Joint Press Release,
14 August 2011
Walhi, Pusaka, Sajogyo Institute, Sorpatom, Papuan NGOs Working Group, Sawit Watch, Aman, Huma, JKPP, KPA, Kontras, Green Peace Indonesia, DtE
MIFEE Project Violates Human Rights
[Translated by TAPOL]
One year after the MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate) Project was launched by the central government, the situation of the people in Merauke has become a matter of grave concern. The indigenous Malind people and the inhabitants in Merauke in general have been threatened and marginalised as a result of the conversion of their land and their ancestral forests by the MIFEE Project.
Research undertaken by Pusaka, called ‘MIFEE does not reflect the aspirations of the Malind people’ drew the conclusion that the MIFEE Project was launched as the illegitimate offspring of the global food crisis for Food, Feed, Fuel and Climate Change (3F and 2C). MIFEE is called the ‘illegitimate offspring’ because it is not a solution that serves the interests of the majority of the people but is the result of a conspiracy between capitalists and the government in search of economic rent side by side with cramped living conditions for the majority of the people. In the words of Emillianus Ola Kleden, a researcher for Pusaka Foundation, the MIFEE programme will have a number of negative impacts on the social and cultural fabric, the demographics, the social and economic conditions and the environment of the people. These negative impacts will also worsen the living conditions of many groups living in the areas affected by the project.
Laksmi A Savitri, a researcher for the Sajogyo Institute, came across facts showing that MIFEE is a development model which makes no provision for improving the living standards of the indigenous people in Merauke and is only focussed on the accumulation of corporate profits. There are three reasons for this, according to Laksmi: firstly, it fails to respect the concept of land and identity which is inseparable from the identity and dignity of the Malind people; secondly, it fails to understand the close links between the Malind people’s system of living and the natural resources and the forests, and assumes that the loss of forestry resources will be replaced by opportunities to work as day labourers for the companies; and thirdly, it pays no attention to the process of meaningful social transformation for the Malind people towards a better life in ways and forms that are defined by the Malind people themselves.
According to Billy Metemko, chairman of Sorpatom Merauke, the Merauke Project has already caused significant damage to the social structure of the customary groups who have lost land where they are able to look for food and fulfil their social needs, like what has happened in Zanegi Kampung in the operational area of PT Medco or Domande Kampung in the operational area of PT Rajawali and Nakias Kampung in the operational area of PT Dongin Prabhawa. The destruction of these forests has resulted in the destruction of traditional symbols, the source of their livelihood, while in the longer term, it will lead to the wholesale destruction and extermination of traditional communities in Merauke.
Since 2010, Sawit Watch and the Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Merauke (SKP-Merauke) have held a number of meetings in kampungs along the border region between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea in South Papua and have discovered that land has been allocated for palm oil plantations on a massive scale. In the district of Merauke, at least 380,887 hectares have been allocated to ten companies, and 320,000 hectares in the district of Boven Digoel where licences have been issued to eight palm oil plantation companies. Opening up the land to palm oil plantations on such a large scale has resulted in forest areas in the south of Papua having been turned into mono-cultural plantations leading to ecological destruction and the permanent and irreversible loss of its vitally important diversity. The presence of traditional communities and indigenous Papuan people whose lives still depend on the forests will eventually be uprooted and marginalised as a consequence of development schemes that fail to take account of local wisdom and culture.
Bearing these conditions in mind, civil society in Indonesia has warned the Indonesian government and parliament, the DPR RI, that this project is more harmful than beneficial. Nevertheless the government seems to have refused to listen to reports about the destruction of the environment, the food culture of the traditional communities and their life spaces and the destruction of Merauke’s forests. Sorpatom (Solidarity of Papuan People Rejecting MIFEE) has on numerous occasions organised activities to reject the presence of MIFEE. Komali (the Community of Traditional Communities) wrote to the Indonesian president last year expressing the same views about MIFEE.
