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How Papua’s Green Areas are Increasingly being Destroyed

 

By Fr Santon Tekege

A portrait of oil palm companies in Wami & Sima Villages in Nabire)

Translation by AwasMifee

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Throughout the Land of Papua, forest is being destroyed ever faster to feed the interests and profits of companies and provincial and local governments. Papua’s forests are becoming a target for investors from around the world, who treat the forest as if it were there merely to satisfy their personal desires. So Papua’s forest is being replaced with oil palm. The Papuan forest with all its diverse flora and fauna becomes a tasty snack for feudal overlords and the Indonesian Government. The provincial and local governments, without telling the people who live there, allow all kinds of companies to start operations in the land of Papua. This is why it is vital that such companies cannot just move in, including oil palm companies such as the one which is planning a plantation in Nabire Regency.

The companies must be rejected so that indigenous Papuans’ relationship with their local environment is not obstructed or severed. This means it is important that the government and all other concerned parties, including the church, pay attention to the increasing rate of forest destruction in the Land of Papua.

Papuans and their Forest

Papuans, as gatherers and forest gardeners, make use of nature’s riches as their source of livelihood. Whether they live near the coast or in the mountains, they find food directly in nature, such as sago, sweet potatoes, fish, animals to hunt like deer, kangaroo, wild pig or cuscus, and different kinds of vegetables. This situation is slowly changing. however – as more and more forest is felled, so Papuans find it harder to find sago and animals to hunt.

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In general Papuans have a strong connection with their natural environment. Everything that can be found in the forest is seen as an integral part of human life. Forest is seen as the home of the ancestors. When the forest is destroyed, cracks appear in ths co-existance between the Papuan people and the forest/nature. Because of this, when people cut down the forest, it can be understood as an effort to weaken Papuan people’s relationship with the forest and natural environment. Papuans who live close to nature find themselves in a dilemma. Their forest has been cut down, and so the places they look for food, hunt or fetch clean water are all gone. Meanwhile they get no benefit from the oil palm plantations.

Investors currently think that the forests of Papua are going to be replaced with oil palm. Through their various forms of propaganda, the companies make wonderful promises to the communities which hold the customary land rights. that they will be given their own oil palm smallholdings. The companies say they will attend to community education and healthcare needs and even say they will guarantee increased economic security. Just like the oil palm company in Wami and Yaro villages in Nabire. However, in reality the indigenous people just suffer more and more. According to the National Central Statistics Bureau data from 2010 they are also the poorest. Indonesia’s two easternmost provinces (Papua 37.53% and West Papua 35.71%) have the highest levels of poverty nationwide, despite Papua’s abundant natural resources. The government needs to look and think whose fault this is? Or could it be that it is government policy which is to blame, and is disadvantaging the Papuan people?

Oil palm out of Papua

Policies are needed to manage and use natural resources in a balanced way, or one which is intended to benefit Papuan people. If this takes place then people’s economic security will also tend to increase. Forest doesn’t have to be replaced with oil palm to increase economic security. There are still many opportunities for businesses that will ensure a secure future for Papuans. It is not ethical to sacrifice forests which have intrinsic value with something which is to be used for a short time. We need to understand that Papuans are people who are one with nature so they have to defend it and pass it on to future generations. Don’t destroy the forest with all its wildlife and traditional medicines, we need to evaluate and simply refuse all companies, including oil palm companies in the Land of Papua, and Nabire in particular.

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When oil palm companies move in they will clear the forest. Take, for example, the case of PT Nabire Baru in Wami (Yaur District) and in Sima District, Nabire. According to local people in Wami, the company plans to clear 32,000 of forest. There would be another 8000 in Sima. Meanwhile the deacon of Nabire Bay says that the company plans to clear 17,000 hectares between Wami and Yaro. The Nabire Regency Administration has issued a permit to PT Nabire Baru to develop an oil palm plantation in order to stimulate the economy for the people of Nabire. The government believes that bringing PT Nabire Baru to Wami and Sima will bring economic security both to local indigenous communities and non-Papuans living in Nabire. The government didn’t consider the need to conserve the forest, trees and animals, but just gave the company a permit. By imposing forest conversion to oil palm, the ecosystem and all the animals living around Wami and Yaro villages will be destroyed. The use of pesticides and domestic waste will result in a reduction in the environmental support capacity. That is why it is important to reject oil palm in Wami and Sima.

