[awasMIFEE note: The letter below, from members of the Auyu ethnic group living near the Kia River, is in reaction to pressure to accept a new investor on their land. An Auyu man, vested with some authority from the local government, has been acting as a broker, in this case reportedly pushing people to reject one potential investor in favour of a new one, getting them to sign documents they didn’t understand and also giving them money. The community now fear that if two companies have rival claims over their land, and they are being pressured to take sides this will produce a conflict in which they will become involved.
Here’s a little bit of background on the companies involved: PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu is one of seven Menara Group concessions which obtained permits in Boven Digoel, and the only one which was not sold on to a Malaysian company. That company distributed money as compensation for taking the Auyu people’s land back in 2013, and even though that process was also coercive and manipulative (the company did not allow a proper decision making process, it held one meeting in the regency capital and then distributed cash) the community recognise that this transaction will in practice give PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu rights over their land. The new companies are PT Perkebunan Boven Digoel Abadi, which has been allocated an area of 37,010 hectares in Subur subdistrict, PT Bovendigoel Budidaya Sentosa, with an area of 30,190 hectares in Kia sub-district, and PT Perkebunan Bovendigoel Sejahtera, with an area of 39.440 hectares, however maps of the concessions are not available. Although the ownership of these companies cannot be confirmed, all three are registered at the office of an oil palm company called PT Bumi Mitratrans Marjaya, which is owned by Vence Rumangkang, one of the founders of the Demokrat Party].
A statement of opposition to the new companies which wish to operate on PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu’s concession by the indigenous people of the Kia River watershed in Boven Digoel, southern Papua.
PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu is a subsidiary of the Menara Group. In April 2013 PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu paid money to the indigenous community to release their customary land to the company – the Woboi and Afu clans in Meto village were given this money on Monday 22nd April 2013. Since then the company has disappeared and has yet to surface, now in 2017 entering the fourth year. We don’t know whether or not the Indonesian State has any regulations to deal with companies which disappear in this way, such as revoking their permits.
PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu’s disappearance without a trace was perceived as an opportunity by other companies. So in early November 2016, one of the three companies whose permits were signed by the Bupati of Boven Digoel regency in November 2015 came to Asiki, accompanied by an official of the Boven Digoel Indigenous People’s Association (LMA) and encouraged the local people to oppose PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu, with the reason that the company had been absent for so long leaving no way to be able to get in touch with them.
The LMA official prepared a letter of agreement with the new companies, pushed the people who felt they were being held in Asiki without consent to sign a letter of opposition, giving each of them an envelope containing 1 million Rupiah. They were told that their signatures were only for the attendance list, but it seemed that a lot of signatures were required, and the attendance register was a thick book. It appeared we were being forced to sign, (in particular by the LMA official). Now we feel we were lied to and forced to sign something which we didn’t ourselves properly understand.
The Woboi and Afu clans in Meto and Yang villages are clans whose ancestral forest is part of PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu’s concession and is now targetted by other companies as explained above. The following are some of the clear points which arose from a meeting of the Woboi and Afu clans which took place in Yang village on 2nd January 2017.
1. Since we have no clear news about PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu, we will oppose any new company, in whatever form it may appear,on our customary land area, unless there is clarity about the status of PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu which paid money to release land from customary land rights on 22nd April 2013.
2. We oppose the other companies described above because they have trapped us into signing documents we didn’t properly understand..
3. If a new company occupies land which PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu has already paid for, there is a danger that demands will be placed on those of us who have signed, even if this took place under duress and in ignorance. For this we oppose any activities by the companies described above.
4. We oppose any actions done by Boven Digoel LMA officials which keep labelling people from the Auyu ethnic group as poor, and saying that only oil palm can bring prosperity. If that’s the case, what about in Anggai, Getentiri and Ujung Kia where the oil palm companies have already started work, are they not also Auyu people? Are they living in prosperity now? We reject the words “The Auyu people are poor”.
5. We urge the regency government, especially the Bupati and relevant local government agencies to take a clear position to bring all investment activity on our land into line, because it has the potential to cause conflict.
If a new company wishes to occupy our forest, then a meeting must first take place between the Bupati, local government agencies (concerning forestry, plantations and the investment board), PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu, security forces (military and police), the indigenous communities which own and are responsible for the land, and the new companies themselves. Unless such a meeting takes place, we will oppose everything, because it will only inflame the situation unnecessarily and cause us, who are part of Indonesian society, to lose our livelihoods.
Kampung Yang, 2 January 2017
For the Hobuang Clan: Bruno
For the Afu clan: Kasimirus Kobi
For the Woboi clan: Lukas Kemon
Advisor to the three clans, and member of the Woboi clan: Fr. Felix Amias MSC