Category Archives: Investigative Journalism

Merauke Burns – but were the plantations to blame?


First Published: November 20, 2015


The rains have finally arrived, putting out the forest fires that raged across Indonesia through the last few months. Forest burning takes place every dry season, but this year an especially strong El Nino phenomenon meant that the dry season was longer and dryer, and the fires were especially bad.

The worst crises were, as in other years, on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, where human pressure on the forest is high, and deep peat soils mean that fires can burn for months. However this dry season there were also significantly more fires than usual in southern Papua, in Merauke and Mappi regencies. Timika, nearly 600 kilometres away, suffered from smoke haze as a result.

Merauke has become in recent years the main focus for the growth of industrial agriculture in Papua, due to various incarnations of  a central government project, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate, and associated oil palm plantations. But is there a link between these development plans and the fires? awasMIFEE presents two articles to address this question. The first is an analysis of satellite photographs in two of Korindo’s plantations where clear evidence of fire on is found on newly-deforested land, by Sam Lawson of Earthsight. This article aims to complement that research by looking at the link between fire and deforestation in other plantations over the last four years, and the wider situation in Merauke.

Many fires outside plantation areas.

Fire hotspot data shows that the fires were found throughout the southern part of Merauke, where the vegetation is made up of mixed forest and grassland. Some of these fires were within plantation concession boundaries (unsurprisingly, since undeveloped plantation concessions cover well over a million hectares, more than a quarter of Merauke’s land area). There were a few concentrations of hotspots in areas where plantation companies are known to be active (Medco’s timber plantation in Zanegi village and woodchip factory in Boepe, Rajawali’s sugar cane plantation near Domande, PT Agriprima Cipta Persada and PT Agrinusa Persada Mulia’s oil palm plantations in Muting). However, as there were also many, many other fires away from these areas, there is insufficient evidence to conclude in these cases that fires were started by the companies.

Another important point is that some of the highest concentrations of fires were in areas where there are no plantations planned – such as Dolok Island, and the western part of Mappi Regency. It’s also worth pointing out that there were also a lot of fires across the border in Papua New Guinea, especially along the Fly River which flows close to the border.

The conclusion is: while it is certainly possible that some of the fires were connected with agricultural development, the high number of hotspots outside areas earmarked for plantations means it is likely that many of them were started for other reasons.

The big exception: Korindo.

In the more densely forested north-eastern part of Merauke, there were less fires. However when you look at where those fires were, you see a very strong pattern – many of them were clustered within oil palm concessions. What’s more, the hotspots (marked in orange) show a very strong correlation with data on areas deforested in 2015.1

Merauke Plantation Fires 2015

Three of those concessions are owned by the Korindo Group. PT Tunas Sawa Erma (which has been operating since 1998 but has not developed the whole concession) PT Dongin Prabhawa (which started land clearance in 2011) and PT Papua Agro Lestari (which appears to have just started clearing land in the last few months). Another is PT Bio Inti Agrindo (operating since 2012), which is owned by Daewoo International Corporation, but known to have a close relationship to Korindo.

Here’s a closer look at two of them: PT Dongin Prabhawa and PT Bio Inti Agrindo:

PT dp dan PT BIA 2015

This is quite strong evidence to indicate that these companies may have been using fire to clear land, a practice which is illegal in Indonesia. This evidence is further reinforced if we look at fire data for previous years.  It appears that there have been fires in the concessions each year, and the fire locations closely follow each successive year’s cutting plans. The implication is that Korindo and Daewoo International companies appear to have been regularly using fire to clear land since 2012.

The following maps use a different source of deforestation data – tree cover loss data from the University of Maryland – which gives an indication of which bits of forest were cut each year, and this is overlaid with the hotspots detected by NASA MODIS satellites the same year. Both sets of data are available to browse on the website, but due to the way that site is structured you can’t see them simultaneously like this.

Here’s some views of PT Dongin Prabhawa’s concession in 2012,2013 and 2014. The purple areas were the areas deforested that year. The orange dots are the hotspots recorded in the same year. You can see that in 2012, there were several fires in the area cleared, in 2013 fires burned in areas cleared that year and the year before, and then in 2014 fires broke out in more newly cleared blocks.