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We have already watched closely how different areas of Papua have experienced oil palm companies. In each case the reality is that oil palm plantations never bring security to the people of Papua, so why do they still want to allow new oil palm plantations to start up across Papua, this time in Nabire? Oil palm plantations will actually bring new problems for Papuans because they will lose sources of food, medicinal plants will be wiped out and sacred places will be lost. Maybe it is to give job opportunities to immigrant workers from outside Papua? In this way, however, the number of new inhabitants will increase, and the existing inhabitants will just get poorer and never find economic security. Whose interest lies behind forest clearance for oil palm in Papua? Papua is being taken over by foreign companies, and the losers are the ordinary people. It is the ordinary people who will lose their work as farmers because they are not able to compete with big business, or even cannot adjust to working for a modern enterprise. The Papuan people live directly from nature. To get accustomed to modern methods takes a long time for indigenous Papuans. Local governments don’t supply indigenous Papuans with training. Therefore the local people are just considered stupid and unskilled, meaning it is very easy for companies just to bring in immigrants from outside of Papua to make up their workforce.

Conserving Papua’s forest has to be placed in a framework of saving the Papuan people. Papua’s forest should not be seen as a forest for it’s own sake only, but something which is correlated with the Papuan people’s identity. Thinking like this, forest is no longer an object to be exploited, but an integral part of the people of Papua and must be protected and conserved.

A Portrait of Oil Palm for Indigenous Residents of Nabire

The weak and the poor in Papua suffer if their land is gone. They will suffer the loss of traditional medicines and sacred places. Papuan indigenous people’s intimate knowledge of other communities is destroyed by companies that operate or want to operate in Papua. Those communities include the communities of living people and those who have died and are now spirits. Other communities include the water in rivers and lakes, trees, grasses and all rocks and soil that occur in Papua.

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If a company is able to destroy these communities, the indigenous people of Papua will experience a crisis of community and in their relationships and enter a state of chaos. If their deep understanding of nature and these communities is destroyed, they will also go through an inner crisis, disasters such as floods and starvation will increase, even leading to death. This is a clear statement that if a company wants to move into Papua, that company must pay for all the costs it will create, including for dozens of generations to come. If it is unable to pay, then it shouldn’t bother coming to Papua. For this reason, all destruction and forest clearing must stop. Because it is in contradiction with this deep connection with nature and all the communities which are found in Papua.

Portraying it in this way can illustrate how as Nabire experiences increasing levels of forest and environmental destruction, values of peace and justice and even living together as neighbours are fading out of Papuan people’s lives. The challenge set to any company that wants to come to Papua is to respect the indigenous people and their connection to nature. If a company values the forest and environment, it must show a high level of respect for the home of all the communities that exist around Wami and Yaro villages. Only from this can spring a life that of peace and justice, with the indigenous people in harmony with forest communities, in Papua in general and in Nabire in particular.

How the Church in Papua can be involved.

The basis for the how the Church’s can be involved and what position to take on this pastoral challenge can be found in the encyclicals Rerum Novarum (1891) and Guadragessimo Anno (1931). These two documents speak of the Church’s social stance towards workers and the poor, and even societal problems, in terms of the Church’s social and pastoral service. The documents of the Second Vatican Council offer a clear social theology viewpoint for a more comprehensive involvement of the Church, not just limited to workers and their problems, but more about the relationship between the Church and the wider world. In this reflection the Church provides a theological viewpoint on its political commitment as an integral part of its work, and its involvement and place within the social arena. The Church is fundamentally opposed to all forms of human oppression. The Church emphatically rejects that political authority should be placed above God’s authority. Due to this reflection, the Church is always involved in voicing humanitarian values around Indonesia and in Papua in particular. This involvement with society is clarified once more in Gaudium Et Spes art 1 which states: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ” In summary, these Church documents form a point on which to press for the Church’s involvement in various social issues in Indonesia, and especially in Papua, for the sake of the safety and freedom of humanity and the nature which was created for this earth. To respond to this aim, it is time for us to be open to getting involved and choose our position to be able to respond to the challenges that exist in Papua. That means that as forest and environmental destruction becomes more firmly established in Papua, the issue requires our collective attention and care.

Author: Pastoral Staff of Timika Diocese, Papua.

nb 2,1Photo: Trees being cut down. Iron wood trees are being consumed by PT Nabire Baru

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Bulldozers destroy the Yerisiam people’s sacred lands around Wami and Sima villages

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Thousands of hectares of forest and hilly ground is being destroyed for oil palm by PT Nabire Baru in Wami and Sima villages, Yaur District Nabire,  West Papua

[awasmifee note: PT Nabire Baru is a subsidiary of Carson Cumberbatch, a Sri Lankan company, via its plantations business The Goodhope Company. Other linked subsidiary companies involved in Nabire are PT Sariwana Unggal Mandiri and PT Sariwana Adi Perkasa]

 

Evidence of death squads emerge after Youtefa market riot sparked by corrupt police shakedown of gamblers

In-depth Investigation from West Papua Media team, our stringers in Jayapura and local sources

July 15, 2014

  • Riot erupted after corrupt Police attempt shakedown of gambling den
  • Weapons seized from police by gangsters, who have mysteriously “disappeared”
  • Three dead civilians had nothing to do with gambling: witnesses
  • Three dead civilians allegedly targeted by security forces because of Yali tribal membership.
  • Another story of savagery from Indonesian security forces

Evidence has emerged of a savage and potentially premeditated hunt of highland students by Indonesian security forces in Abepura on July 2 after the stabbing death of a police officer sparked an allegedly brutal dispersal of civilians by security forces. Three civilians and an Indonesian police officer were killed around the Youtefa market in Abepura after a failed attempt at a shakedown by corrupt police on a gambling ring degenerated into a riot.

