Little by little, people start to taste the bitterness of oil palm.
It came as a big shock to both the indigenous people and residents of the transmigration settlements in SP8 to SP10 Masni and Sidey, Manokwari regency. Heavy rain all night long eventually meant that by the morning of 16th February 2014 the calm atmosphere of the night before had been turned to panic. Nikson Kasi, a volunteer for Jasoil Tanah Papua, reported that in his village Mansaburi, floodwaters were assailing the village. The Wariori River, which passes through PT Medco Papua Hijau Selaras’s oil palm plantation, had burst its banks with the volume of water from the mountains upstream.
At least 139 houses in Mansaburi village, Masni District, Manokwari, West Papua Province were swept away by the floods. There were no fatalities, but damage to property is estimated at billions of Rupiah. Even sadder is the news that people’s crops and livestock were also washed away by the floods as they charged through the oil palm plantation.
According to Nikson’s account, the floodwaters rose at about 04.30 AM. The river’s levees were breached and a flash flood struck houses that lay behind them. The Mansaburi village head, Robert Gasang confirmed that 139 houses had been destroyed by the current. The 700-or-so residents were forced to evacuate to escape the rising waters of the Wariori river, as heavy rain continued for the next two days, even though the level of flooding receded.
“We’re just worried, what it next time the rain continues for two or three days? Well now we’ve tasted the bitterness of oil palm after this flood”, said Demmy Safe, an activist with Jasoil Tanah Papua whose home is also close to the site of the flooding. Nikson continued, “even though there were no fatalities, the flood has wiped out people’s gardens, including rice, chilli, beans, tomatoes and other plants. Farm animals were also swept away by the floods”
Local residents, who came as part of transmigration programs or on their own initiative, say that previously, when the only plantation was that of PTPN II Prafi, flooding wasn’t particularly often seen. Now flooding has become a constant threat to the people because forests have been cleared [by Medco] as far upstream as the mountains, and so people have started to be worried that the floods will keep coming back. Especially in the rainy season like now, we always have to be on our guard, because when the big disaster comes it will not give notice beforehand.
[translator's note: this article claims that houses were swept away (hanyut) by the floods. I've kept that dramatic term in my translation, although would point out that other media accounts have said that houses were merely severely damaged. (rusak parah).]
A Report of a Visit to PT Dongin Prabhawa’s Plantation at Mam from our partners at AwasMifee and JPIC.
February 19, 2014
A recent visit to Mam to monitor the latest developments around PT Dongin Prabhawa’s oil palm plantation near the south bank of the Digoel River in Merauke has revealed several concerns, from irregularities in the logging plan and ill-treatment of workers to human rights abuses.
PT Dongin Prabhawa is a subsidiary of the Korindo Group, which has several other oil palm and forestry businesses along the Digoel River.
The monitoring by JPIC MSC Indonesia revealed that PT Dongin Prabhawa had been clearing the forest and taking the wood on barges to Korindo’s plywood factory upriver in Asiki. An employee working as logging coordinator claimed that there were some irregularities in the work – the company was supposed to only log the areas assigned in its 2012 annual work plan during 2013, but actually logged the areas in the 2013 work plan as well. Although logging was not currently taking place at the time of the visit, logs were piled up in several places, including three log piles at the port. In other parts of the concession oil palm had already been planted.
The presence of police and military in the area were giving cause for concern. It was reported that on the 12th December 2013, two policemen from the Okaba police station who were assigned as security for PT Dongin Prabhawa at Mam, confiscated liquor from three local vendors after a search. The three local people were ordered to report regularly to the police station, but the police officers resold the alcohol to local customary landowners, also getting drunk with them.
Gambling with dice also takes place around the PT Dongin Prabhawa plantation and two police officers are involved in this. Addiction to gambling and alcohol often causes serious social problems in indigenous communities and so it is highly irresponsible of the police to promote such practices, and make money from them.
The Indonesian Army and Navy are stationed at Bade, a 30 minute speedboat ride away across the river. As has previously been reported, several young men, who may have been drinking, have recently been arrested and beaten up by the military in this area.