PT Dongin Prabhawa 2012-2014A similar pattern can be seen in PT Bio Inti Agrindo’s concession. Forest clearance started in the north-western corner of the concession, and moved eastward, including in 2014 clearing the corridor that eventually connects the larger eastern block of the concession. There were concentrations of hotspots in 2012 and 2013 in the western block, at the same time that deforestation was taking place there.bca bia 2012-4

Just to the north of PT Bio Inti Agrindo is PT Berkat Cipta Abadi, another Korindo subsidiary which started clearing in 2012. Here too, the fires closely mirrored the deforestation pattern, with a particularly high concentration in 2014.

  1. Deforestation data is from Sam Lawson’s analysis of Landsat satellites, tracing the difference between images dated late January 2015 to late October 2015.  ↩

Oil palm plantation development & forest fires in southern Papua, September-October 2015

by Sam Lawson, Earthsight via AwasMIFEE



Analysis of satellite data clearly demonstrates forest fires burning in areas undergoing conversion for oil palm in two locations in southern Papua. One of these areas is intact primary forest, while part of the other is on peat soil. The concessions concerned are both owned by the large Korean conglomerate Korindo.

It is illegal in Indonesia for companies to clear land using fire, and oil palm concession holders are also legally required to have in place appropriate fire prevention and fire-fighting measures. Though on its own the evidence below does not prove any wrongdoing by the company or its subsidiaries or contractors, it should justify further investigation by the Indonesian authorities.

location map

Figure 1: Southern Papua, showing boundaries of oil palm conversion concessions (yellow), forest clearance for oil palm during September-October 2015 (red) and location of case studies below.

Case Study 1: PT Papua Agro Lestari (Korindo group)1

Between 1st September and 9th November 2015, more than 230 fire hotspots were detected by the NASA MODIS satellite within an area of intact primary forest undergoing plantation development near the PNG border in PT Papua Agro Lestari, Merauke district (see Figure 2).

PT Papua Agro Lestari

Figure 2: Fire hotspots 1st Sept – 9th Nov 2015 in PT Papua Agro Lestari (yellow boundary). Red boundary shows area of forest cleared for plantation development up to 24th October 2015. Green background shows that the area was previously intact primary forest.2

Landsat images confirm the existence of fires within this area, and clearly show how they are related to oil palm plantation development.

On 6th September 2015, a fire is clearly visible burning in the plantation (see Figure 4). The next cloud-free image, from 24th October 2015, also shows a fire burning, in an area which was still primary forest 7 weeks earlier (Figure 3).

In just 7 weeks between during Sept-October 2015, 1000 hectares of primary forest were cleared, a much faster rate than could plausibly have been achieved by other means.
PT PAL satellite6-9-2015

pt pal satellite 24-10-2015Figures 3 & 4: Fires visible in oil palm plantation under development in PT PAL, September & October 2015

Case Study 2: PT Tunas Sawaerma (Korindo)

During the same period, more than 100 fire hotspots were recorded by the NASA satellite in an area currently being cleared of degraded primary forest for oil palm in PT Tunas Sawaerma, a concession in Boven Digoel district which is also owned by Korean conglomerate Korindo (see Figure 5).

PT Tunas Sawaerma

Figure 5: Fire hotspots 1st Sept-9th Nov 2015 inside Korindo’s PT Tunas Sawaerma oil palm concession (yellow). Red/orange boundary shows area of forest cleared for plantation development up to 24th October 2015. Blue line indicates peat soils. The orange boundary shows the areas cleared between 6th September and 24th October 2015 (( Sources: Peat soils – Wetlands International, 2004. For all other data see reference for Figure 2 ))

Again, Landsat satellite images confirm the existence of fires within this area of recent development. An image from 24th October clearly shows a large fire within the area under development. Comparison with an image from the beginning of September shows that the area concerned remained forested previously, though new plantation roads had been cut (see Figures 6 and 7).

Many of the fire hotspots in the Korindo concession are on peat soils, as is some of the area newly cleared by fire during September/October 2015 (see Figure 5).