A field visit to Merauke by the environmental NGO WALHI in June 2011 discovered that during the course of the past year, at least one hundred thousand hectares of natural forest in Merauke have been cleared, including sago hamlets which protected food security at all times, regardless of the season, and are very adaptable to changes in the climate. The marshlands are threatened by drought, as a result of which fish, birds and deer that have provided the local people with their source of protein will find it increasingly difficult to enjoy the necessary living space. Eventually, the Economic, Social and Cultural (ECOSOC) rights will become ever more inaccessible to protection and provision by the state. Berry N. Forqan, the national executive director of WALHI, has stated that it is reasonable to say that the Indonesian government should be regarded as having caused the violation of basic human rights with the MIFEE Project.
Sinal Blegur, a member of the Working Group of NGOs in Papua, said that the violation of these ECOSOC rights will ultimately lead to the violation of civil and political rights because MIFEE could potentially pave the way for the security forces to enter the region on a massive scale to protect the operations of the companies.
In view of the above, dozens of local, national and international NGOs have in the past month jointly produced a report to be submitted to the Special Rapporteur of the UN on the Right to Food, drawing attention to threats to the right to food of the traditional communities in Merauke. According to Abet Nego Tarigan, executive director of Sawit Watch, 22 NGOs have so far signed this document, representing the traditional communities in Merauke who are the victims or potential victims of the MIFEE Project The report has also been sent to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the Human Rights Treaties Division.
This means that all civil society organisations which are concerned with the rights and living space for indigenous Papuan people should call on the government to immediately halt all MIFEE activities and Food Estates in general in Indonesia that are damaging the environment and forcing the removal of traditional communities from their traditional land and areas which they manage. The national, provincial and district governments must stop granting location licences to companies and hold an inclusive dialogue, in which the Malind people are central, to discuss the allocation of land, the provision of space and development capital for agriculture, in conformity with social transformation that can bring the Malind people self-reliance and dignity.
All this is intended to ensure that similar operations that have resulted in the massive destruction of the environment which have occurred in Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan and Sulawesi should not be repeated in Papua.
Islah, Manager of the Water and Food Campaign, WALHI;
Frangky Samperante, Director of Psaka;
A Karlo Nainggolan, staff member of Advocacy, Policy and Legal Defence, Sawit Watch;
Laksmi Savitri, Sajogyo Institute;
Sinal Blegur, member of the Working Group of NGOs in Papua.
- AlertNet: Indonesia re-thinks Papua food project – report (westpapuamedia.info)
- Indonesia food security project threatens Papuan way of life – activists (westpapuamedia.info)
- Cabinet minister visits Merauke to promote the MIFEE project (westpapuamedia.info)
- Tempo: Papua MIFEE Project Faces Criticism (westpapuamedia.info)
- Ecosystem in Merauke must be preserved, says agricultural expert (westpapuamedia.info)
UNITED FRONT OF STRUGGLE OF THE PEOPLE OF WEST PAPUA [Eknas Front PEPERA PB]
‘SAFEGUARDING THE HISTORY OF THE MORNING STAR’
The mega project, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate – MIFEE – was announced on 18 February 2010 by the former Bupati of Merauke, J.G
Gebze and officially launched on 11 August 2010 by the Minister of Agriculture, Siswono Yodohusodo on behalf of the President. The project
will involve 36 investors, 13 of whom are already operating in the area. The project will cover an area of 2.5 million hectares and bring into
the area a work force of four million people.
MIFEE will have an impact on every aspect of the lives of all indigenous Papuan people, particularly the Anim Ha customary people in South Papua.
The project which has been declared a National Food Granary is unacceptable to the local communities. On 8 August 2010, the customary
Ha Anim people sent a letter to President Yudhoyono but the Indonesian State has ignored the Ha Anim people’s rejection of this project.
The attitude of the government is in contravention of the principles of democracy that have been adopted by the Indonesian state. Any legal
instrument or policy that the government intends to adopt must conform with genuine democratic mechanisms. We herewith make seven points that
would comply with these democratic mechanisms, which the government should take account of in the implementation of this project:
One, in recognition of the aspirations of the people, any government policy should be acceptable to the people after having been made public.
