Marind Intellectuals Oppose Corporations

Over the last few months, a series of meetings have taken place in villages around Merauke to discuss development plans, within the framework of local adat, or customary law,. In each one, a resolution has been made, a clear rejection of all investment. The document below, from a new grouping of Marind intellectuals called FORMASI SSUMAWOMA, is an open letter to the Merauke Regency government and other decision-making bodies, which describes these meetings and the reasons for their opposition.

It is an important document because much of the recent news we have received from Merauke has focussed on local people’s struggles for companies to meet their practical and necessary demands after companies have already forced their way in, such as a reasonable level of compensation when their land and trees are taken from them, or that the company keep their promises to employ local people. However this letter reaffirms that there is still a significant part of the community which opposes all the current development plans. The main reason is quite clear: that the forest not only is the source of people’s livelihood, but also their culture and their identity. When the forest is gone, how can the Malind Amin continue to exist?

The authors also make clear that their opposition is not an absolute rejection of all possible forms of development, but a recognition that, socially marginalised and with limited education, the Marind Anim are a long way from being in a position to determine the way outside investors could play a role in their development, in a way that will benefit them rather than destroy them.

“The Malind Anim people are also normal people who want to feel the touch of development, and an increase in security in many aspects of our lives, but also we don’t want to be marginalised by the wave of modernisation and globalisation which continues to sweep in with all its sophistications. In the same way, we also don’t want to lose our identity as the AMIN-HA, a true people whose culture remains strong, as the basic rights we have held through many generations are forcibly snatched away from us by companies, holding permits issued by the governments which have made themselves managers of our customary lands.”




Address of Secretariat : Jln Pemuda Kelapa lima Merauke

Document Number : 001/FORMASI-SSUMAWOMA/V/2013

Concerning : Statement rejecting corporate investment.


Bupati, Merauke Regency


We wish to present the findings of our studies, which have taking into account many aspects of the Marind Anim indigenous people’s lives and how they interconnect, alongside suggestions, advice and decisionswhich have come out of severaladat (customary law) meetings.

One of these adat meetings took place on 19th May 2012 in Makaling village. Adat chiefs and indigenous people were present from four districts (Ilwayab, Tubang, Okaba and Ngguti). The adat meeting reached the following conclusion: INDIGENOUS PEOPLE REFUSE TO GIVE UP THEIR CUSTOMARY LAND TO CORPORATIONS. This act of resistance was accompanied by a ritual to enact the adat decision. Adat leaders from each village held a ‘pole of agreement’ which had been tied with young coconut leaves and planted in the ground. These poles are known as SAL or SASIH MARKERS , and signify that activities on the land are prohibited.

The decision of another adat meeting on 8th May 2013 in Kampung Woboyu, Tubang District (which was sponsored by the Mayora Group) was as follows “WE, THE MARIND WOYU MAKALEW INDIGENOUS PEOPLE REJECT ALL INVESTMENT ACTIVITY ON OUR TERRITORY”. Meanwhile a meeting between Marind indigenous intellectuals and companies, sponsored by the Merauke Regency Adat People’s Organisation (Lembaga Masyarakat Adat) on 21st May 2013 in the Swiss Bel Hotel in Merauke, stated in their decision that they would “EMPHATICALLY REJECT COMPANIES THAT ARE CURRENTLY PURSUING INVESTMENTS, OR WANT TO INVEST, ON MARIND ANIM ANCESTRAL LAND”.

To speak of the Marind culture means to speak about the way hundreds of indigenous communities think, feel and act about their relationship to nature, and to the Creator.

Through these ways of thinking, feeling and acting, indigenous people are coming to realise that a great threat is beginning to endanger their very existence. An example are the sasih markers, a sign to forbid the passage of all people, whether they are part of this culture or not (ie. settlers). These markers are intended to block off access for a long time to protect the natural flora and fauna of the Marind Anim. AS INDIGENOUS PEOPLE AND INTELLECTUALS WE CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT, COMPANIES AND ALL STAKEHOLDERS TO SHOW THE HIGHEST RESPECT FORTHE MARIND ANIM INDIGENOUS PEOPLE AND THEIR ADAT LAW (LOCAL WISDOM). RESPECT AND OBEY THE SASIH MARKERS AS A SIGN OF PROHIBITION UNDER ADAT LAW.