PT TSE satellite 6-9-2015

PT TSE satellite 24-10-2015

Figures 6 & 7: Fire visible in forest area in process of development into oil palm, Korindo’s PT Tunas Sawaerma. The images were taken on 6th September 2015 (figure 6) and 24th October 2015 (figure 7)

  1. The Linked-In page of the Assistant Manager of Plasma (Smallholder) plantation development at PT PAL identifies the company as being part of the Korindo group –  [awasMIFEE note: previously on this site it had been thought that ownership of PT Papua Agro Lestari had been transferred to the Daewoo International Corporation. Although the situation is confusing, and there appears to be close cooperation between the two companies, several pieces of evidence indicate that the company is still part of  the Korindo Group]  ↩
  2. Sources: Background – Degraded (light green) and intact (dark green) primary forest, from Margono, B. Primary forest cover loss in Indonesia over 2000–2012. Nature Climate Change,doi:10.1038/nclimate2277; spots – NASA MODIS fire hotspots, “NASA Active Fires.” NASA FIRMS. Accessed through Global Forest Watch on 15th November 2015; concession boundary – Ministry of Forestry GIS portal map of Forestland releases, accessed 9th November 2015; extent of new oil palm development (red/orange line) – based on analysis of Landsat satellite images from 25/1/15, 6/9/15, 24/10/15.  ↩
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Indonesia’s Colonial Transmigration is intentional annihilation of Papua’s Indigenous peoples


Special analysis and investigation

By Santon Tekege

This piece was originally sent to be published for the International Day of Peace, September 21, however given its length, editing translation has taken several weeks.

papua vs indon population breakdown graph
Population growth charts of indigenous Papuans vs transmigrants under Indonesian occupation (Illustrative Graph: Awikaituma)


I write these words with tears falling down my face. As an indigenous Papuan I feel like I have been expelled from my own land. It’s as if we have been removed far away from the land of Papua, like the land is being purged of all indigenous Papuans. My people have become observers of all the changes that we are being subjected to and of all the games and manoeuvres being played out by the Indonesian Government in Papua. I ask myself what I have done wrong, such that I as one of the owners of this land should have been pushed to the margins in this way. Marginalised and expelled from my own land.


The marginalisation of the indigenous Papuan population is happening not only as a result of the flood of non-Papuans arriving in the land week after week, but also is being contributed to by the low birth rates of indigenous Papuans at this time, whilst there is also an continuous increase in their death rate. The native peoples of the land of Papua are being annihilated intentionally by the Indonesian Government. Annihilated on the soil of their own ancestors.

Marginalisation of the Indigenous Papuan Community through Transmigration.

 The plan of the central Indonesian Government at this time to restart the transmigration program to Papua, is a matter of great concern. Not only for Papuans themselves, but it should also be of great concern for others as in every location where Papuans are being increasingly pushed out to the margins there is a growing risk of conflict at some future date.

As has been previously reported in the national Indonesian media, Marwan Jafar – recently appointed by President Widodo as the Minister for Villages, Transmigration and the Development of Undeveloped Regions – has stated that there would be a new program that would take residents from the overpopulated regions of Java to the still underpopulated region of Papua. Jafar stated that he would carry out a large scale socialisation of the area in stages, and that he’d work closely with the Indonesian military and police to ensure safety for the new transmigrants so they felt safe to make the shift to a transmigration area (see Antara 5 November 2014).

In response, Cypri Jehan Paju Dale, a researcher who since 2012 has been carrying out research into social issues in Papua, has stated that a new transmigration program would worsen the already occurring marginalisation of the indigenous Papuan population. Dale together with an activist Pastor John Djonga in 2011 wrote “The Papuan Paradox”.  He stated that at this time there is a real feeling of dread amongst Papuans. They are anxious as they can already see the reality that the numbers of non-Papuans is continuing to rapidly increase as Non-Papuans quickly become a growing majority of the population in Papua. Those anxieties already are very much present amongst Papuans, so to hear that the Government is going to relocate yet more transmigrants, causes people great concern indeed. They are well aware that this will make the already existing threat even more immediate and increase the level of injustices against indigenous Papuans.

By way of background, the transmigration program has been in operation in Indonesia since the 1950’s when today’s Indonesian was still partly under Dutch control. The program failed continuously throughout the Suharto era. He then went on to be removed as president in 1998. According to Dale’s research the extent of numbers of transmigrants that have been moved to Papua from other islands in the archipelago have changed the demographics of Papua such that in recent years the indigenous Papuan sector of the population has been reduced to below 50 percent of the total population.