Full transparency of the events leading to the riot and behaviour by police in bringing it under control has been hard to verify, however eyewitness testimony gathered by West Papua Media (WPM) stringers have yielded new information that alleges death squads were operating simultaneously to the riot, targeting three students from a single tribal group who were uninvolved with the riot.

Over twenty innocent people were also taken into custody on July 2, after hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes security forces arrested civilians and beat bystanders, Papuan shoppers and particularly civilians from the Highlands, with many sustaining injuries, after unidentified persons in the crowd of gamblers earlier attacked and fatally stabbed the Indonesian police officer, and beat up his partner.

Eyewitness evidence has also confirmed that three young Yali men, Demi Kepno, Sabusek Kabak, and Yenias Wandikbo were beaten and killed well away from the riot and dispersal, by plain clothes police and Kopassus special forces soldiers. This is despite clear evidence that none of the victims were involved in either the gambling, or the subsequent riot.

The violence had its immediate roots in a daily illegal game of dice (Judi Dadu) played in an Indonesian gangster (preman) run gambling den at Pasar Youtefa, by a mixed crowd of over 100 Papuan and Indonesian colonist gamblers.  According to witnesses interviewed by a West Papua Media stringer, the dice gambling rings are part of an informal industry that served to provide daily living income for its organisers, but was usually tolerated by local police in return for a cut of proceedings to supplement their police salary.

Indonesian military and police have a long history of running highly lucrative illegal gambling operations on everything from raffles to chicken, dog and human fighting, to premiere movie tickets. Gamblers and street thugs lured to the easy money are often recruited as the muscle behind preman organisation Pemuda Pancasila, a Kopassus proxy militia front that had thrown its weight behind the Prabowo Presidential Election campaign,  casting a dark shadow of fear over Papua over recent weeks.

Just after 3.30pm local time on July 2, Police Brigadiers (equivalent to Chief Sergeant) Asriadi and Samsul Huda from Abepura’s Tanah Hitam motorcycle unit, were conducting their allegedly corrupt daily shakedown rounds to demand protection money (tax) from stallholders when they arrived at the Judi venue. It is still unknown why the officers decided to shakedown this particular venue given that preman and police usually have a sophisticated and lucrative system of payoffs.

Gamblers reported that the two police officers walked into the venue without paying admission, angering the Indonesian colonist doorman, whereupon the police drew weapons and demanded that all present (including Papuan and colonist spectators) pay a flat rate “tax” to the police.

Witnesses claimed that the two officers and a customer began arguing after some gamblers refuse to hand over any money, saying they were tired of being shaken down. One witness claimed that the “preman” (gangster) manager of the venue pushed the police officer, complaining that protection money had already been paid to a higher ranking officer, and the shakedown would be reported. The officer Asriadi then smacked another gambler, the relatives of whom retaliated by seizing his rifle and throwing chairs, bottles and other objects at the fleeing officers. None of these claims could be independently verified by WPM.

Unverified reports also claim that all the gamblers, both Papuan and Indonesian, then chased the officers through the markets.  An Indonesian colonist trader named Herman told the Jakarta Post that Brig Asriadi tripped, and “was mobbed and stabbed by the gamblers.”

Claims that the rioters had stoned the officers to death remain unverified and only alleged by Indonesian colonist traders. No Papuan witnesses could be found to confirm the claims independently of the official police version.

The commotion and cries for help from the bashed police were immediately responded to by over a hundred armed police, Brimob and members of the Australian trained counter-terror squad Detachment 88, according to witnesses who described how large groups of armed men came running from every direction within seconds of the initial chase. They in turn were joined by over 50 plain clothes intelligence, police and military, including scores of Kopassus ojek riders, in seizing and beating large groups of civilians randomly, including traders and shoppers.

Reports remain unconfirmed whether security forces opened fire directly on bystanders at the markets or fired into the air, but many gunshots were heard by various witnesses, causing Papuan civilians to flee from the area. Nine Papuan gamblers were taken into custody as suspects, however the perpetrators of the fatal beating and those who had seized weapons were allowed to escape by security forces. In addition, police and plain clothes agents arrested a further 14 Papuan bystanders, who were uninvolved in the affray. All apart from the nine were released by police late that night, most having sustained injuries from their beatings. The status of the nine Papuan gamblers who were undergoing interrogation through to the weekend were unable to be ascertained at time of writing.

