2014, in his last month in the role before handing over to the new administration, former forestry minister Zulkifli Hasan carelessly condemned hundreds of thousands of hectares of Papuan forest to development by logging and plantation industries.

Joko Widodo had won the Indonesian presidential rlection on 9th July 2014, and Zulkifli Hasan’s National Mandate Party (PAN) was not to be part of the new ruling coalition. With the knowledge that he would not be in his post much longer, the rate of new ministerial decrees (Surat Keputusan) started to grow exponentially, until his last week in office, when over 100 decrees were signed. Many of these established new concessions for logging and timber companies, or released land from the forest estate for oil palm plantation companies.

Decrees were issued on forest land throughout Indonesia, but Papua was especially severely affected. From late August to the end of September, ten oil palm plantations were given forest release permits (212,216 hectares), six more were given in-principle permits (173,389 ha), two industrial timber plantations got permits (178,980 ha), as did one logging concession (234,470 ha). That’s a total of 799,055 hectares – an area considerably larger than the island of Bali, earmarked for destruction in just over a month. Almost half of these permits were signed on a single day: Zulkifli Hasan’s very last day in the job, 29th September 2014.1 In the rush to sign permits, as will be seen below, basic environmental protection was ignored. Read More »

  1. He left his post on 1st October, a few weeks before the official transition to the new cabinet, because he was selected to take up a position as the head of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), the post he currently still holds. 

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Statement from Merauke Human Rights Day demonstration.

Every year, across Papua, people mark Human Rights Day on December 10th with demonstrations. Although one of the major focus is always the arbitrary violence of the state security forces (in 2017, as every year, many Papuans have been shot dead by the police or military), economic, social and cultural rights are becoming a increasingly important issue, especially in relation to the upsurge in the development of extractive industries in Papua. These issues were highlighted in press releases and statements from the actions in Sorong and Jayapura.

In Merauke, hundreds of people reportedly took part in the demonstration at the local council building, held on the 11th December, because the 10th was a Sunday. This is what the demonstrators had to say in their statement:1

As Indonesia’s youngest province, Papua has a different history of integration from the rest of the country. A series of military operations have been one element of the national programme since 1961, made worse in 1967 when Freeport was given a permit to manage Papua’s natural resources. In fact this was to become one of the drivers of human rights problems in Papua. Not one of the past cases of civil and political rights violations can be said to be adequately resolved, for example the Arfai incident in 1965, the Mapenduma incident in 1976, the Biak Massacre in 1998, the Bloody Wamena and Bloody Merauke events in 2000, the assassination of Theys Hiyo Eluay in 2001, the Bloody Abepura events of 2006. Papuans were also arrested, tortured and imprisoned as part of all of these incidents.

Several similar incidents continue to occur including during the current leadership under President Jokowi, such as the killing of four schoolchildren in Paniai on the 8th December 2014. This has been classed as a gross human rights violation, but a resolution has yet to be found.

Southern Papua, as part of the Land of Papua, is also not free of human rights violations. Some examples are the beating of Blasius Simagay in Bade in 2014, the shooting of Yeremisa Kaipmun in the leg in Merauke in 2015, the beatings of Xaverius Tambaip and Ronald Ambungan in Merauke in 2016, the beating of Oktovianus Betoop in Merauke in 2017, and most recently the killing of Isak Kua and the sexual abuse of his female relative in November 2017.

When it comes to economic, social and cultural rights, Southern Papua is on the front-line. Because of it’s geographical position on swampy ground, with vast savannahs, this area has the potential to become a new breadbasket. The state has already been busy with this since 2007, when it started planning a project known as MIRE (Merauke Integrated Rice Estate). Moving forward from that basis, the government planned that Merauke should become a national and international food production zone through a megaproject known as Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE). The central government even went so far as to create national legislation to provide clarity on this large-scale investment plan. The relevant legislation is Government Regulation 26/2008, Presidential Instruction 5/2008 and Government Regulation 18/2010. Read More »

  1. The first few paragraphs, which outline the general history of human rights as a concept and its incorporation into Indonesian law, are not translated here.  

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The debate over clans’ land in Bupul village as forest become an oil palm plantation

Land conflict for oil palm is still an issue in Merauke

Two children ran towards the forest. As they got closer to the trees that at first seemed to be a thick forest, a broad carpet of felled trees became visible.

The two could witness exactly how the green bulldozers were working to clear away the trees. From afar, the sound of falling trees could be heard clearly. Several times they pointed out the heavy machinery that was working off in the distance.

“That’s a beko – a beko is what we call a ‘dozer. Every day the bekos are working to clear our forest”, Agustinus shouted

Agustinus is slender, his friend Yupens is more sturdy. They are both in the 5th class of YPPK Santo Petrus primary school in Bupul village, Elikobel, Merauke Regency, Papua.

