The People of Baad and Koa villages Reject PT Anugrah Rejeki Nusantara (Wilmar)

[Note to readers in Australia and New Zealand: Wilmar International, the subject of the article below now supplies the majority of the sugar sold in Australia under the brand name CSR sugar and in New Zealand as Chelsea Sugar. The Singapore-based multinational bought the CSR company (renamed Sucrogen) in 2010, at around the same time as it was developing huge expansion plans in West Papua. So there’s a very direct link between the destruction of 40,000 hectares of forest and the local Malind people’s livelihood and a product sitting on supermarket shelves all across Australia and New Zealand. Just thought it might be interesting to point that out…]

Village leaders from Baad and Koa villages, Animha District met with the chair of the Merauke Regency council (DPRD) Leo Mahuze last week (October 2012). During the meeting the villagers, who were accompanied by Jago Bukit from Yasanto, expressed their communities’ anxiety about a company, PT Anugrah Rejeki Nusantara (ARN) which has plans to develop a sugar cane plantation on land surrounding various villages in Animha District.

The people made clear that they reject ARN’s plans because they fear that they will no longer be able to gather forest products, hunt, fish and cultivate land once the company has developed a sugar cane plantation. The company’s presence is already creating divisions between those in favour and those against the plantation, leading to mutual suspicion and a lack of communication. Villagers doubt whether the company’s presence could help or empower the community because they have seen no signs that the company is serious about ensuring their welfare.

ARN is a subsidiary of Wilmar International, a company with foreign capital, which has already obtained a letter of recommendation or location permit from the local government for a 40,000 hectare sugar cane plantation. A previous location permit in Taboniji District was later moved to Animha District. Another of Wilmar’s subsdiaries, PT Agriprima Cipta Persada (ACP) has obtained a permit to operate in Merauke – the government gave the permit for a 33,540 hectare oil palm plantation in Muting district as part of the development of the MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate) Project.

In mid-October 2012, ARN brought 15 village leaders from Wayau, Baad and Koa villages to visit one of Wilmar’s oil palm plantations near Padang and a sugar cane plantation in Lampung, both in Sumatra. According to Jago Bukit, the participants were satisfied and encouraged after seeing that the smallholding farmers who sell their crop to the company in both those areas (a scheme known as plasma) could make a good living. But he also doubted whether such a visit gave the complete picture. The villagers only met with middle-class plasma farmers who were able to succeed because the had the economic capability and relationship with the company that allowed them to do so. They did not find out about the situation of local peasants or the background history of the sites that they visited.

According to Carlo Nainggolan from Sawit Watch, PT Permata Hijau Pasaman is a subsidiary of Wilmar International which operates an oil palm palntation in Pasaman Barat regency in West Sumatra, close to where the visit would have taken place. That company is still embroiled in anunresolved conflict with local people concerning land-grabbing, criminalising local people and the allocation of plasma land. “The company should not only give one-sided explanations of such things as the partnership schemes between the company and the community in an oil palm plantation, but also allow the other side to be heard, so that the community has a fuller knowledge, before deciding whether or not to to collaborate with the company.”

Many stories and examples exist of how partnership schemes with large-scale plantations only provide benefits for the companies and leave farmers exploited. The Marind people generally meet their families’ needs by relying on local knowledge and technology, small-scale production with limited capital and family members doing the work. If they are not protected and empowered to confront new large-scale businesses from large investors, they will be marginalised and continue to live in poverty. In this kind of situation, if people are rejecting investment plans, they should be listened to and their concerns taken into account.

Source: Pusaka

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