The violence occurred as Papuans in Jayapura were on edge, as arbitrary arrests, shootings and unprovoked beatings on civilians by security forces intensified ahead of the July 9 Indonesian presidential election. Many Papuan civil society and pro-independence groups joined a boycott call challenging the legitimacy of Indonesia’s colonial regime. The boycott was met with calls from the Indonesian military commander in Papua, Maj-General Christian Zebua, to “shoot dead any person” distributing election boycott materials – a threat which had materialised throughout the Land of Papua.

Arbitrary murders

The deaths of the three young Papuan students, at a time when Indonesian police are almost exclusively targeting Yali student and civil resistance activists (who make up the bulk of the membership of the West Papua National Committee) in a nationwide crackdown on freedom of expression, will only reinforce perceptions of a premeditated Indonesian security force campaign to eradicate Papua of Yali people. “The TNI hate the Yali with a passion, as this is the tribe that Benny Wenda is from,” an observer told WPM during the investigation, referring to the high profile UK-based leader of the Free West Papua Campaign.

Certainly members of the families of the dead agree that their dead children and brothers are being unfairly targeted.

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Sabusek Kabak (24) was a university student from the Yali village of Porongkoli in Yahukimo Papua. He passed through the Youtefa market at 8.00am from the Kilometre 9 post at Koya and continued on to the GKI Church students Hostel Liborang in Padang Bulan.

According to interviews with his younger brother Wemen, friends and witnesses, at 3.30pm on July 2 Sabusek went again to Youtefa, planning to return to Kilo 9 with Wemen.  After arriving at the Youtefa market he and his younger sibling didn’t have enough money to pay for the taxi back to Koya and went to look for a friend to borrow some money for their transport home.

As they were looking for taxi money, the riot broke out at the market. Some ran and there was the sound of gunfire, but Sabusek and Wemen were confused. Sabusek and Wemen agreed to go together and seek protection  at the Bank of Papua at the Youtefa market, without realising that there were “preman” plainclothed police manning a roadblock outside the bank.

They were then confronted and surrounded by the preman who were armed with sharp knives, machetes, and pistols, when Sabusek pushed his young brother behind him and told him to escape.   A transmigrant trader hid Wemen in their kiosk, however the preman police caught up and stabbed Sabusek with a bayonet through the heart, killing him instantly. Wemen and the trader witnessed the killing, as the preman walked away and left Sabusek’s body there. A woman from Biak, unknown to Wemen, told the migrant who had helped Wemen escape, “That is my child. Come my dear child let’s go home”. She then took Wemen to the protection of a Church hostel.

Sabusek’s body was not picked up by Police until the morning of 3 July 2014 by Police, who took his body to the Bhayangkara Hospital. The Kabak family were initially prevented from retrieving Sabusek’s body, and were forced to return with the Abepura Police Chief and District Head so the family could take the body. He was buried on 4 July 2014 at the public cemetery in Tanah Hitam, Abepura at 3.00pm by his family.

The Kabak family have demanded that the Papuan Police be held accountable for Sabusek Kabak’s death, and that there be an immediate arrest of those responsible and they face the process of law in the immediate future.

Unprovoked Savagery

Neither was the second victim involved in any form of opposition action against the police, yet he was savagely beaten until dead. Before the riot at the Youtefa market started, Yenias Wandikbo, a 20 year old Yali student, had been drinking alcohol together and relaxing with a friend during that day at the Engros Beach, until they ran out of drink in the early afternoon. Yenias and his friend then headed home from Engros via to the Youtefa market. In going there they reached the front of the YAMAS campus still unaware that there was a problem at the market, where they separated because of the everyday threat posed by security forces when buying alcohol. Yenias stumbled upon the riot area and straight into an ambush of plainclothes Indonesian preman – believed to be Kopassus soldiers by witnesses due to the impunity in which they moved. These preman then caught, beat and killed Yenias, witnessed by many in broad daylight less than one hundred metres away from the Youtefa market.

Yenias was beaten about the head with such extreme force that his brow, nose area, and rear of his skull was split apart. After Yenias was killed, his body was taken by the police to the Bhayangkara Hospital, where it was held until 3.20pm on July 4. Yenias’ family took him home to Nayak Hostel in Abepura, in order to transport his body to be taken back to Wamena.

Extrajudicial Execution

Demi Kepno, a 24 year old Engineering Student of Yali origin from Abenah District, Yalimo, was killed after being abducted by police in Abepura, at the same instance as the gambling ring was being broken up in Youtefa market, but some distance away from the market.