“Bro, this forest is where we play with bows and arrows, or spears, and go to look for birds. At the furthest point over there, there’s a river. After playing in the forest, we normally go swimming in the river.”, added Yupens

“Our teacher said that later if there’s an oil palm plantation and the waste goes into the river, we won’t be able to swim there any more.”


Yupens and Agustinus’ village, Bupul, isn’t far from the Trans-Papua road which connects Merauke Regency with Boven Digoel. Bupul can be reached from Merauke in about 3-4 hours. There are many military checkpoints along the road because the area is close to the Papua New Guinea border.

The majority of indigenous people in Bupul belong to the Yei ethnic group, which some people describe as a sub-ethnic group of the Marind. In general they are dependant on the forest to meet their needs.

The forest Agustinus and Yupens were pointing out is the ancestral forest of the Wonijai clan. The company has already paid the clan for this land, obtaining their consent both through polite persuasion and through use of state security forces. The company plied the people with promises of “a better life” until some of the local people agreed to release their ancestral land. The others, who opposed it, felt that these promises were motivated by nothing other than the company’s desire to take control of the Wonijai land.


One evening in 2015, a group of people paid a visit to Simon Wonijai’s house. They were company representatives. One of them was well built, seemingly a member of the police or military. They were trying to find Simon, but the 68 year old man was nowhere to be found.

“I avoided them on purpose”, said Simon Wonijai, when I met him at his home in mid-October. “They wanted to ask for my signature [on land release documents] as I’m the clan leader, and so they brought the plain-clothes policeman that night.”

The company that Simon was talking about is PT Agrinusa Persada Mulia, referred to locally as PT APM. This company is under the Agro Mandiri Semesta Group, otherwise known as Ganda Group. The owner is Ganda, brother of the founder of Wilmar International, Martua Sitorus [awasMIFEE note: in 2017, this group has started referring to itself as Gama Plantation, Gama being a combination of GA-nda and MA-rtua].

PT Agrinusa Persada Mulia was given its initial permit on 13th January 2010, based on the Merauke Bupati’s decree 4/2010. That permit covered 40,000 hectares in Muting sub-district. Read More »

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Maranatha Declaration (concerning permits for extractive industries and indigenous Papuans’ rights)

We are the 42 participants in a workshop to review policy on permits for use of natural resources and protecting indigenous rights in Papua, which included representatives of the following indigenous groups Awyu (Boven Digoel), Yerisiam (Nabire), Amungme (Mimika), Armati (Sarmi), Manum, Abrar and Marap (Keerom), Elseng (Jayapura), as well as civil society organisations from Papua and Jakarta. We met in the Maranatha Convent in Waena, Jayapura, Papua Province on 21st and 22nd November 2017, to discuss and critique policy around permits for natural resource exploitation, the management of land and forests, how investment works in practice and its impacts on local communities, and efforts to protect the rights of indigenous Papuans. This meeting was attended by speakers from institutions which are part of the provincial government, including the Investment Agency and Integrated One-stop Service Centre, and the Forestry and Plantation Agencies.

The meeting was held at a moment when the Tembagapura crisis was ongoing, violence and human rights violations were taking place in locations around the land of Papua, as well as the criminalisation of indigenous people, land-grabbing, the destruction of forests and of important or sacred sites for indigenous peoples. All this happens, amongst other reasons, because of the expansion of capital and increasing investment by extractive industries which exploit natural resources. These industries are violating the rights of indigenous Papuan women and men, there is a lack of recognition and protection of those rights, an unjust distribution of benefits, arbitrary behaviour by state security forces, a lack of transparency, corruption and weak law enforcement.

We note that the government is currently trying to promote and accelerate economic growth through large-scale investment in natural resource industries. The hope is that this investment will have multiple effects on other sectors, and will increase the incomes of both the government and its citizens. Based on statistics from 2017, in 2010 there were 118 projects with a realised investment value of 10.6 trillion Rupiah, whereas by 2016 there were 213 projects with a total realised investment value of 130.3 trillion Rupiah. The majority of interest in investment comes from private companies, whether foreign or domestic.

In our discussions, the government admitted that there are social, cultural and economic problems, such as a lack of respect and protection for land rights, conflict involving customary landowners, companies and government, there has been no proper community empowerment, the government has still not produced policies or programmes which support independent community enterprise to manage and use forest products, the government is still dependant on large-scale investors, there is still no master plan for investment, there is a tug-of-war over authority between local and central government, companies are operating that have violated regulations or other provisions, the transfer of ownership in companies without the consent of the community or government, the low capacity of government to monitor companies, and so on.

We also discussed indigenous people’s legal rights, their rights to justice and legal aid, the right to determine the course of development, the right to freedom, to feel safe, to a proper standard of living, the rights of women and children, the right to information and the right to a healthy environment. Government policies and programmes still aren’t fully seen to ensure, protect and respect these rights of indigenous people. In the same way, companies not shown a commitment to respect the rights of indigenous Papuans, and also ignore the principle of sustainable development. Read More »

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