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.
Available in English at https://awasmifee.potager.org/?p=334
by Ans K @ Tabloid Jubi
January 4, 2013
The leader of the Merauke District Legislative Council (DPRD), Leonardus Mahuze, says that PT Selaras Inti Semesta, a company logging forest owned by the people of Senegi village in Okaba district, has not fulfilled the promises it made when it started its operations there.
That was how Leo described the situation to tabloidjubi.com, on Thursday (3/1). He said that the company’s promise to provide education for Senegi village’s children, including providing college places, has still not happened. Similarly the company has not provided new houses, electricity supplies or clean water either. As a result, the local people who are the customary landowners in the area, feel they have been exploited.
Until now, Leo related, the only thing which PT Selaras Inti Semesta has completed building has been a church. In the meantime they are logging the forest every day. “Yes, of course the local people are the victims in this situation. The council has received many complaints”, he said.
Leo added that in the near future he will summon PT Selaras Inti Semesta and local people to a meeting at the District Legislative Council, and draw up a memorandum of understanding between the two parties, witnessed by representatives of the people. This is in order to uphold the people’s rights.
(English translation: https://awasmifee.potager.org/?p=308)
- MIFEE: Latest News Reports (westpapuamedia.info)
- The Impact of MIFEE presence at Bian River and Maro River, West Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
- Take Care of Our Rivers and Give Us Back our Land (westpapuamedia.info)
- Sugar Company Rajawali’s Sweet Promises on MIFEE (westpapuamedia.info)
PRESS RELEASE FROM awasMIFEE
April 25, 2012
Announcing the publication of a new report into a major land grab in West Papua:
“An Agribusiness Attack in West Papua: Unravelling the Merauke
Integrated Food and Energy Estate” is now online at:
(direct pdf download: http://awasmifee.potager.org/uploads/2012/03/mifee_en.pdf )
The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) is a vast mega-project, a plan for over a million hectares of plantations and industrialised agriculture that threatens the people and environment across the southern part of West Papua. Indonesian and foreign companies have each claimed their share of the land, and offer the local Malind people next-to-nothing in exchange for the forest that has sustained them for countless generations.
West Papua, where the MIFEE project is set to take place, is a conflict zone. The Papuan people have been struggling for decades for their freedom and self-determination. West Papua is also the next frontier for Indonesia’s plantations industry – after Sumatra and Borneo’s forests have been decimated for the pulp and oil-palm industries, now Papua becomes the target. Although some plantations already exist, MIFEE represents another order of magnitude, opening the floodgates to development projects across Papua in which the losers will be the Papuan people.
awasMIFEE! has been created as an act of solidarity with the social and ecological struggles of the people of Merauke and elsewhere in West Papua. We believe that it is important that people outside of West Papua also know what is happening in Merauke. However, information available about MIFEE can be confusing – much of it comes from different companies and government bodies, and each have their own way of describing the project that fits with their own interests and objectives.
By compiling information from different sources, such as reports from the villages affected, from NGOs and other groups, from Papuan, Indonesian and financial media, from local and national government, and from company websites, we have tried to unravel what MIFEE is likely to mean for the people of Merauke. We hope that a more coherent understanding of how this land grab is taking shape will be of interest to people who are interested in West Papua, in the defence of forests and forest peoples, in the struggles against agro-fuels and against the growth of industrialised agriculture.
Most of all we hope that this information can be the catalyst for action! Our initiative is independent, unconnected to the programs of any NGO, and we hope it can also be a source of inspiration.
The report “An Agribusiness Attack in West Papua : Unravelling the
Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate” is an attempt to give an
overview of the situation in April 2012. It focusses on the following areas:
- Background information – to understand MIFEE in the context of West
- Papua, it’s history and struggles, and the local Malind people.
- What is MIFEE – how MIFEE presents itself as the answer to Indonesia’s food security needs. But is it actually just an excuse for oil palm and logging companies to conquer new territory? A look at the difference between the propaganda and the reality of development in Merauke.
- Reports from villages: A summary of news of what has been happening on the ground around the MIFEE project area, compiled from reports of NGOs that have visited the area, local media and letters sent from villagers.
- Company Profiles: Tracing where the money comes from behind each proposed plantation.
- Which of Indonesia’s top business conglomerates are involved?