Another case of abuse by the military was reported on 13th February. It was claimed that the previous day a company employee originally from the Kei islands in South-East Maluku, was arrested in PT Dongin Prabhawa’s Division Two and tortured by a member of the Army.
There was also evidence of a worrying disregard for worker’s health and safety. Workers stationed at Division Two are drinking water from holes dug by diggers. The workers have complained about this. What is worse, chemical fertilizers are being used close to these water sources.
During the last three months (December to February) PT Dongin Prabhawa had not given either contracted nor casual workers the foodstuffs they were entitled to.
Some photos of the area are shown below, taken in January/ February 2014. All photos courtesy of WF from Papuan Voices and JPIC MSC Indonesia.
Around 50-60 permits for forest management, mining and even plantations which were issued by Papua’s two caretaker governors over the last two years are going to be revoked. “A caretaker governor does not have the authority to issue permits, their duty is only to prepare local elections to choose the definitive governor,” said Lukas Enembe, the Governor of Papua Province, on Friday 11th October 2013.
The election for the Governor of Papua Province was delayed for two years and during that time 60 forestry, mining and plantation companies received permits to start operations in Papua.
“In the end monopolies have arisen over natural resources, land and forests. The mechanism must be regulated so that no one company or corporate group has a monopoly. A caretaker does not have the right to do this., and so they have contravened the law. I have signed a document meaning that those companies can no longer operate in Papua.”
Last August, Enembe wrote to the Forestry Ministry calling for a halt to 13 of the 25 timber utilization permits from natural forests (IUPHHK-HA) that are currently in force in Papua , covering an area of 2,083,091 hectares.
The Governor will also evaluate 42 gold mining companies in Degeuwo, all of which are illegal. “Really we should already have intervened in this area. Although the Governor ha previously issued an instruction to shut the mines, but the regency governments haven’t carried it out. What’s going on there?” asked the Secretary of the Papuan Provincial Mining and Energy Agency, Fred Boray.
The Degeuwo mining area, which was first opened in 2002, is located across four government districts: Nabire, Paniai, Intan Jaya and Deiyai Regencies. There are currently 42 companies operating, but only six have permits.
Papua province covers an area of around 32,757,948 hectares, of which 31,738,931 hectares (97.89%) is land area. Land classified as production forest or limited production forest is around 10,700,567 hectares, and timber utilization permits have been issued for 4,989,783 hectares.
The governor has requested Regency leaders (bupatis) not to issue permits that will result in forest destruction. The reason is that damage to the forest will not bring any positive contribution to people’s lives. “For example, the oil palm plantations in Keerom Regency that are no longer productive. Because of that, I ask all the bupatis not to give out permits too freely, they should look at the seriousness of the investor,” said Enembe.
Approximately 55 kilometres on the West of Nabire region of Papua Province unfolds a large amount of forest that is owned by a large tribe called the Yerisiam. This tribe has 4 (four) sub tribes namely Wauha, Akaba, Karoba and Sarakwari. The area with tens of thousands hectares is situated at the shoreline of Cenderawasih Bay.
Apart from the sea, the forest has been the source of life for these four tribes from which they obtain sago, traditional medicine and it’s their hunting ground. There is also a sacred place believe to be the resting place of the spirits of their forefathers.
The situation changed since 1990-1991 when HPH (Forest Concession) Company, PT Sesco entered Wanggar and Yaro districts and took bars of Merbau wood. The chairperson of the Cooperative Society, Yunus Kegou, said that the company ended its operation in 2000 and left many broken promises.
“At that time, the company hadn’t paid Rp.40 million which is approximately A$3900 with the count of Rp.1000 per cubic meter with is equivalent to A$0.95. The request from the local which are 4 motors, 4 chainsaws and 1 vehicle for the locals to use hasn’t been paid till present,” said Kegou.
In 2003, three companies entered and established in this area, namely PT. Pakartioga, PT. Junindo and PT. Kalimanis (PT Jati Dharma Indah). Allegedly, these companies changed their names from PT. Sesco to PT. Pakartioga, and the HPH (forest concession holder) to the name PT. Junindo, and PT Jati Dharma Indah (JDI) to the the name PT. Kalimanis. In the HPH permit, the operating period of JDI ends on 2017, with the permit of operation on the West and East of the Nabire Region – a huge part of Cenderawasih Bay.