As with the two other victims, When Demi Kepno, together with several friends heard about the incident at the old market, they avoided returning to their homes. Demi was called by his girlfriend  – who it emerged was working as an intelligence agent – who wanted to meet with him, and he went to meet her in front of the Multi Crosir supermarket. Demi’s girlfriend ordered him to get in a black Avanza vehicle, without any idea he was getting in a car with plainclothes security forces

Demi was brought to the Yanmor Police station in Tanah Hitam just above Abepura, where he was interrogated by fully armed anti-terror police.  He managed to escape from the Police station, fleeing in the direction of Tanah Hitam Mountain. The police and plainclothes agents gave chase and Demi entered a house of a Butonese migrant, which was surrounded and searched by police, cornering Demi around 5.15pm local time, according to witnesses interviewed by WPM’s stringer.  Demi allegedly picked up a beam of wood in self-defence as police opened fire on him, hitting him in the abdomen. However, the gunshots did not kill him, so the plainclothes agents were seen to repeatedly stab Demi in the chest and neck with a bayonet, until he was dead.

His body was taken to the Bhayangkara Hospital, and the victim’s family took the body away at 4.35pm the following day to the family home at Tanah Hitam, and was buried in Abepura at the public cemetery on 5 July 2014.

Indonesian police in Abepura and Jayapura refused several attempts by WPM to provide a response to these allegations.

westpapuamedia

Investigative Report into Oil Palm in Nabire Regency, Papua

By Father Santon Tekege, regular West Papua Media contributor, with AwasMifee
originally published June 25, 2014
Based on a Field Visit 13th March 2014
General Description of PT Nabire Baru in Nabire
Several companies’ plans to invest in the oil palm sector in Nabire have met with local opposition. People from the Yerisiam and Wate ethnic groups have staged several peaceful actions in Nabire against one of these companies, PT Nabire Baru(1). The chief of the Yerisiam ethnic group, Fr S.P. Hanebora has said that they have kept asking for support for their opposition but so far no organisation has stepped forward to support them.

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“Because of this, we are asking NGOs and Churches to work together with us to oppose this company. The indigenous people’s opposition has been very clear, but the company has continued to work: cutting down the forest, clearing the land, preparing 2 million oil palm saplings to be planted on an area of 32,000 hectares in Kampung Wami and 8000 hectares in Kampung Sima, in Yaur (Yaro) district, Nabire Regency.

Currently, the Papuan Natural Resource Management and Environment Agency (BAPESDALH) has refused to give PT Nabire Baru a permit to continue developing oil palm plantations around Kampung Sima and Wami, Yaur District. That means that there are currently 1,800 employees who have been abandoned with no wages or anything to live off. The Papuan BAPESDALH has written at least twice to PT Nabire Baru. In its second letter dated October 2012, as in the previous letter, the oil palm company was requested to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (AMDAL) immediately. Until that occurs, the company may not proceed with its operations3.

We were able to produce this general overview based on reports we received in Wami and Sima. I also visited the company’s premises themselves. I approached several people to discuss the situation and also entered the company’s work area, even though it was tightly guarded by police officers from the Nabire Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) who were stationed both at the access road and around the company’s premises. In the interviews, local people and company employees related their respective struggles with the company.

Some effects of PT Nabire Baru’s operations include converting the forest vegetation into oil palm, a deterioration in the quality of surface water, air quality and noise. Locally temperatures have increased, changing the microclimate, environmental health, an increase in population as the workforce increased, and disruption to local security. According to these informants, these negative impacts are only recently being widely realised, and they intend to re-analyse the situation by taking the data to the community to observe the actual current situation.

In the meeting several indigenous leaders from the Yerisiam people, and also human rights activist Gunawan Inggeruhi, said that people in Wami and Sima were always divided according to whether they were pro- or contra- the company. We always hear opinions that are coloured by verbal arguments and push and shove between people. Some people openly oppose the oil palm industry “They have been working for two years. What’s more, our forest was destroyed before an environmental impact assessment (AMDAL) was completed. Why are they only carrying out the AMDAL two years later? Why so long?” one resident asked.

Other residents are more inclined to submit to the company’s plans – since the forest has already gone, oil palm can now be accepted. Human rights activist and Yerisiam intellectual Gunawan Inggeruhi believes that since PT Nabire Baru first arrived, they have been seen to ignore the indigenous people’s [land] rights. “Don’t start all these programs when it is not the time to do so, while the issue of people’s land rights has also still not been resolved.” Complete payments for ancestral land have still yet to be made in both Wami and Sima. Local people are complaining about the company’s actions: “The company is also bringing people from outside Papua to work there. Meanwhile, the company is not paying adequate attention to us as the local indigenous landowners, as was stipulated in the original agreement to develop education and healthcare.” “Now we have a school building but no teachers. A healthcare building exists, but there are no staff to run it. That is how PT Nabire Baru has deceived us.”

