Statement from Merauke Human Rights Day demonstration.

Every year, across Papua, people mark Human Rights Day on December 10th with demonstrations. Although one of the major focus is always the arbitrary violence of the state security forces (in 2017, as every year, many Papuans have been shot dead by the police or military), economic, social and cultural rights are becoming a increasingly important issue, especially in relation to the upsurge in the development of extractive industries in Papua. These issues were highlighted in press releases and statements from the actions in Sorong and Jayapura.

In Merauke, hundreds of people reportedly took part in the demonstration at the local council building, held on the 11th December, because the 10th was a Sunday. This is what the demonstrators had to say in their statement:1

As Indonesia’s youngest province, Papua has a different history of integration from the rest of the country. A series of military operations have been one element of the national programme since 1961, made worse in 1967 when Freeport was given a permit to manage Papua’s natural resources. In fact this was to become one of the drivers of human rights problems in Papua. Not one of the past cases of civil and political rights violations can be said to be adequately resolved, for example the Arfai incident in 1965, the Mapenduma incident in 1976, the Biak Massacre in 1998, the Bloody Wamena and Bloody Merauke events in 2000, the assassination of Theys Hiyo Eluay in 2001, the Bloody Abepura events of 2006. Papuans were also arrested, tortured and imprisoned as part of all of these incidents.

Several similar incidents continue to occur including during the current leadership under President Jokowi, such as the killing of four schoolchildren in Paniai on the 8th December 2014. This has been classed as a gross human rights violation, but a resolution has yet to be found.

Southern Papua, as part of the Land of Papua, is also not free of human rights violations. Some examples are the beating of Blasius Simagay in Bade in 2014, the shooting of Yeremisa Kaipmun in the leg in Merauke in 2015, the beatings of Xaverius Tambaip and Ronald Ambungan in Merauke in 2016, the beating of Oktovianus Betoop in Merauke in 2017, and most recently the killing of Isak Kua and the sexual abuse of his female relative in November 2017.

When it comes to economic, social and cultural rights, Southern Papua is on the front-line. Because of it’s geographical position on swampy ground, with vast savannahs, this area has the potential to become a new breadbasket. The state has already been busy with this since 2007, when it started planning a project known as MIRE (Merauke Integrated Rice Estate). Moving forward from that basis, the government planned that Merauke should become a national and international food production zone through a megaproject known as Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE). The central government even went so far as to create national legislation to provide clarity on this large-scale investment plan. The relevant legislation is Government Regulation 26/2008, Presidential Instruction 5/2008 and Government Regulation 18/2010.

This programme has already claimed 1.6 million hectares of indigenous land, and according to President Jokowi, this will rise to 4.26 million hectares. It was an extraordinary policy which utterly ignored the local wisdom of the Malind people in particular, and the general population of southern Papua. Most people live dependent on nature, and their culture, but are being forced to abandon these livelihoods as dozens of companies were given permits under various categories: 316,347 hectares of oil palm, 156,812 hectares of sugar cane, 97,000 hectares of corn plantations, 973,056 hectares of industrial forestry and 69,000 hectares of food crops. Wood-chip processing would use 2818 hectares and building port facilities would need 1200 hectares.

The people of southern Papua, unaccustomed to industrialised work, were forced to become labourers, and because they were unskilled and with low levels of education they couldn’t compete with workers from elsewhere who were brought in to meet the needs of these companies. This has resulted in discrimination towards indigenous people, their economic marginalisation, and worst of all is that they have lost their main sources of livelihood: such as their land, forests and water resources. The ancestral forest which has always been their source of cultural inspiration has now vanished, converted to oil palm plantations which will not ensure their welfare on the land of their own ancestors.

Papuans are aware of the negative effects of the various forms of corporate investment, and it is not uncommon for them to protest against the government’s policies, however government responds by showing that it doesn’t care. On the contrary, the military, who are supposed to keep the peace and guard the community, instead respond to their protests with repressive methods. This has happened in Muting, Senegi and Yeiwid villages, and also in Ampera, Ikisi, Navini, Yare and Salamepe villages. Indigenous villages throughout the whole of southern Papua, including in Merauke, Asmat, Mappi and Boven Digoel regencies, have experienced similar repression. Future prosperity is promised, but in reality the result is seen to be the very opposite.

Because of this, we make a set of clear demands to President Jokowi, the Papuan Provincial Government and the Regency Governments in southern Papua to:

  1. Give back sovereignty over the ancestral lands and forests of Southern Papua

  2. Reject the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate megaproject that has taken over 1.6 million hectares of customary land in Southern Papua.

  3. Close down PT Korindo Group which has not brought any positive impacts in terms of the development or welfare of the people of southern Papua during the 25 years it has been operating.

  4. The government should move to adopt local legislation on indigenous customary law communities throughout all of the regencies of Papua Province.

  5. Review all permits and halt all work of companies which violate human rights by destroying the forests of Papua, which are the lungs of the world.

  6. Show a clear opposition to the efforts of co-ordinating law and human rights minister Wiranto to use the Council for National Harmony as a forum for the resolution of human rights cases, as this will not offer justice to the indigenous Papuan people who were the victims of those events.

  7. Bring the killer of Isak Kua to justice in a national Human Rights court, and with full transparency.

  8. Put an end to the practice of paying money to victims as a penalty as this is currently only leads to the legal responsibility for violations being evaded, and means that the military and police consider that it is normal and legal to commit acts of violence in Southern Papua, including killing people.

  9. Arrest and bring to justice the member/s of the military who sexually harrassed a female relative of Isak Kua with initials VK.

  10. Don’t just allow alcohol to circulate in southern Papua. The future of the younger generation has already been sacrificed, as they have become used to drinking alcohol. We urge all places with permits to sell alcohol be shut down across southern Papua.

  11. The District Legislative Council should urge the police to investigate the acts of violence, intimidation and stabbings of members of the community by persons unknowm, which has been making live difficult for the people of Merauke.

Source: Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua Selatan via SKPKC:

Photo: Jubi

  1. The first few paragraphs, which outline the general history of human rights as a concept and its incorporation into Indonesian law, are not translated here.  

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