The presence of all these companies left many opaque stories. Their social responsibilities are negative, labourers were imported, and the experiences with transmigrant and the outsiders created conflicts not only with in the civilians but with the companies as well.
Erens Rumbobiar, the Chief of Makimi village situated on the eastern side of Nabire town, said that the conflicts with the locals occurred several times, and were the logging companies fault at that time. One of the cases that stimulated conflict was when Jordan and Paulus Ha’o permitted logging company PT. Barito to chop down the trees and turn them into logs, not knowing that the area is a customary land of Sefnat Monei. The conflict almost ended up in physical attacks (according to Customary Law) so the matter was taken to Didimus Warai’s residence, who as the Chief of Wate’s tribe, solved it. People that were present at that time represented their clan which were Utrech Inggeruhi, Simon Hanebora as a witness for Sefnat Monei, Nikanor Monei and Jordan Ha’o.
In 2007, JDI that had been permitted to operate till 2017 invited PT Harvest Raya Company from Korea to start the oil palm plantation in the region. The locals refused PT Harvest Raya because it is thought to be threatening their future and future of their generations. However, this refusal produced polemic within the Monei clan whereby Sefnat Monei as the owner of the customary land refused, but his children allowed the exploitation of the land to be carried out.
This time, PT. Nabire Baru (NB), another oil palm company entered and settled in two of the villages in Yaur District of Nabire Region namely Sima and Wami village. This concession is located with the Northern side bordered by the ocean of Cenderawasih Bay, and the Southern side bordered by the JDI production forest and Wami village. The western side borders the road connecting Nabire – Wasior and also PT. Sariwarna Adiperkasa HPH, and the Eastern side of the area borders the production forest, Jaya Mukti village, and Wanggar River.
The company is said by local villagers to be building communication with the local people in the area which led up to a thanksgiving at the early 2010. Traditional prayer was carried out as a start of the business and the compensation of the land was agreed as Rp.6, 000,000,000 which is equivalent to A$600,000. This agreement is said to be completed without the involvement of JDI.
Afterwards, several individuals persuaded Nabire Regional Government to issue new permits. After the thanksgiving, the people demanded the government solve the HPH land issue so it doesn’t interfere with the oil palm plantation. Eventually local people were driven by few individuals sign a petition on a piece of white cloth, and took it to the Parliament office in Nabire with the hopes that the issue of the location is solved.
The reason was that JDI has long left the area and there was no communication with the indigenous people even though the permit HPH is still valid. At that time, Benyamin Karet the Setda (Regional Secretariat) for Nabire Region, said that the status of the area of 17,000 hectares was problematic because it’s still owned by PHP JDI. That area itself had not been plotted for oil palm plantation, but driven by the persuasion of the indigenous people, Nabire Regional Government issued a permit in the form of the Regent’s decision. The principle of the cultivation permit is that the funding is issued by an Investor’s Agency on 21 of September 2010.
Nabire Regent Isaias Douw, said the indigenous people admitted that the location is safe and can be used NB. “There had been a conversation between the company and the indigenous people and had been an agreement with the locals. Therefore, we issued a permit to the investor because the locals demanded,” he said.
However, the Regional Government knew there would be a problem with JDI, they therefore asked the locals and NB to solve the problematic location with the companies PHP. At that time, the activists blamed NB and JDI as if they deliberately stirred up the conflict in deceiving the locals of taking merbau wood from their area.
NB Consultant, PT Widya Cipta Buana, led by Iwan Setyawan, at the public consultation analysis in regards to the environmental impact (AMDAL) in early May 2013, explained in Sima Village that the company “is based on the Environmental Act, Government’s rules and policies, and even the rules and policies of the Minister of Environment Number 16 and 17 of 2012 concerning the Guidelines for community involvement in the EIA (Environment Impact Assessment), and an environment permit process. “From the legal perspective, the company has feasibility to carry out the activities”.
NB started the business in 2011 and recruited more than 1250 labours. In 2012, the company applied for the extension of the permit (which was granted via the) Regent’s decree number 71 2012 dated 24th of July 2012 about extending the location permit. The trees were then chopped down and turn into logs, and were taken out of Nabire, when the owner of the land protested.