Several points came out of their reports, as follows:

A. The location of PT. Nabire Baru’s operations in Nabire Regency, Papua: PT. Nabire Baru’s operations are located in Wami and Yaro districts in Nabire Regency, and also in Sima district. The amount of forest which will be used is 32,000 hectares, on which they intend to plant four million palm trees. Two million saplings are already ready to be planted out and workers are placing two million more into pots. Another 8000 hectares will be planted with palm trees in Sima District. When the company arrived, it built a school building, but as of 2014 there were no teachers.

According to the Yerisiam people’s traditional leader, the Sima area is sacred land. However it is now being converted to an oil palm plantation: “We feel that our relationship with our nature and forest has been destroyed by this company. Sago trees, our forest like the mother which gave us life, forest birds, all are no longer to be seen, and we also feel the loss of plants that were good to eat and that ensured a cool environment. “

B. Number of workers: 1800 people were employed in December 2012. However, by 2014 this number had increased to 1900 according to company managers. There are more non-Papuans amongst the workforce than ethnic Papuans. Some of the non-local workers are not long-term inhabitants of the area, but were brought there from outside Papua by the company’s owner. Those who are fully involved in the company tend to be the non-Papuans. Indigenous Papuans, on the other hand, are distinctly less active in their work for the company. A situation like this means that the Nabire local government’s desire to provide economic security for the people has been proved a failure. The author of this study believes that the company and government are deliberately marginalising indigenous landowners in Wami and Sima.

C. Employees’ Situation: Employee’s pay situation: Daily pay for a worker is 63400 Rupiah. They receive their monthly wages in two fortnightly instalments. If in those two weeks, the employee is absent from work, their wage is reduced in line with the number of days they were absent. When the field supervisor (Ard. Yafet Magai) was asked about this, he said that local people were frequently absent from work, meaning that the company would always reduce their wages. Because of that, the wages received by non-Papuans were always much higher than those of the Papuans, who often missed work. That is the situation regarding wages between Papuans and non-Papuans. However, no employee wages have been paid since January 2013. Workers have not been working since January 20134

Worker’s health condition: According to the head of the local clinic and othe medical staff in Wanggar, two main ailments are affecting workers, as follows:

1. Malaria, workers are suffering from the tertiane and tropicana strains. Patients are sickening because of insufficient rest and an irregular eating pattern. This group of patients can be helped by medical staff as fast as possible, usually recovering after a week or two.

2. Pulmonary infections (violent coughing which produces phlegm). This group of patients takes some time to get better, even though their body maintains its strength.

D. The company becomes a threat for the people of Nabire: Nabire Regency comprises 81 villages and 14 sub-districts. The principle commodities according to data from the Papuan branch of the National Statistics Agency in the farming and related services sector are cocoa, coffee, cloves, and cashew nuts, and there is also some corn and cassava. This data reveals an aspect of why local conditions in Nabire are not appropriate for oil palm plantations.

According to Benyamin Karet, the second assistant to the Nabire Regional Secretary in December 2012: the land for oil palm which is being disputed, is actually in the former forestry concession of PT Jati Dharma Indah (JDI). JDI are still claiming that this land belongs to them until their forest management permit (HPH) expires in 2017. If the two companies both try to claim the land, it is certain that in the end it is the local community that will feel the effect. Such a situation also means that the local government must have engineered the process to get permits for PT Nabire Baru

From the perspective of environmental impacts: International NGOs such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have campaigned a lot around how oil palm plantations always produce land conflicts which result in the loss of life. This is connected with irregularities in the permit process which are based on corruption. Examples of cases are in Mesuji, Lampung province in Sumatra, or in Papua in Keerom, Merauke and Lereh near Sentani.

From the economic perspective: Oil palm plantations in Wami and Yaro are not certain to bring economic security to local people, because company owners tend to employ workers from other areas, meaning that the desire to create economic security for the local community is sometimes only an empty promise. It is plain to see how transmigrants in the land of Papua are able to supply the cities’ needs, especially for fruit and vegetables, but also for other requirements. Many of them are even being recruited as workers on oil palm plantations. Meanwhile indigenous Papuans’ levels of adaptation and economic security are stagnating as they are further marginalised. Government plans for assimilation and technology transfer do not take place smoothly and according to plan.