In the case of MIFEE, this has not happened. The MIFEE project was on the working agenda of the SBY-Budiono regime for a hundred days and it
was never made public. The decision to launch the MIFEE project did not involve the people who have customary rights over the land; there were
no meaningful negotiations in compliance with rights and responsibilities taking into account the needs of the people. In other
words, the government and the investors regard this region of Papua as being land that doesn’t belong to anyone. The government and the
investors are not interested in the people but only in the land and its natural resources.
Two, the aspirations of the people as well as the policy of the government should be drawn up within a legal framework. In the case of
MIFEE, the interests of the Indonesian state are involved and therefore during the one hundred day period, the SBY-Budiono government entered
into a Memorandum of Understanding – MoU – with the foreign investors, after which the MoU was adopted as a draft regional regulation – RAPERDA
- of the district of Merauke.
Three, the results of these decisions should have been discussed with the people. In the case of MIFEE, neither the MoU nor the RAPERDA were
discussed with the people. Nor did the plans that were drawn up involve the customary people, the owners of the land. Neither the Indonesian
government nor the local government did anything to publicise the MoU or the RAPERDA.
Four, adoption of the legal documents. The MoU entered into by the SBY-Budiono government during the one hundred day preparatory period was
adopted as Regional Regulation (Perda) No 23 by the Bupati of Merauke, John Gluba Gebze.
Five, there was no announcement of the decision that had been taken regarding the MIFEE project. As is always the case in Papua, the
decisions were not made known to the people: neither the MoU nor the Perda were made known to the customary owners of the land.
Six, adoption of a legal decision. The announcement of the MIFEE project by John Gluba Getze on 12 February, 2010, the 108^th anniversary of the
town of Merauke, was officially announced on 11 August 2010 by the minister of agriculture, Siswono on behalf of the President of Indonesia.
Seven, should the decision fail to comply with the interests of the people, it should be revoked, either because (a) it is ineffective or
(b) the decision in question should be amended if it is lacking in any material way. In the case of MIFEE, the Indonesian state closed its ears
to the many protests made by the indigenous people, by observers and by NGO activists. This is obvious from the fact that thirteen companies are
already operating in Merauke.
As regards the social implications, the number of inhabitants in each kampong could decline sharply and they will become a minority as
compared to ethnic groups brought in from outside Papua, a situation that will become even worse with the arrival of four million low-paid
workers, some of whom have already arrived and who will continue to arrive to work on the MIFEE project. The companies and the government
have never involved the local communities in any decision-making or other mechanisms in compliance with the basic daily needs and customs of
the local communities. The local inhabitants have become mere spectators. These violations have become part of the ‘culture’ of the
companies and the government with MIFEE serving the interests of the Indonesian state and the foreign investors. As a result, social problems
are emerging, such as ethnic cleansing or genocide which infringe the ethical and moral principles of the local tribes and the indigenous
Papuan people in general.
In view of all the above and in order to safeguard the people and land of Papua from the threat posed by the mega MIFEE project, a meeting was
held on 4 June at the OFS Convent, attended by young Papuans and students, primarily from South Papua . It was decided to set up the
Papuan People’s Solidarity to Reject MIFEE or SORPATOM.
One of its activities was the public discussion held on 11 August in Jayapura the theme of which was: ‘Investments in Papua, especially
MIFEE: A catastrophe or a blessing for the Indigenous Papuan people?’
In view of the threats posed by investments, in particular the MIFEE Mega Project, we hereby declare:
1. We support the position adopted by the Ha Nim indigenous people and their sympathisers who reject the MIFEE project on their land
because it poses a threat to the right to life of the local communities.
2. We urge the Indonesian state – SBY – to repeal the MoU about MIFEE.
3. We urge the local government to immediately revoke PERDA No 23 about MIFEE.
4. We call on the provincial assembly, the DPRP, to hold a hearing attended by all those affected, to discuss the MIFEE project.
5. We call on all those who are concerned with safeguarding the people and the land to close ranks and reject every form of
investment which poses a threat to the right to life of the local communities, especially the MIFEE project.
Port Numbay, Thursday, 30 September 2010
[Translated by TAPOL]