The data collected by Mongabay, shows from the permit of 17,000 hectares, the area that was cultivated were 12.438,77 hectares including the conduit and the path in the garden and the cultivated area of 10.758.00 hectares. The rest include 1.851.88 hectares of the beach, 1.957.38 hectares of the river, 688,32 hectares of hills and the sacred places, 63,69 hectares of sago plantation and the nursery of 224,82 hectares. In 2013, the plan to cultivate is approximately 2.500 hectares, 4.500 hectares will be in 2014 and around 3.428 hectares will be in 2015. The factory will be built around 2015 with the processing capacity of 90 tonnes an hour.
Mr Kim, the owner of the company, claimed that he has been given the permit for 200,000 hectares of land and 20 other companies in Nabire Region and the surroundings, including several gold companies in Topo and Batu Bara area at the Eastern part of Nabire. Kim didn’t mention the details of all the companies that he owns.
by Ank @ Pusaka (Heritage) Foundation to empower community rights
15 April 2013
Merauke, Papua: Without the knowledge or consent of local landowners in Kampung Onggari, Malind district, Merauke, two subsidiaries of the Rajawali Group, PT Karya Bumi Papua and PT Cenderawasi Jaya Mandiri, are destroying ancestral forest, evicting areas of importance and swamps belonging to the people. It is believed that this has been occurring since the end of 2012.
Stephanus Gebze, a well-known figure and leader of one of the landowning clans in Kampung Onggari revealed that, “the Malind people of Kampung Onggari have never sat down and discussed this together, nor have we agreed to give permission or surrender our land to the Rajawali company”.
In 2010, the Rajawali company presented its project plans at the Malind district office, in Kampung Kaiburse, but community members from Onggari who were present stated their opposition to the company’s operations in Onggari, as they needed the forests and swamps to be able to support future generations of villagers. In 2011, Rajawali built a church in Onggari, but the people never agreed to give their forests and swamps over to the company. “We accepted the help to build the church as a contribution to us in Onggari. We cannot be coaxed into giving up our land just because a church was built for us”, said Paulinus Balagaize.
Several local people have already surveyed the site where clearing has taken place, known as Tiptidek, Kopti and Kandiput. They have found that their forests and swampland, known as Deg, Palee, Bob, have already been flattened. “These are the places we go hunting, fishing, collect wood and medicines. There are animal habitats and burial grounds of the Malind ancestors. The company has destroyed them all”, said Stephanus Mahuze, another prominent member of the Onggari community. expressing his disappointment with Rajawali for clearing the forest without permission.
The Onggari village government and other community leaders met with the leader of the Malind District, Martinus Dwiharjo, on Thursday 11th April 2013. They complained about how Rajawali was clearing the forest without permission. “This is harassment, and a violation of our traditional rights as Marind people”, said Stephanus Gebze.
The community is demanding that Rajawali’s activities are stopped until settlement is reached according to Marind customary law. There must be compensation for all the various losses the people suffer, including for grasses and other plants and disruption to animal life. The community wishes that these problems can be resolved peacefully and according to the Marind people’s traditional mechanisms.
Martinus Dwiharjo said that he had no knowledge that Rajawali had been clearing people’s land in Onggari. Martinus has offered to facilitate a meeting to resolve the issue with Rajawali as soon as possible, on
Tuesday 16th April 2013. Martinus also wishes to lend his support to resolve any questions about the location of the boundary between land belonging to the clans of Kampung Onggari and Domande. The majority of Kampung Domande’s land has already been given over to Rajawali.
Who knows how often Rajawali has overstepped the line? In November 2012, the people of Kampung Domande, Malind district, imposed a penalty on Rajawali according to their customary laws because the company had
cleared land on the Sanggayas burial ground. Fransiskus Kaize, the village head, explained this penalty consisted of a seven million rupiah fine, one pig and twelve kava plants. The Sanggayas Burial ground has
now been cordoned off with a coconut leaf fence to show that it is forbidden to destroy the surrouding areas.
When a company clears forest without permission, it is grabbing land, insulting indigenous traditions and breaking the law. It is only right that the Malind people of Onggari take action to uphold their customary law against such companies.