A Member of Merauke Regency District Legislative Council, Hendrikus Hengky Ndiken, has expressed his complaints about the 1.2 million hectare rice estate recently announced by the Indonesian President Joko Widodo. He was disappointed by how land conversion work seemed to have been taken over by the military.
He said that local entrepreneurs who have joined the Gapensi umbrella organisation should be involved and given the opportunity to convert land for agriculture, in order to prevent the emergence of social inequality.
“I have to say sincerely, that steps taken by the military in converting agricultural land have infringed regulations. Because the Presidential Degree had signalled that an organisation had been formed to carry out the instructions,” he told Jubi on 6th November 2011.
Hengky added that he would support the military taking over land conversion if it was categorised as an emergency. “However this is currently not the case and space and opportunities should be given to entrepreneurs to do the work”, he said.
Separately, the head of the Merauke Regency Indigenous People’s Association (LMA), Ignasius Ndiken, said he also had problems with the military doing the work. “If the military does the work, that’s a problem. It would be better to pass the work over to local entrepreneurs,” he said.
“How is it possible that they have their land, but other people are doing the work? Who’s setting out the rules? The community have a claim to the land as customary landowners, but in fact they are not being given proper opportunities,” he said.
He added that although he feels local people should fully support the central government’s programme, indigenous Papuans seem not to be getting any direct benefit.