As can be seen clearly on the map below, according to 2003 census data the relative proportions of indigenous Papuans and non-Papuans were at that time 52% and 48% respectively, from a total population of 1.9 million. By 2010 census data showed indigenous Papuans having reduced to 49% compared to non-Papuans 51%, from a total population of 2,833,381.

Demographic dispersal in Papua
Demographic dispersal in Papua

In some kabupaten (local administration areas) the numbers of non-Papuans are now much higher than the numbers of indigenous Papuans. In Keerom kabupaten for example according to the 2010 census, the total of indigenous persons in the population was only 40.64%. Similarly in the Merauke kabupaten it was only 37.34% indigenous, in Mimika 41.36% , Nabire 39.90%, Sorong 40.03%, Fakfak 41.78% and in Manokwari 49.45%. In the main towns of every kabupaten in both provinces – Papua and West Papua – the non-Papuans now exceed the numbers of indigenous Papuans (refer to the map above for detail).

According to the Writer not only has there been a change in demographics but also an imbalance in economics of the Papuan and non-Papuan sectors of the society. With non-Papuans having taken control of all the economic centres in the main towns and cities, whilst the larger majority of the indigenous population continues to be spread throughout the interior living with very minimal facilities. The benefits of development seen through the Special Autonomy program in Papua have been and continue to be enjoyed primarily by non-Papuans (despite continuous claims that it is indigenous Papuans who are benefiting). This is what Papuans refer to as development that has been ‘snatched by the transmigrants’.  There are very small number of Papuans who are enjoying those fruits of Special Autonomy, but they are a very small group only of the Papuan elite. By far the larger majority of indigenous Papuans are far from being able to access any benefits such as those that are being espoused to the wider public.

A key figure of the Amungme community in Timika kabupaten, Papua Mr Thomas Wanmang, has stated in an interview that his people have experienced many injustices as a result of the large influx of non-Papuans into their area. This includes those who have come through transmigration programs and others who have transmigrated independently of those formal programs. Wanmang claims that the transmigration process at this time is itself what is causing the increasingly serious lack of attention that is being shown by the government towards the indigenous sector of the Papuan population. “As Papuans we are being given nothing whatsoever. What’s happening is that those who have transmigrated here are being spoilt and treated like they are something special.” He stressed that the presence of the transmigrants is creating a sense of jealousy in Papuan circles. “As we as the owners of this land meanwhile can’t go forward.”

The Papuan Provincial Governor Lukas Enembe in an interview with Tabloid Jubi in Jayapura on 5 November 2014 firmly stated his rejection of the plan of Minister Marwan Jafar to reactivate the Transmigration Program.  According to Enembe further transmigration would result in the needs of the indigenous population being increasingly ignored and of them becoming an increasing minority in their own land.  In that interview Enembe admitted that the Papuan population had already become much smaller than the non-Papuan sector.  He went on to say that it wasn’t the Papuan provincial government that had agreed to the new transmigration program but rather the new government of Jokowi. “Indigenous Papuans are now small in number and the government is not able to treat them any better than this. So why would yet more people be tranmigrated from Java? For this reason there is as yet no plan in place (by the Papuan Provincial Government) to bring more transmigrants here.”


The need for serious attention to the situation.

 The invasion of Papua by peoples from other regions of the Indonesian archipelago has increasingly become a mechanism of colonialism, a way of taking control of a region through a policy of systematically populating the area with a new people. A human invasion into Papua which has been accompanied by a ‘securitisation’ of the region by the State which is so very excessive. A securitisation which includes the practice of torture and which controls and oppresses the Papuan people by every political means possible.

An awareness of the potentially negative effects of further transmigration on the indigenous Papuan population were obviously evident to Minister Marwan Jafar as reflected by his statement that the Ministers would work together with the Indonesian military and police to make Papua safe for transmigrants. This is even worse than the colonialism experienced by Papuans during the period when the Dutch held the colonial power in the archipelago. The numbers of the Dutch were largely limited to those on the islands of Nusantara. Whereas at this time Papuans have become a minority in all the major towns and cities throughout Papua.