Based on the decisions of the adat meetings described above, we as intellectuals of the Marind Woyu Maklew sub-ethnic group in Tubang and Ilwayab districts have been given a full mandate to report the decisions made at those adat meetings to the government, companies and all stakeholders in the Merauke Regency and Papua Province. Those decisions reflect views from the following villages: Ilwayab and Bibiken in Ilwayab District, Wamal, Dokib, Yowied, Dodalim, Woboyu and Welbuti in Tubang district. Taking into account the statements reported above, the Forum of Intellectuals of the Marind Woyu Maklew Sub-Ethnic Group of Ilwayab and Tubang districts, also hereby present the opinion of indigenous people in Okaba and Ngguti districts, as decided in the Adat meeting which took place on 19th May 2012 in Kampung Makaling, Okaba District. “WE, AS INTELLECTUALS OF THE MARIND WOYU MAKLEW SUB-ETHNIC GROUP HAVE DECIDED TODAY, 25TH MAY 2013: WE REJECT THE COMPANIES WHOSE NAMES ARE RECORDED HERE, INCLUDING:






Forest is not only the source of the Malind Anim people’s livelihood, it is also the source of Papuan people’s innermost sense of being, especially the Marind. If the forest is lost then all elements of their culture are lost, and the people will even lose their very identity as Marind Anim Ha. Even despite this, we do not want to reject all forms of progress out of hand.However we are very concerned about several companies which are already operating in other areas of Merauke regency, as we have outlined above.

The Malind Anim people are also normal people who want to feel the touch of development, and an increase in security in many aspects of our lives, but also we don’t want to be marginalised by the wave of modernisation and globalisation which continues to sweep in with all its sophistications. In the same way, we also don’t want to lose our identity as the AMIN-HA, a true people whose culture remains strong, as the basic rights we have held through many generations are forcibly snatched away from us by companies, holding permits issued by the governments which have made themselves managers of our customary lands.

Although we totally understand the reasons for the policy of encouraging corporate investors, the fact is that none of these investors support the indigenous people or people who live in isolated villages far from the recency capital. Maybe if there were 100 people in each village who had received a university-level education, then we might be able to stand up for ourselves, but the truth is that currently we are not sufficiently consolidated in that way to be able to accept corporate investment on our territory.

Here are some points of forest wisdom, based on the unity of people and land within the soul of Papuan nature.

  • To speak of Papuan culture, at least for the Malind Anim, means speaking about the ways that hundreds of indigenous communities think, feel and act, and their relationship with nature and the creator.

  • The relationship with nature (forest, land, animals and water) is like the connection between a child and their mother.

  • Papuans’ relationships with each other are based on cultural values of solidarity and mutual aid, justice and peace.

  • The Malind Anim are a religious people, close to their creator. They knew about God long before missionaries came to bring God into their culture.

  • Merauke/Malind Anim is rich in diversity, whether cultural or flora and fauna.

  • The Malind Anim culture represents the sense of identity of the community that follows it, and that is why it must be protected and nurtured along with the diverse flora and fauna that also inhabit Malind Anim lands.

  • The Malind Anim culture is not just a dance, a ritual or a carving. It is not a mere representation of a culture, decorated in mud, leaves and vines or other forest fibres.

  • If the Malind Anim culture is not protected and nurtured it will disappear, and with it the Malind Amin people’s sense of self.

  • The Malind Anim culture is indistinguishable from the ways of thinking, feeling and acting that encompass the Malind People’s existence as a whole.

  • Nature is not only the focus of people’s livelihood, but also the centre of the Malind Anim culture, which to anoutsider would seem to be a treasure which you could never put a price on.

  • The values of the ancestors are alive within the culture, but are constantly being shaken by individualist, hedonist or consumerist values, or by those who deceitfully steal the forest.



These are the reasons why we reject investors in our villages in Ilwayab, Tubang, Okaba and Ngguti districts:

  1. There is actually not so much Indigenous people’s land in Ilwayab, Tubang, Okaba and Ngguti districts, and the numbers of inhabitants are variable. Therefore we do not intend to give our customary land to any company, because in future generations, we hope that the Malind Woyu Maklew sub-ethnic group will continue to grow in numbers and develop.

  2. The indigenous peoples of Ilwayab, Tubang, Okaba and Ngguti districts are not ready to accept any company with sophisticated technology, Corporate Social Responsibility programs and corporate management. If we villagers are regarded as human resources, we are of little value in the company’s office-based approach to work. As we are aware of this, we know we couldn’t compete with labour brought in from outside Merauke, from Java or even outside Indonesia, because we have only received education up to high school level.

