This statement was drafted during a meeting between indigenous Papuans affected by plantation development, NGOs and local government representatives, on 4th and 5th November 2016.
We are representatives of the Auyu, Wambon and Muyu peoples, who live within the administrative area of Boven Digoel Regency, Papua province, and primarily in villages that are targets for investment in the forestry and plantation sector. We have held a dialogue with government and policy-makers from Boven Digoel, along with Civil Society Organisations PUSAKA, SKP Merauke Archdiocese and WWF Papua, concerning government policy to protect and respect the rights of Papuan indigenous people to land and natural wealth. The even was held in the PBHK Convent Dormitory in Tanah Merah, on the 4th and 5th November 2016.
We take the view that the land is like our mother who protects human beings and all living creatures found on or under the earth. For us, land has many uses – it is the place we live, the place we build our lives together, a place for hunting, sacred places, holy places, historic places, our source of food, our source of income, our source of medicines, our particular social and cultural identity, a habitat for animals and plants, the land which is transferred when a marriage takes place, and a place for things visible and invisible.
We indigenous people control and own land and natural wealth based on customary law and the customs alive within each community, such as systems to regulate inheritance, gifts and fines. Land management and land use is still based on local knowledge and customs, decision-making councils, mutual aid, family labour, the use of traditional tools and working at a small-scale to meet life’s needs, also paying attention to protecting the environment.
We are currently facing problems and threats due to the investment activities of logging and oil palm companies which are taking land and forest products from our ancestral domain on a large scale. The companies are: PT Tunas Sawa Erma (Korindo), PT. Usaha Nabati Terpadu, PT. Trimegah Karya Utama, PT. Megakarya Jaya Raya, PT. Manunggal Sukses Mandiri, PT. Megakarya Jaya Raya, PT. Kartika Cipta Pratama, PT. Graha Kencana Mulia, PT. Energi Samudera Kencana, as well as logging companes PT Tunas Timber and PT Bade Makur Orissa, which all together have permits for 1,088,394 hectares.
The government gives out permits to companies without the local indigenous community first holding a meeting to decide what they want and give their agreement. The companies acquire land without a collective community decision or free and fair negotiations. Companies use a method of payment which they call “tali asih” [a vague term used to mean a thank-you payment] to obtain land from customary rights owners. They also organise celebrations, give aid, make promises of development, make open or veiled threats of violence, use manipulative techniques, and ask people to sign empty sheets of paper. When ‘tali asih’ or compensation money is given, it takes place secretively and as the company chooses and so only serves to create conflict and tension between members of the community, mutual suspicion and a feeling of disharmony.
We have witnessed how companies have cleared natural forest, sago groves, rubber farms, fruit trees, sacred places, ancient villages, and how rivers have become sedimented, dirty and polluted.
As a result, we, whose lives are highly dependent on forest products, have lost the forest and our lands. We are finding it difficult to make a living, the places we used to hunt have gone, our historic and cultural places have gone, our sources of food, and our clean water. Disposal of waste into rivers and swamps in violation of environmental standards has made the community afraid to consume what they can take from rivers and sago groves. Many wild animals are becoming rare and hard to find, such as birds of paradise, cassowaries, crowned pigeon, deer, kangaroos, wild pigs, forest chickens, cuscus, lory birds and cockatoos, arowana fish, akasi fish, freshwater lobsters.
We feel a sense of injustice at the money given for the various types of timber species which are extracted, 10,000 Rupiah per cubic metre for timber logs and 10,000 per tree for sago palms. These values are low, much lower than the local market price for logs. Timber is brought to the company’s sawmill, but we have also seen commercially valuable timber piled up, not used and then burnt.
We also feel a sense of injustice because our livelihoods and incomes were better before the company arrived, when we still provided for ourselves, compared to since the company has been operating. We have experienced discrimination in the workplace, don’t receive decent pay, and do not benefit from any social security or health programmes.
All of these problems are causes of concern: there is no right to freedom and a sense of security, there is no justice, our economic situation deteriorates, our children’s education is ignored, legal protection and law enforcement are weak, the environment’s capacity to support us is reduced, there is increased tension within the community, and also between the community and the companies and government. These problems are threats to our survival as Papuans “If the forest is gone, suffering will follow. Papuans are marginalised and poor, their cultural identity lost, they can’t live properly”.
Based on international provisions and domestic regulations concerning human rights, the basic rights of Papua people must be protected, respected and must not be ignored, diminished or taken away by anyone. Moreover, it must be remembered that indigenous communities have the right to determine freely and without coercion their economic, social and cultural development, and the right to a good and healthy environment.
Taking into account the state’s obligation to protect, respect and advance the rights of its people, we, as representatives of indigenous communities and civil society organisations wish to state the following:
We urge the local government to conduct a review and actively oversee all permits which have been given to oil palm and logging companies, whether active or not, in an open way which involves indigenous communities. The Government should revoke permits which harm the rights of indigenous Papuans, are legally flawed or run contrary to regulations.
We ask local and central government to facilitate surveillance and community monitoring reports connected to irregularities in the work of companies operating in our ancestral domain, and respond to the results.
We urge local and central government to respect and protect the rights of indigenous people, who have collective rights to give or withhold free prior and fully informed consent on any measures that can have an influence on their communities’ land and ancestral domain.
We urge local government to protect, respect and advance the rights of the Papuan people, by issuing local regulations concerning the recognition, protection and respect for indigenous Papuans’ rights and the rights to customary land in Boven Digoel Regency. Local government should immediately implement a programme to map customary land and important sites.
We also urge companies to respect indigenous people’s rights, protect places of importance to the community, hold community councils and consensus decision-making, so many people are involved in land acquisition arrangements, and respect community decisions not to cede land and forest to companies.
We urge local government to be actively involved in resolving tensions and conflicts that have emerged as a result of investment activities and violations of the rights of indigenous Papuans, where Papuans have lost their rights over their living space, using the method of peaceful and fair dialogue, and rehabilitating and restoring the rights of indigenous Papuans.
We urge local government to produce policies and programmes to empower and improve the welfare of indigenous Papuans, especially business and structures for community enterprise such as: facilitate the development of rubber cultivation, buying and marketing rubber, forming co-operatives and rubber farmers groups in each village.
We urge the local and national government to produce policies and programmes to secure land as a source of food and businesses to process food crops grown by the community, especially for Papuan women.
Signed by 23 participants from villages including Meto, Yang, Hobinangge, Watemu, Getentiri, Anggai, Ujung Kia and Asiki, as well as NGO representatives.