Many at this time are saying that Indonesian has been extremely effective in colonising Papua. They have ‘achieved’ that by applying policies and practices that have involved major risks. Risks of future problems that are hard to even imagine at this time. It is for this reason that some parties have been lobbying President Jokowi to place a moratorium on transmigration to Papua. However it is very clear that Indonesia needs a continuing mechanism for the ongoing organised invasion of Papua such that the Papuan people become increasingly marginalised and become as if foreigners in their own native land. “There must be constant pressure created by policies towards indigenous Papuans and in particular in the areas of economics, education and health” Jafar explained.


The critical importance of dialogue at this time between Papua and the central government has been stressed by humanitarian organisations, churches, lecturers and university aged students. For so long dialogue has been called for. “Within the forum of dialogue all problems can be spoken of openly, be put on the table for resolution” Pastor John Djonga stated. Proper Dialogue, did not impose any limitations on the framework under discussion, for example final full independence (Merdeka harga mati) or non-negotiable final acceptance of remaining with NKRI.

“At the same time as stressing the importance of bringing an end to the problems of history which are indeed complex (WPM: Demand of “Rectification of History”), dialogue is also considered as one way which can bring about an appropriate solution to the many urgent problems that people are observing each day with their own eyes. Problems including marginalisation of Papuans, being made a minority in their own land, and injustices related to the transfer of a population to the land of Papua” he continued.

Pastor John Djonga has also urged the government to carry out an overall evaluation of the results of the practice of transmigration until this time. He points out one particular effect of the transmigration which has been the lack of regard of the Indonesian government for the ways of the indigenous Papuan community. He writes of the practice of the government which has been to take land from Papuans for giving to transmigrants. He explains that in Papuan culture the land is held communally, whereas the government persists in just approaching a very few people nominated by the tribal head, with the money given for the land is then split between those few only. He stresses “whereas in reality that land is the property of the entire community concerned. This creates the seed of division in a community that until that time was strong and united.”

Pastor Djonga himself acknowledges that it’s impossible to close ones eyes to the imbalance that now exists between the indigenous Papuans and the transmigrants. He points out that the newcomers arrive with high levels of motivation to improve their standard of living and willingness to work hard to do so. What’s more they come already having certain skills, whereas Papuans have an attitude of going along just as normal and they continue with their usual traditional way of life. With the consequence that the gap between the races is progressively widening.”  However he says, the situation as it is in this regard cannot be blamed totally on the work ethic of the Papuans, as “for a long time now Papuans have not been receiving any serious attention from the government.” According to Pastor Djonga the government must not force further transmigration on the Papuan community. “Don’t let it get to the point that the government plants further seeds of problems. The transmigrants will also then be responsible for the consequences.”


Similar views have been expressed by Gunawan Iggeruhi, a 30 year old human rights activist in Papua, who said “it is better that the government listens first to the voices of Papuans before they go ahead and make policies that are totally rejected by the people of Papua.”

According to Iggeruhi, until this time Papuans have appeared on the surface to respond to the arrival of the countless transmigrants like it was nothing extraordinary, “however the reality is that Papuans inside are carrying constant wounds in their hearts over the massive transmigration.

“Wounds that have not been allowed to heal due to the incessant actions of the government against the Papuan people; actions which have become increasingly serious”. Iggeruhi continued, “to stop those wounds continuing to deepen the transmigration needs to stop and truly allow the real life of indigenous Papuans to be planted in this land so that they do not forever feel like they are treated as second class citizens.”

It is now visibly apparent that the proportion of indigenous Papuans is progressively decreasing each month in Papua. This is contributed to by the low birth rates together with the increasing death rates amongst Papuans. This is in comparison to the birth rates of Non-Papuans in the land which are rapidly increasing whilst the death rates of Non-Papuans are at a real minimum. These realities need to be considered together with other factors and in particular that the number of migrants coming to Papua continue to grow and that all towns, cities and in fact every corner of Papua have now been taken over by Non-Papuans. As a result the indigenous Papuan population is now on a path heading towards extinction. It has been estimated that if the current trends continue that indigenous Papuans may be no longer by the year 2040.


