The Controversy around Presidential Regulation 40 of 2013: The Indonesian Army Opens the way for Business in West Papua

15/06/2013 Presidential Regulation (Perpres) 40 of 2013, a new order issued by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to “Build Roads to Faciltate the Expansion of Development in Papua and West Papua Provinces”, has been greeted with opposition and concern by the Papuan people. Perpres 40 requests the Indonesian military’s involvement in the technical implementation, construction and supervision of road building projects.

The problem is, the military presence, with its shadows of violence, is still a source of trauma for the Papuan people. Moreover this development program is closely associated with the vested interest of easing the way for big business in the Land of Papua, and to put in place Indonesia’s MP3EI (Masterplan to Accelerate and Expand Economic Development) by building an investment corridor through Papua and the Moluccas. Also it is no secret that the military are involved in business deals over the use of forest products and mining, protection rackets and illegal business which more favours investors rather than supporting the people. (see

“At first glance Perpres 40 appears to have the usual noble aim of opening up and connecting isolated areas with centres of economic growth and facilitating the movement of goods. However, on closer examination, this Perpres is closely connected to the global economic agenda, especially in the way it uses infrastructure developments along economic corridors to speed up, expand and facilitate economic liberalisation in the Land of Papua”, said Franky, Director of Yayasan Pusaka, in Jakarta.

Papua is rich in abundant natural resources, which is why it has become a juicy target for big and wealthy companies to push their way in, reap the profits and multiply their investment. To make it easier for these investments to reach centres of economic growth, strong institutions are needed which can act swiftly and at low cost.

Maybe the usual state companies and private contractors are not capable of reaching areas which are often described as being ‘frontier’ zones, where security risks are rife and the geography also presents challenges, and so there is a need for institutions which already have experience and skill in the security approach, such as the armed forces. At the same time they can also continue their mission to keep building up security along the border, extend government control and lead the Papuan people to despair.

“Military strength and the security approach are tools which government and big business use to introduce, connect and integrate Papuans [into the national economy] through building up a globalised modern economy which it imagines will bring change for Papuan people, such as the MIFEE megaproject in Merauke”, Franky said.

The involvement of the military in this MP3EI national priority project to construct an economic corridor in Papua ignores the frequently-voiced demands of Papuans to reduce the military’s involvement in social affairs and the desire to develop Papua as a land of peace.

“Us Papuans also have our rights as citizens to a safe and peaceful life, just as any other citizens do. Military involvement in business does not square with the Papuan people’s aspiration to withdraw military troops from Papua, to promote peace across Papua” said S. Gebze, a youth leader from Merauke.

Actually, before issuing policy or development programs in the Land of Papua, the government really should first consult and seek the agreement of Papuan indigenous people, especially if the policy concerns or affects the people or their environment. “This obligation is in accordance with the spirit of the Indonesian constitution and Papua’s special status as an area with regional autonomy. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s government should have done this before issuing Perpres 40 or other similar policies. It has already been shown that top-down development and military involvement are a failed strategy which conflicts with the process of building democracy”, said Franky.

A look at Conditions on the Ground

Along Merauke’s border with Papua New Guinea (Kondo, Jagebob, Bupul, Muting and the interior of Selil), the government is currently working on infrastructure projects, widening and repairing roads and bridges from Merauke city to Waropko. The military presence can be felt through dozens of security posts which have been set up along this border road. They are not only interested in controlling the area and keeping it secure, but are also involved in the security business, collecting fees from passing vehicles transporting fuel or forest products.

There have also been not infrequent cases where the military have been involved in violence towards Papuans in villages and forests along this road, even causing some deaths.

There are already at least seven oil palm, sugar cane and logging companies that are operating and clearing the forest. Their owners are connected to local, national and multinational corporations, such as Korindo Group, Daewoo Group, Wilmar Group and Hardaya Group. These are the people that are actually benefiting from the construction of this economic corridor under the MP3EI, which is creating a route for their business to reach warehouses, port facilities and economic centres. They are protected by the regulations which are supposed to constrain their activities. They are accompanied by “members” of the armed forces each time they go to negotiate for right to the land, and visit them socially in the evenings. In each deal they make the people are manipulated and deceived, their voice stifled.

The local government has asked businesses in the area to work with them to clear forest along the Sota – Muting road between the security outposts. Their excuse is to create a “community-owned rubber plantation” over hundreds of acres of forest, rich with valuable gambier plants and important sites for the Marind and Yei peoples. This forest is being cut down supposedly for rubber trees for local people, but there has been no environmental impact assessment, no information about how land will be divided, no information about where the rubber produced could be sold, and in the end everyone suspects that this plan was no more than a sweet fantasy taken from the speeches of government workers, “members” of the armed forces, and corporate brokers.

The government is also currently clearing forests, swamps and grasslands for roads and bridges that will connect the MIFEE areas: cluster V in Okaba, Cluster VI in Wanam, Cluster VII in Tubang, and Cluster II in Kali Kumbu, connecting Kampung Wayau to the principal road(1), concreting over and dividing the Inggun swamp into two parts with an earth road three kilometres long(2), bulldozing the routes of the ancestors and other important sites, without Environmental Impact Assessments(3), going where they please. The people are left to accept whatever random amount they are offered as compensation for the wood that has been cut down.

Rahai wood worth millions of Rupiah per cubic metre is dragged out of the forest and brought to the city by wealthy people from the transmigrant villages in collaboration with these “members” that staff the security outposts. The investors in food crops and sugar-cane such as Astra Group, Mayora Group, Wilmar Group, Medco Group and CGAD Group, also show no signs of being companies free of corruption that will obey the rules. When a local government agency official was asked about this issue, their answer seemed to ignore the rights of the people in favour of the company’s wishes. “We sincerely hope for and need to work together with companies”, the official said.

(1) Malind people living in Wayau didn’t want to share their opinions, seeing as the local government officials are the ones that should know more about the project and the police and military are also there. But there is no-one who seems to care about the damage and the threat that they will lose their livelihood fishing in the swamp. Company officials, from Hardaya Plantation (CCM Group) and PT. Anugerah Rejeki Nusantara (Wilmar) also don’t seem to care, or are even in agreement with the destruction which will help their business interests.

(2) There are beautiful views over the Inggun swamp, which is home to many local species of fish, birds and other plants and animals which have yet to be studied. But earth has been carelessly piled up in this place, five metres wide and two kilometres long, dividing the swamp in two. This new construction is sure to affect the flow of water through the swamp, cut out links in the swamp’s ecosystem, and limit the development and movement of fish and other water-bound animals.

(3) Environmental Impact Assessments (AMDAL) are obligatory for road-building projects which could have important environmental or social impacts.

[additional note from awasMIFEE: The Presidential Regulation gives the order to build 40 roads throughout Papua and West Papua provinces, The military are given the responsibility to build many of these roads, including the continuation of the border road from Waropko to Oksibil, as well as hotspots well known for human rights abuses from the military such as the central highlands and Yapen Island, or very remote areas such as Asmat and Waropen districts. The military will be paid for this work by government funds. The roads to be built in Merauke Regency are not to be built directly by the military, but as the article above makes clear, they nevertheless act to consolidate military business and enforce the top-down development model which many Papuans, at least in Merauke, have expressed their clear opposition to.]

Source: Pusaka

Additional notes from:

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