1. Community Landowners’ opposition in 2007

Wanggar Pantai tribal leader Alex Raiky and other indigenous leaders in Wanggar Pantai, who are also supported by other indigenous people in Yaro district, have made clear that a letter about planting oil palm on the ancestral land of the people of Wate, dated 16th April 2007 and addressed to the leadership of PT Jati Dharma Indah, was an endorsement. However it should not be regarded as a guarantee of cooperation between the Wate ethnic group and PT Harvest Raya. That statement was conveyed to the Nabire Regency head via the head of the Forestry and Plantation service, Ir Marlan Pinem, in a meeting between the Wate people and PT Jati Dharma Indah in the meeting room of the Forestry and Plantation Service on Monday (17/9/2007), and the indigenous people were supported by the head of Yaro District Stefen Elbe.

Jumali, PT. Jati Dharma Indah’s division head, said in that meeting that the company that was planning to develop oil palm in the area at that time [PT Harvest Raya] was a joint venture between JDI and a Korean investor. The investment capital would come from the foreign investor and JDI’s involvement was due to the forest management permit they held. This permit would expire in 2017. Because of this, Jumali explained, if indigenous landowners were to reject that investor, the company would not make further plans and would withdraw from Nabire. A similar sentiment was conveyed by the head of the Nabire Forestry and Plantation Service, Marlan Pinem, who said that if the indigenous community rejected an investor in Nabire Regency, that company would not be able to start a business in the area. Pinem gave an example from his own experience, that previously PT Gudang Garam had wanted to invest in the Nifasi Area, and had even already brought heavy machinery to the area, but in the end had left because the indigenous community had opposed the company.

The statement from the Wate indigenous people, which was signed by indigenous community leaders from Wanggar Pantai Nicanor Money (indigenous head of Wanggar Pantai), Adrianus Money (head of Neighbourhood Unit (RT) 2), Yosius Way (head of Neighbourhood Unit 1) and Safter Money (Wanggar Pantai village head), who all stated that they all opposed any kind of cooperation with JDI, the company with the forestry permit. The reason was that as long as JDI had been working on their land the company had never given them any kind of contribution that would guarantee the neighbouring indigenous community’s continued livelihood and economic security. In the three-way meeting the indigenous people made clear that this rejection did not only come from the Wate ethnic group in Yaro, but also indigenous groups in Sima and living in the SP B transmigration zone in Wanggar. The head of the forestry service Marlan Pinem promised that their rejection would be dealt with in a way which reflected the community’s aspirations. He could say that because the right to make decisions lay with the forestry and plantation service at the Papuan Provincial level. Because of that attitude, PT JDI did not continue to work or develop the new company. Even though their forest management concession has yet to expire, PT JDI has not carried out any work in the Nabire area since 2010.

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2. Wate and Yerisiam Community opposition in 2012 and 2014 Opposition also came from the Papua Provincial Administration in the form of two letters from the BAPESDALH office to PT Nabire Baru. As in the first letter, in the second letter dated October 2012, the oil palm company was requested to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment immediately. Until this occurred, the company was forbidden from continuing work. However, direct field observations show that the company has already taken over the indigenous land, by clearing 32,000 hectares of land. The development of oil palm from 2012 to 2014 can be seen in the photos accompanying this report.

The plans of several companies to invest in the oil palm sector has been opposed by the people of Nabire. This includes PT Nabire Baru – the Yerisiam and Wate ethnic groups have staged several peaceful actions in Nabire to demonstrate their opposition. Even though the people expressed their opposition, the company continued work regardless: felling the forest, clearing the land and preparing two million oil palm saplings to be planted on 32,000 hectares around Kampung Wami, and another 8000 Hectares around Kampung Sima. Conculsion

I have written this investigative report based on the Yerisiam and Wate community’s complaints and opposition to oil palm companies in District Wami and Sima, in Nabire Regency. Workers expressed a range of complaints, as did those concerned about the environment, including the Church. The reason was that there are two companies which both claim the same area.

The two companies in question are PT Jati Dharma Indah (JDI) who’s forestry concession is only set to expire in 2017, and PT Nabire Baru which has already started work, resulting in 2 million oil palm seedlings ready to be planted out. The process finding a settlement for local indigenous landowners has also not been concluded. The indigenous People of Nabire strongly oppose the game that is being played between the two companies, the Nabire Regency government and the Papuan Provincial Government. For this reason, the indigenous community is worried, to the point of trauma, about the attitude and behaviour of the various vested interests which are driving this horizontal and vertical conflict.

With the situation as it is, it is essential that the various parties, including the two companies and the provincial and regional governments, sit down together with the indigenous people of Nabire Regency and discuss possible resolutions to the problem, before conflict breaks out in the city. That’s what I think!!!