The claim that indigenous Papuans will be ‘wiped out’ by the year 2040

 What has the life of indigenous Papuans been like since they became a part of the Republic of Indonesia, and how has that reflected in changing population statistics from prior eras to now? Results of research by Dr. Jim Elmslie & Dr. Camellia Webb Gannon from the University of Sydney’s Peace & Conflict Studies in Australia are very telling. Two years following the 1969 Act of Free Choice in 1971, indigenous Papuans comprised 96% of the population (887,000 out of the total 923,000 population). Whilst the Non-Papuan total at that time was stated as 36,000 (4% of the population). Within 53 years of Papua being part of Indonesia the total of Non-Papuans has reached 53% at 1.956 million, whilst the indigenous Papuan population has decreased to 1.7 million being 47% of the total population.

papua vs indon population breakdown graph

The data published by Dr Elmslie & Dr Webb-Gannon from Australia has since been re-analysed by a Mr Ir. Yan Awikaitumaa Ukago, M.M in Papua (10 August 2015), who used a method involving the use of non-linear segregation graphics mathematics (refer diagram above). According to Ukago “The growth of the indigenous Papuan population (shown by the red line in the diagram) tended to stagnate over a period of a decade and declined following 2005. Meaning that from 1971 until 2004 the numbers of Indigenous Papuans in Papua were still dominant (shown by the red area). However following that year the numbers of Non-Papuans (shown by the yellow area) became dominant. Reading from the diagram, the red line is the graphic representation of the growth rate of indigenous Papuans, whereas the yellow refers to the growth rate of the Non-Papuan sector of the population. It appears that the total of Non-Papuans at the start in 1971 was very few. However the population of that sector increased until in 2004 it was equal with that of Papuans (when the Papuan sector numbered 1.65 million (50%) and the Non-Papuan sector also numbered 1.65 million (50%). From 2005 onwards the growth rate of Indigenous Papuans tended to fall whilst that of Non-Papuans sharply rose and even more so in the era of Special Autonomy in Papua.”

Based on his segregation analysis (shown by the dotted lines in the diagram above), it is estimated that by the year 2025 the population of indigenous Papuans will have fallen to 1.5 million persons (36%) whilst the Non-Papuan population will have risen to 2.7 million persons (64% of the total population). Furthermore, under such conditions where there is no protection of the race, it is expected that the indigenous Papuans will become extinct by the year 2040. This means that “by 2040 the population in Papua will have reached 6 million but it will not be indigenous Papuans who will own the land” Ukago stated.

The decline in the population of indigenous Papuans was acknowledged by the previous Governor of the Papuan Province, Barnabas Suebu S.H, in his written address at the official appointment of the Merauke Bupati on 8 January 2011. According to then Governor Suebu “Indigenous Papuans are going to continue to decline in number as a consequence particularly of the migration of Non-Papuans, which is in turn the result of the growth of the (Indonesian) population which is the highest in the world (at 5.7%) per annum …. Accordingly the division into new kabupatens must not result in causing indigenous Papuans to become separated from and even forcibly removed from their ancestors’ lands.”

According to a population census carried out in 2010 in the West Papuan Province the number of indigenous Papuans in that province was 760,000, amounting to 51.67% of the total population in the province. That is, the populations of Papuan and non-Papuan in the western province were reported as being roughly equal. The head of the BPS (Badan Pusat Statistik or Indonesia’s Central Statistics Body, which carried out the census) Tanda Siriat stated that BPS applied six criteria in collecting data to determine who was categorised as ‘indigenous Papuans’.

  1. Any person with both the mother and father were indigenous Papuans.
  2. Any person with a father who was indigenous Papuan but the mother of non-Papuan descent.
  3. Any person with a mother who was indigenous Papuan but the father of non-Papuan descent.
  4. Any person who was non-ethnic Papuan but through Papuan traditional customary law and as acknowledged by the Papuan community was regarded as an indigenous Papuan.
  5. Any person who was non-ethnic Papuan but who had been adopted or was acknowledged through family name as having been adopted into the indigenous Papuan community.
  6. Any person who had been living continuously in Papua for more than 25 years.

Jim Elmslie’s “Slow Motion Genocide in Land of Papua”

 Jim Elmslie in his book, “West Papuan Demographic Transition and the 2010 Indonesian Census: “Slow Motion Genocide” or not?” (University of Sydney, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies) states that as at 1971 the indigenous Papuan population was 887,000. Then by 2000 it had risen to 1,505,405, a growth on average of 1.84% per year. Whereas he reports the total of Non-Papuans in 1971 was 36,000 which he claims rose to 708,425 by the year 2000, with an average yearly growth rate of 10.82%.

