Komnas HAM’s National Inquiry into Indigenous Rights arrives in Papua

pembukaan inkuiri adatCommissioners of Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) arrived in Jayapura last week for the Papuan leg of their National Inquiry into the rights of Indigenous People living on land classified as forest. Between 26th and 28th of November 2014 in Jayapura, the inquiry listened to the testimony of local residents from five areas of Papua where large-scale investment has marginalised their communities, been imposed against their wishes or brought violence and intimidation from the authorities.

A range of NGOs had pushed for this National Inquiry, which had already heard from indigenous communities in other parts of Indonesia in recent months. The initiative is part of efforts to encourage the state to address the Constitutional Court’s landmark decision 35/2012, which clarified that ancestral land communally owned by indigenous communities can no longer be classed as state forests.

Other parts of the Indonesian state have yet to deliver a comprehensive response to this decision, including supporting legislation which would clarify how such forest lands are to be managed. It is clearly a major challenge to a system where the normal practice has been for the state to dole out permits to logging, mining and plantation companies, which then at best may conduct some tokenistic attempt to consult with the indigenous inhabitants before pressing ahead with their projects.

Komnas HAM’s Inquiry is an attempt to document some of these cases, especially where indigenous communities are not in full agreement with a development project, and have therefore suffered intimidation and/or aggression from state security forces when they express their oppositions or concerns. From the Inquiry’s webpage:

“A national inquiry is a useful tool to address complicated human rights situations, of a historic and systematic character, and which need throrough reports and investigations”

Five cases were to be presented to the Inquiry as representative of the Papuan situation. One was the oil palm plantations in Keerom, which were first started by state company PTPN II in 1982 while the area was gripped by conflict, and the company is believed to have benefitted from the fact that many indigenous residents had fled to the forest or to neighbouring Papua New Guinea to escape state repression. The plantation facilitated a transmigration program which would eventually mean that Papuans became seriously economically and demographically marginalised in the area.

A more recent case of oil palm companies violating human rights is in Nabire, where subsidiaries of a Sri Lankan multinational Carson Cumberbatch have brought misery to the lives of the Yerisiam and Wate indigenous groups. Operating without the necessary permits such as an Environmental Impact Assessment, and without a proper process to obtain community consent and compensate indigenous landowners, these companies instead rely on guards from the police mobile brigade to intimidate the community, and there have been a string of incidences of violence or arbitrary arrest, often targeted at those who oppose the plantation.

Around 40 plantation companies are involved in the third case which was presented: the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate. A megaproject conceived in the corridors of power to increase Indonesia’s agricultural output and hand potentially millions of hectaresof indigenous lands to plantation companies, the Malind indigenous people had no say whatsoever in a project which will change their way of life forever. A catalogue of problems has emerged as the companies have moved in, including violence and intimidation, the emergence of inter-community conflict, pollution and even malnutrition in some areas.

The impact of the logging industry was also examined, focussing on the Wondama Bay area. Here, in 2001, community protests against logging companies active at that time provoked a huge and violent backlash from the military, in which many people were killed. The ‘bloody Wasior’events are among the many gross human rights violations which have never been resolved. Despite ongoing trauma in the community, in 2009 the government proceeded to award a new logging concession in the same area, to a company PT Kurnia Tama Sejahtera, a company whose owner, Tommy Winata, is closely linked to the military. Soldiers were also stationed to guard the company’s operations, and in 2013 once again committed serious acts of violence against local indigenous residents. (more details here).

The last case is from a remote part of the highlands in Deguewo, Paniai, where a gold rush has bought a myriad of problems. The miners are mostly informal fortune hunters from Sulawesi, but Australian company West Wits Mining is also involved, and eventually wants to set up a more regular operation in the area. It is widely accepted that the gold mining has become a disaster for local indigenous people – as well as the sporadic violent incidents that have broken out since mining started in 2006, the settlements have brought problems connected with alcoholism, criminality and a HIV/AIDS epidemic into this remote community. Local government has repeatedly spoken of shutting the mining area down, but gold is a valuable commodity and the political will to take action has not yet emerged.

Komnas HAM will no doubt publish its findings in due course. However, the very next day one of the witnesses to the inquiry experienced again the climate of fear which is universally imposed on all those who wish to defend indigenous rights and the Papuan forest. This report from Yayasan Pusaka’s website relates what happened as Paulinus Balagaize returned home to his village in Merauke:

Paulinus subject to intimidation returning home from Human Rights Commission Inquiry.

A prominent community member from Onggari village, Paulinus Balagaize, feels he was subjected to intimidation recently in Merauke. There are indications that the intimidation resulted from certain individuals who were displeased with the testimony he gave, explaining the problems around MIFEE and the Rajawali group’s sugar-cane plantation companies in Onggari village to the Testimonial Hearing of the National Human Rights Comissions’ (Komnas HAM) National Inquiry which took place at the regional office of the Law and Human Rights Ministry in Jayapura from 26th-28th November 2014

On Friday moring (29/11), Paulinus had just arrived at Mopah airport in Merauke when his mobile phone rang. It was a call from one of the staff at the Kurik local police station who asked Paulinus his current location, which Paulinus could confirm was still at the airport.

Paulinus explained, “I was concerned and asked around what the purpose of this phonecall might be, because it didn’t seem normal. Then I went and rested until lunchtime in the house of my family in Merauke. After that I left for Onggari village with my younger sister on the back of the motorbike. After crossing the Seven Wali Bridge, I noticed that there were two Kijang cars tailing me from behind”. Paulinus said.

In the Wendu area, Paulinus stopped his vehicle for a short break and took the chance to look and see who was in the cars which had stopped some distance away. However, the dirvers and passengers of the black and cream Kijangs were not visible. Paulinus continued his journey to the crossing point of the Kumbe River. Paulinus was picked up by his children in Kumbe village and only arrived in Onggari at night.

Paulinus sent an SMS asking Komnas HAM and the Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK) to get an explanation from the head of the Kurik police station and the Merauke police chief concerning the intimidation he had experienced, as there were indications it was a human rights violation. Sandra Moniaga, a Komnas HAM Commissioner in Jayapura, said that she would follow up the request.

Source Pusaka: http://pusaka.or.id/paulinus-mendapat-intimidasi-pulang-dari-inkuri-nasional-komnas-ham/

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