Government approach in Papua criticised in Human Rights Commission Indigenous People’s Inquiry findings.

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“The government needs to review its concept of development in Papua, based on principles of respecting and protecting human rights…. …The government, churches and indigenous peoples must formulate development concepts specific to Papua, resolve conflicts over rights and natural resource management and eliminate the stigma of separatism from communities which are struggling to defend their basic rights.”

That’s one of the recommendations of a new report, in four volumes, published by the Indonesian Human Rights Commission, into the rights of indigenous people living in forest areas. It presents the findings of a national Inquiry, which heard evidence from indigenous people in struggle across the Indonesian archipelago in 2014. There’s a long list of other recommendations to different ministries and government bodies, notably including urging the police and military to withdraw their personnel from corporate premises in indigenous areas. The report’s authors for the Commission also state a clear opposition to the MIFEE project, advising the government to “revise regulations and policy concerning plantations and large-scale agriculture projects, including MIFEE, which result in violations of indigenous rights”.

In the findings and analysis section in the first volume, some specific issues affecting different regions were considered. In Papua, as well as singling out MIFEE for criticism, the report’s authors sharply criticised the Indonesian government’s security approach in Papua, where amidst a history of structural marginalisation and human rights violations, the Papuan people are routinely stigmatised as separatist troublemakers for defending their basic rights. The relevant paragraphs are translated below.

The Stigma of Separatism in Papua.

124. Papua is rich in abundant natural resources. Gold, silver, fish, forests, rattan and oil can all be found there. Papua makes an extremely large contribution to Indonesia every year. However, the irony is when this richness is compared to the condition of the population. For decades the people of Papua have been hounded, arrested, tortured, imprisoned, killed and continuously labelled with the stigma of being separatists, treasonous or members of the OPM. They have also been structurally and systematically made powerless and impoverished.

125. The Inquiry Team has found that in the Papuan context, security and political issues receive more prominence than development and community empowerment. Demands for community participation to ensure and protect indigenous rights to land and natural resources more often than not considered as a threat to political and economic stability.

126. Additionally, Papua’s special autonomy status has proved unable to provide a solution to agrarian and natural resource conflicts. Again and again, the response to indigenous people’s efforts to defend their rights is to stigmatise them as belonging to armed groups or the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM).

MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate)

127. The problems around MIFEE were raised in the public hearings, where the Inquiry Team heard evidence from indigenous Marind people. The MIFEE programme is part of the Masterplan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development (MP3EI), as part of Corridor 6 – Papua and Maluku. Plans to go ahead with MIFEE were reaffirmed in Presidental Regulation 32/2011 which set out the MP3EI plan for the period 2011-2015.

128. Starting from 2010, and encompassing 2.5 million hectares of land from the total 4 million hectares which make up Merauke Regency, the project is part of the central government’s attempt to make Merauke a centre for food production. When it was launched, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that the project was targeted at “feeding Indonesia and the world.” But in the end, the arrival of MIFEE just brought injustice for the Marind Anim people had always used the forest to find food. Because of MIFEE, the forest was felled, sago trees which are their main food source were cut down and animals could no longer be found when hunting. All this has made it hard for local people to find food.

129. MIFEE was devised without the wider participation of or consultation with the local community, despite the fact that the MIFEE project area included their customary lands, Almost all activities connected to MIFEE concern the exploitation of natural resources, However, human rights and environmental carrying capacity are not important considerations. Currently tensions have begun to emerge as work starts on MIFEE projects.

130. By 2014 tensions connected to MIFEE had started. If the programme is continued, MIFEE could cause natural resource-based conflict and ecological damage, bringing no benefits to indigenous people or other local communities. MIFEE could also violate the rights of future generations to enjoy their environment or lose their roots or identity.

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