- How South Korean companies have been buying up plantations.
- How Australia’s top-selling sugar brand is connected to forest destruction in Papua.
News of further developments will be posted on the website, and from
time to time updates containing news of all recent developments will be published.
[awasMIFEE minta ma'af karena versi Bahasa Indonesia belum siap. Laporan masih dalam proses terjemahan. Semoga dalam waktu dekat kami akan menerbit versi Bahasa Indonesia]
- Concerns of JPIC in Papua regarding the situation in Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
- Rallies reject Indonesian status quo in Papua, and demand referendum (westpapuamedia.info)
JUBI, 16 July 2011 PT Rajawali is planning to establish a sugar factory in two areas in Merauke, Malind district, in Kampung Kaligi and Kampung Domde. The government has already agreed to hand over 37,500 hectares for this purpose. The company is waiting for an agreement on the release of forestry land which is expected to be issued by the Director of Panology (?).
This is likely to happen in August this year. The project manager of PT Rajawali, Abdul Wahab, told JUBI that they were waiting for the AMDAL license. Speaking for the company, Abdul said they had carried out tests on 200 hectares and this will be followed by the hand over of 1,000 hectares. Abdul said that laboratory tests have not yet been conducted because the sugar cane must have grown for at least one year, but he said that, considering the results of the seedling tests, the prospects are very good indeed.
Tests in the nursery have indicated that from one hectare of seedlings, the sugar cane can cover an area of seven hectares. Asked about the work force, Abdul said that their priority would be to employ indigenous people. He said that for the initial tests, local people had been employed for planting the seeds and other jobs. He said that they were urging the company to commence its operations as soon as possible.
- Local people reject PT Nutfa Malind-Papua in Okaba (westpapuamedia.info)
- PT Medco refuses to pay compensation for Papuan land used for three years (westpapuamedia.info)
- Cabinet minister visits Merauke to promote the MIFEE project (westpapuamedia.info)
JUBI: 27 June 2011
On his first visit to Merauke to see preparations for MIFEE, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate, Marie Pangestu, the Minister of Industry and Trade said that the customary rights of the local community should be dealt with first, by issuing certificates, in connection with the MIFEE project that is being developed in the district of Merauke. The land which will be used for planting must be suitable for whatever crops are to be grown there.
The minister was speaking to journalists after flying over the land that will be used for the MIFEE project.
‘I have been closely following the discussions and reports about this projects which have been taking place at the centre. And now, I have come to see things for myself at close range and I have come to the conclusion that the land is very suitable indeed for agricultural production. ‘
He also said that he had received a short account from the Merauke governmental chief about the plans being made for the project, as well as measures for its implementation and land usage. Companies planning to invest can now go ahead to acquire the necessary licences and start planting their crops.
He went on to say that it was now necessary to build the necessary infrastructure, in particular harbours to support the project once it gets underway. For instance, he said, investors who intend to establish palm oil plantations will need harbours of their own.
[COMMENT: The central government will clearly be investing huge sums of money to promote the interests of companies planning to invest in MIFEE. Not at all clear what is meant by issuing certificates to the local communities whose customary rights to the land will be sacrificed as investors are invited to grab their land with little regard for the loss of their livelihoods based on hunting and fishing. No mention either about whether the rightful owners of the land will be granted any compensation for the loss of their land and the destruction of their livelihoods. TAPOL]
- PT Medco refuses to pay compensation for Papuan land used for three years (westpapuamedia.info)
- Local people reject PT Nutfa Malind-Papua in Okaba (westpapuamedia.info)
note: West Papua Media is also following this story closely, but has unable to access its sources on the ground in Vanimo. We are gravely concerned as to their safety given the current climate of impunity against witnesses of the confused border security operation Sunset Merona..
RNZI may have better success, but this is not a competition.
Please continue to follow this story closely, updates will be made available when sources are able to safely file.
RNZI: PNG soldiers storm home of suspended West Sepik Police Commander
Posted at 05:06 on 07 February, 2011 UTC
Papua New Guinea soldiers allegedly stormed the home of West Sepik’s suspended provincial police commander Chief Inspector Sakawar Kasieng and threatened his family yesterday.
The newspaper, The National, reports that the ten soldiers were taking part in a border security crackdown called Operation Sunset Merona in and around the provincial capital Vanimo.