So that by mid-2010 according to Elmslie, the total of indigenous Papuans had reached 1,730.336 (47.89% of the population) whilst Non-Papuans had that same year reached 1,882,517 (52.10%). By the end of 2010 the respective populations had reached: Indigenous Papuans 1,760,557 (48.73%) and Non-Papuans, 1,852,297 (51.27%), giving the figure he states for the total population in 2010 of 3,612,854 (100%).

Elmslie estimates that by 2020 with these current trends that the overall combined population of Papua will have reached 7,287,463, comprising a forecast total of indigenous Papuans 2,112,681 (28.99% ) and Non-Papuans 5,174,782 (71.01%), indicating a slower population growth rate of indigenous Papuans than of Non-Papuans. In his analysis of the reasons for the difference Elmslie points out that apart from the impact of social factors and human rights violations, the primary cause is the transmigration of population from outside of Papua which is excessive.

The Head of the BPS in the Papuan Province Ir. J.A. Djarot Soetanto, MM has criticised Elmslie’s analysis of the situation when he claims the problem is intentional acts of genocide or the annihilation of indigenous Papuans. According to Soetanto that is untrue. He made a very different conclusion stating that the census data for Papua for the year 2010 pointed to a total combined population of 2,833,381 of which indigenous Papuans were still the majority with 76% as compared to Non-Papuans of only 24%.

It is the opinion of Yan Ukago that if indigenous Papuans were asked which of these two interpretations they believed was correct, that he has no doubt they would agree with the reports of the BPS census in each respective province, the conclusions of Jim Elmslie and the Papuan Governor’s statement as stated above. There’s a number of reasons for this. Firstly that Papuans are now so far removed from trusting the government in Papua which has tended to act in the interests of the central Indonesian government until now. Secondly the death rates of Papuans from babies through to adult ages has continued to rise and that is obvious to people from everyday observation. Thirdly every week Papuans see large number of Non-Papuans arriving from other parts of Indonesia by ocean going boats and planes. And then of course the fact that the history of the integration of Papua into Indonesia is regarded by Papuans as most unjust. Furthermore as Papuans’ human rights have been ignored until now such that they never feel free to live as human beings even on their own ancestors land.

It is the Writer’s observation that the butchery that has occurred against the Papuan community has actually become an intentional agenda of Indonesian government tradition. Those implementing that agenda have had two approaches. The first is overt. This has been carried out through military regional operations, shootings, creating so called local conflict, intentional creation of situations of violence, a range of stigmatism against indigenous Papuans including their alleged stupidity, the use of homebrew alcohol {WPM Eds: strong, often tainted or poisoned alcohol distributed by intelligence and military operatives believed by many Papuans to be a tool of genocide}.

The second is the covert approach of killing, which Papuans refer to as ‘slow motion genocide’. This continues to take place by way of kidnappings, killings, poisoning through food and drink, the intentional introduction of HIV/AIDS into Papua through prostitution, injection needles and tattoos, and HIV infection through {bad sexual health practices through the use of} alcohol. And so the list goes on. The overall impact of both approaches being the dramatic and continual decline of the indigenous Papuan population.



Many calls from the Papuan community are heard constantly as to the steps required to solve the problems of Papua. These are the offers of dialogue between Jakarta and Papua, a referendum and the third, independence for Papua. To dilute the lack of acceptance of the status quo, there have been efforts from the provincial governments and the Central Government to improve the quality of life of Indigenous Papuans.


The Indonesian Government would do well at this time to invite an international census team to independently carry out a census through the entire region of Papua, to verify whether the BPS or alternatively the KPU (General Election Commission) version is reflective of reality. Accurate data from an international source such as this could be just what they need to counter Elmslie’s data and analyses, as this matter has become really a thorn in the side for Indonesia. Elmslie’s data published by Sydney University is perceived as a threat to Indonesia’s sovereignty over Papua. (WPM Editorial note: The Writer is not implying Elmslie’s data is incorrect, rather making the case that the only way for Indonesian to counter this data is through the conduct of a free and unimpeded census by an international team.)