  3. We will ensure that indigenous land in Ilwayab, Tubang, Okaba, Ngguti and nearby areas is protected for local people to uphold our destiny to continue our everyday livelihoods.

  4. Forest is the primary source of livelihood for Papuan Indigenous people in general and especially in Ilwayab, Tubang, Okaba and Ngguti districts. From the time of our ancestors we have used it for our everyday necessities, and if it is lost then we have also not only lost the source of our livelihood in terms of physical necessities, but also our cultural livelihood.For Papuans and especially for us in the Malind land, this cultural life is firmly connected to our identity, like a mother and a father, and always connected with the universe.

  5. Our culture will be lost if all the forest is lost, or if companies invest in our customary forest / our lifeblood. That is why we made the agreements in the meetings in the four districts. We will face great difficulties if the forest is gone.

  6. The land and forest make up the for the people of Ilwayab, Tubang, Okaba and Ngguti‘s cultural identity, and the forest is our mother, and the people will not sell their own mother. As an example, the wood to make kandala or tifa drums is taken from the forest, and the bark of the cajuput tree is used for the roofs of our houses, which means that the forest is very important not only for our cultural life but also to build our houses. As well as house-building materials, earth for decorating or painting our faces (tanah poo) also comes from the forest, and there are other important cultural rituals which are closely linked to Malind Anim peoples lives. There are many sacred sites around our land which must not be disturbed, and these are only a few of the forest’s functions for us as indigenous people.

  7. We have also learnt from the companies which have already started operations such as PT Central Cipta Murdaya, PT Bio Inti Agrindo, PT Agriprima Cipta Persada, PT Wahana Mulia Sukses Sejati, PT Medco Papua, PT Rajawali Group and PT Dongin Prabhawa, which have already plundered the people’s forest until there is none left, with the excuse that later Corporate Social Responsibility programs would bring prosperity to the people, but there have proved to be nothing more than lies which were never realised. It is exceptionally rare that Papuans or Malind Anim people or youth are employed by these companies as directors, supervisors or office staff. In the few cases where Papuans are employed, they are not local villagers who hold customary rights over the land. On the contrary, when PT Medco started its operations, the people were tricked and then abandoned. The companies have violated the people’s rights in many ways, and this has caused great hardship.

  8. Forest clearance on such a large scale will also have a negative impact on the global climate. Preventing global warming is another reason why we we mean to preserve the customary forest in Ilwayab, Tubang, Okaba and Ngguti districts, as well as to safeguard the forest for future generations, so that it can also be a source of livelihood for our grandchildren.

This statement of opposition has been written absolutely without any form of duress from anyone. This letter is the official voice of the indigenous people and clans which own the customary rights over land in Ilwayab and Tubang districts, alongside indigenous people from Okaba and Ngguti districts. The Intellectual Forum wishes to convey this voice to the government and companies. We hope that God and the Marind Anim ancestors remain by our side and bless us all, now and forever Amen.

Merauke, 25 May 2013





Vice Chair I


General Secretary


  1. Papuan Provincial Government in Jayapura

  2. Chair of Papua Provincial Legislative Assembly in Jayapura

  3. Chair ofPapua Consultative Assembly (MRP) Jayapura

  4. Chair of the Papuan Provincial Development Planning Board in Jayapura.

  5. Chair of the Papuan Provincial National Land Agency in Jayapura

  6. Chair of the Papua Province Forestry Service in Jayapura

  7. Chair of the Papuan branch of the National Human Rights Commission in Jayapura

  8. Archbishop of Merauke

  9. Chair of the Merauke District Legislative Assembly

  10. Chair of the Merauke Regency Development Planning Board

  11. Chair of the Merauke Regency branch of the National Land Agency

  12. Chair of the Merauke Regency Forestry and Plantation Service

  13. Chair of the Merauke Regency Investment and Promotion Board

  14. Chair of the Merauke Regency Lembaga Masyarakat Adat

  15. Head of Tubang District

  16. Head of Ilwayab District

  17. Head of Ngguti District

  18. Head of Okaba District

  19. Pastor of Okaba parish

  20. Leaders of PT. Randu Kuning Utama in Merauke

  21. Leaders of PT. Swarna Hijau Indah in Merauke

  22. Leaders of PT. Wahana Samudera in Merauke

  23. Leaders of PT. Kurnia Alam Nusantara in Merauke

  24. Leaders of PT. Dharma Agro Lestari in Merauke

  25. Archive

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