The people of Nikiwar object to PT Berkat Setiakawan Abadi’s plans.

In early 2014 the Forestry ministry gave permission to release 8937.39 hectares of land from the state forest estate to PT Berkat Setiakawan Abadi (BSA) for a rubber plantaion near Werabur, Weianggi and Kurei villages in Nikiwar District, Wondama Bay Regency, West Papua Province.

In 2008, local people had already rejected PT BSA, which is owned by a South Korean, Yoseph Park, but the Bupati of Wondama Bay regency nevertheless issued a permit for a plantation.

PT BSA enjoys the support of the govenment and security forces. On Monday 18 May 2015 the company came to the area with an entourage made up of the Forestry Agency, police from the Windesi local station and the local military command at Windesi. PT BSA wanted to hold a meeting to explain their plans to survey land for a rubber plantation in Werabur village. Representatives of the local communities in Werabur, Kurei, Werianggi, Tamode and Idor villages were present.

Many local people wanted to know about the company’s plans but were not able to enter the meeting room at the Nikiwar District Office. They protested from outside but were not heeded and had to ask about the meeting. Merry Torembi Karena, a woman from Kurei village, said “Some of us local people who came along were left outside, were not able to follow the presentations and there was no chance for us to ask anything. This meeting was only for the bosses, why didn’t they hold it in the village hall so that we could be involved?”

Local people also object to the fact that PT BSA has yet to give them a proper explanation of their plans for a rubber plantation, or their survey plans. Manusawai, the Kurei village secretary explained “I think this company is not being clear because they only explain about the good bits, if we raise questions then neither the company nor the government gives us any response”.

Manusawai, who had previously worked as a foreman for PT Varita Majutama, an oil palm company in Bintuni, told of what he experienced there, “When the company first started operating the people were happy, but after the forest was destroyed, and the rivers were damaged, people started to complain because there were no more fish or prawns, and the only places to go hunting were far away. Other forest products such as sago groves, eaglewood trees, lawang trees, masohi trees, rattan, were all gone. It was even difficult to find wood to build our houses”.

In the meeting, Mansawai conveyed his objections to PT BSA’s plans and asked the people to weigh up the effects of the company’s presence. Indigenous Papuans in Nikiwar District make a living from hunting, planting forest gardens and managing forest products, such as masohi and eaglewood trees. A rubber plantation which would fell the forest around the village would affect this livelihood and the local peoples’ income.

Aside from this, local people are suspicious that the company’s survey is not for a rubber plantation but actually to survey the potential for mining operations, as they have previously experienced with other companies. Jakob Torembi, a religious leader in Werabur village, said “I’m suspicious and want to question the company’s survey plans, which are being led by an engineer. My suspicion is that the aim of the survey might not be for a rubber plantation but actually to do with mining in the area. If you want to survey, go ahead, but don’t stir things up even more”.


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