If Indonesia’s butchery is allowed to continue then sooner or later the Land of Papua will be surely have to be released from the Republic of Indonesia as a direct result of the treatment of the indigenous peoples of Papua already being classified as ‘slow motion genocide’. A genocide that has been allowed to happen through the application of a range of approaches by Indonesia that have killed and violated the human rights of the people of the land. As has been seen time and time again in the killings by the Indonesian Armed Forces that have become known locally as ‘Paniai Berdarah’ (‘berdarah’ referring to a flowing of blood), ‘Biak Berdarah’, ‘Wamena Berdarah.’ ‘Timika Berdarah’ and others. These conditions paint a picture of a land that exists at the threshold of extinction.


This means of course that a part of the Melanesian race is drowning in the bosom of Motherland (Indonesian state). If what is happening in Papua is a ‘slow motion genocide’, then surely we will see support come for Papua to be set free, not only from the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), but also surely in time from the members of ASEAN and other nations. The Indonesian Government will undoubtedly view that support when it comes as if those nations want to see the land of Papua released by Indonesia to independence; however their efforts are really intended to try and save indigenous Papuans from extinction.

“I dedicate this writing on the International Day of Peace.”

Timika, Papua. 21 September 2015

Brother Santon Tekege is a Pastoral Support Worker in the Diocese of Timika, Papua.  He chooses to publish under his own name, however his safety is monitored 24 hours a day by an international protection network.  (please give at West Papua Media to support our monitoring efforts for writers and journalists at risk in West Papua.)

Oil Palm companies in Nabire using Brimob to terrorise local villagers


August 25, 2015

By Santon Tekege for West Papua Media

Nabire based human rights activist Gunawan Inggeruhi has stated that an oil palm company managed by PT New Nabire and PT SAD, has caused uneasiness amongst citizens of Wami and Sima, Yaur district, in Nabire region.

Citizens in this area have been falsely and maliciously stigmatised by the companies as being suspected OPM (Free Papua Movement) members or activists, with the result that they are constantly made frightened and anxious by security forces.

Joint Brimob/TNI sweep team in Nabire oil Palm plantations. Photo:FIle
Joint Brimob/TNI sweep team in Nabire oil Palm plantations. Photo:FIle

On 4 January 2015, paramilitary BRIMOB police forces arrested a villager who is the traditional landowner of the location, by the name of Otis Waropen (aged 34 years). He was arrested at the PT New Nabire oil palm company plantation in the village of Wami in Yaur District, Nabire. In a  direct telephone interview on 22 August 2015, Waropen revealed that he was arrested by BRIMOB police on “suspicion resulting from stigmatisation of being an OPM member,”  and “on suspicion of making a movement of troublemakers in the vicinity of the PT New Nabire Oil Palm plantation.”

“It is not only (waropen) who has experienced such stigmatisation from BRIMOB who are acting as the protectors of that oil palm company,” Gunawan Inggeruhi told me.

“Many citizens who claim their traditional customary land rights, asking for the company to be closed and its license to operate be revoked, have been accused of being OPM members and ‘part of a movement of troublemakers’.  When in fact the reality is that those who make trouble and terrify the village community in Wami and Sima are the Papuan BRIMOB forces.”

Inggeruhi explained, “Citizens previously lived in this area in a peaceful and calm atmosphere.  These people are not OPM and they are not making some sort of opposition or troublemaker movement against the oil palm companies (PT New Nabire or PT SAD Perkasa).”

He described how most observers perceive that the actions of the Police and the Companies “are themselves making anarchy and intentionally killing the freedom of the people,” and creating fear amongst the people, even arresting and imprisoning them.

Inggeruhi went on to say that “All entrances into the plantation are guarded strictly and protected by Papuan BRIMOB Police. There’s around 50 BRIMOB armed forces there and they are assisted by intelligence personnel, all the way along the road from Wanggar until the village of Sima.”

“If we go to that location BRIMOB chase us and spy on us all the way along that road.”  Inggeruhi said that even himself had been chased and spied on in that area.

The community feels most oppressed by the presence of PT Nabire Baru and PT SAD Perkasa in the area with BRIMOB forces supporting them. He added that “the local government is indifferent over the closure of the space experienced by local residents and their inability  to move freely around in their own local area.”

He is urging the Papuan Police to immediately withdraw their BRIMOB forces from the area of the oil palm companies, and called that the oil palm plantations of PT Nabire Baru in Wami, and PT SAD Perkasa in Sima in the Yaur District of Nabire should cease immediately.

The Writer is a pastoral worker in the diocese of Timika, Papua.

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.


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


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]