Author: Pastoral staff of Timika Diocese, Papua

[awasmifee note: PT Nabire Baru is a subsidiary of Carson Cumberbatch, a Sri Lankan company, via its plantations business The Goodhope Company. Other linked subsidiary companies involved in Nabire are PT Sariwana Unggal Mandiri and PT Sariwana Adi Perkasa]

Footnotes

1 Interview with Oktovianus Douw (Supervisor) and head of the company’s field leadership Yafet Magai in Kampung Yaro, and Human Rights Activist Gunawan Inggeruhi in Nabire City on 13th March 2014

2 Interview with Fr. S. P. Hanebora, 13th March 2014

3 Tabloid Jubi, 23 January 2013

4 See Jubi 23 January 2013: The Papuan Provincial Natural Resource and Environmental Management Agency (BAPESDALH) will not issue a permit to PT Nabire Baru (PT NB) to continue developing an oil palm plantation in Kampung Sima and Wami, Yaur District, Nabire Regency. The result will be as many as 1500 workers left without work.

One of PT NB’s workers Matias Iyai, said that the company had stopped working some time ago. “We are not working any more,” he said when met in Nabire on Wednesday (23/1).

Matias Iyai cited an explaination from the company leadership, that they were waiting for a decision from the Papuan Provincial Governor. This decision was conneted with the lack of environmental certification in the form of an Environmental Impact Assessment (AMDAL). “They say it’s an administratve matter. But I don’t know if that’s true or not. What is clear is that we keep demanding our rights , because our wages have not been paid” said Matias Iyai.

1500 workers are suffering right now because the company stopped working. They haven’t got what is owed to them, on top of which it is difficult to find new work. “Regarding our rights, we weren’t paid approriately for the hard work we did each day. Previously we were paid 65,000 Rupiah. Then that was cut back to 63,000 Rupiah,” he said.

Workers once held a demonstration at PT Nabire Baru’s offices to demand an explaination why daily pay was only paid out twice monthly. However, at that time the leadership did not give a constructive response. “All this time we’ve been working like slaves. The pay wasn’t all that much. Which means that many people have left, they don’t want to work for this oil palm company any more,” Iyai said.

The Papuan Provincial BAPESDAHL ( Papuan Natural Resource Management and Environment Agency) office has sent letters to PT Nabire Baru. In its second letter in October 2012 (as it had in the first), the company was asked to carry out an environmental assessment immediately. Until it did, the company must stop all work.

The people of Nabire have challenged the plans of several oil palm investors. That inclues PT Nabire Baru, which the Yerisiam and Wate ethnic groups have opposed by holding several peacceful actions in Nabire. The leader of the Yerisiam ethnic group, Fr. S.P.Hanebora has even had to fly to Jakarta to look for support from NGOs, the government and the House of Representatives.

Despite the community opposition, the company has continued its operations, clearing the forest and prepaaring 2 million oil palm saplings to plant in an area of 32,000 hectares in Kampung Wami and in Sima around 8000 hectares.

West Papua Media downtime

Statement/ Reader Information

June 17, 2014

West Papua Media.

Due to a remote area vehicle accident with a kangaroo on June 7 in which the Editor of West Papua Media, Nick Chesterfield, sustained mild head and arm injuries, WPM has been unable to publish original investigations or content.

We apologise for this, and Chesterfield will be working through the backlog during his recovery.  Urgent breaking news will still be covered on our twitter and facebook feeds, and our partner Tabloid Jubi will continue to publish major breaking stories within Papua, with their feed available in the right hand sidebar on WPM.

From July, sweeping changes are being made at WPM to allow more dynamic reporting to occur across a variety of platforms.  Please stay tuned.

Thank you for your patience.

 

First Ever Coal Shipment from Sorong

foto dari lensapapua.comThe first ever shipment of coal was sent from the Arar container port in Sorong, West Papua Province, on Wednesday 11th June, according to a report published in local Sorong news media Lensa Papua.

The 5,500 ton shipment was destined for Amurang in North Sulawesi, to be used as feedstock in a coal-fired power station there. The mining company mentioned in the article was PT Megapura Prima Indah.

According to the Lensa Papua article “Although the coal produced which is now being loaded into the ship with a weight of 5,500 tons is not yet super-high quality, it is strongly believed that the quality of this coal will increase in the future.”

Although Papua is not facing the same amount of threat from coal mining as East and Central Kalimantan, there are nevertheless several areas under active exploration. As well as around Sorong, there is a huge area from Bintuni and Teluk Wondama stretching to near Nabire, several areas around Sarmi and Waropen, plus significant amounts in Fakfak and Mimika Regencies, as well along a band where the southern lowlands meet the central mountains around Yahukimo. From the latest data awasMIFEE has been able to get hold of (a map of mining concessions up to 2012), there were 115 coal concessions covering a total area of more than 3.5 million hectares!

coal concessions in West Papua 2012

Of course the actual coal mines would be smaller than these exploration concessions, but nevertheless, it is clear that the coal industry in Papua could be considerable in the future. Just as with plantations, gold mining, and oil and gas, the potential for conflict and human rights violations associated with this industry is also impossible to ignore.

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