The operation has been underway for three weeks with more than 100 people arrested and detained for alleged illegal movement across the border from Indonesia.
Mr Kasieng says that the soldiers pointed guns at his family, ordering them all to stay indoors without any explanation.
He has been told by police from Port Moresby that he is charged with treason, and is due to be questioned at the police command centre in Vanimo today.
Mr Kasieng was reportedly suspended last month after refusing to allow policemen on Operation Sunset Merona entry into his local police station headquarters after one of his men was allegedly beaten up by a group of visiting task force officers.
News Content © Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand
- PNG troops burn down border West Papua refugee camps as refugees flee to the jungle (westpapuamedia.info)
- AAP: PNG launches border security operation (westpapuamedia.info)
- Parkop Letter to Png Pm Somare: Halt to Police Operation in Sandaun Provinvce. (westpapuamedia.info)
PAC:PNG launches border security operation
PORT MORESBY, Jan 17 AAP – Papua New Guinea has launched its biggest ever joint forces security crackdown on the border with Indonesia to combat illegal activities like people smuggling, gun and drug trafficking._
PNG’s Defence Force has massed in Vanimo, in PNG’s West Sepik Province, along with police, customs and foreign affairs officials, to tackle the numerous illicit acts perpetrated along the border region._
The operation, codenamed Sunset Merona and set to cost 5.3 million kina ($A2 million), was launched at the weekend as a show of strength by the PNG government, both PNG’s national newspapers reported on Monday._
PNG’s Acting Police Commissioner Anthony Wagambe told assembled troops the massive effort would tackle one of the country’s ongoing problems: border security._
“This is one of the biggest combined operations that involve government agencies to ensure the sovereignty of our country is maintained,” he said._
Acting director general of PNG’s National Security Advisory Committee Secretariat, Ian Jinga, said the operation proved the government was committed to border protection.
“We are all aware of our border problems,” he said.
“There are national border agencies on the ground in the border provinces that are tasked to work closely with provincial authorities to manage our international borders, however, due to logistical and resource constraints these authorities are unable to effectively manage our borders.”
Mr Jinga said this latest effort would change that.
“The national government is here to establish its authority,” he said.
AAP ig/srp _
Executive Board of the Association of Islamic Students (HMI PB)
Flash Flood in the Land of Papua: President Must Declare As a National Disaster
The Flash flood that swept Wasior City, Teluk Wondama, West Papua, on Monday (4 / 10) has killed more than 90 people. Meanwhile, according to a report from the Metro TV (7 / 9), there were 837 injured and 66 people remain missing. We believe that the number of victims will certainly continue to grow.
Observing the scale of the disaster and the number of victims, this disaster is not a normal disaster. Flooding in Wasior is not just a local disaster, but a national disaster. Anyone who feels a part of the Indonesian nation must be concerned with the suffering that is suffered by our sisters and brothers in Papua. “Much less us as the Indonesian nation, the American people located far away also expressed their concern through their Foreign Ministry (sic) statement by Hillary Clinton,” said General Chairman of PB HMI, M Chozin Amir.
“Unfortunately, the government now seems less serious and less responsive to respond to the disaster.” The government is too busy with its elite politics as well as for projects from the foreign debt fund, so that when their people affected far-away there, they were just ignored . Moreover, President SBY is too preoccupied with his image, so he forget the things that are substantial, such as helping allay the disaster that befell his people, “said Chozin further.
Even so well with the media, while they so aggressively report politics of the situation in the capital, they forget (or purposely forget) to report the disaster that occurred in the eastern tip of Indonesia. Yet when these disasters strike outside Papua, the media usually also heavily preach.
Because of the lack of response and weakness from government, especially the (national) news media, the Executive Board of the Association of Islamic Students (HMI PB) hereby declare:
1. Request for the President on behalf of the government to announce that Wasior flooding disaster as a national disaster, so that all elements of this nation is concerned specifically and able to give a helping hand.
2. Asking the media to proclaim extensively the scope of the disaster crisis, so that people will open their conscience to help our brothers and sisters at there place.
3. Call on all elements of society to set aside part of condolences to give sustenance to help the flood victims. Papuan Society is part of the Indonesian nation, then it becomes our collective responsibility to help alleviate their burden.
Herewith we submit that the PB and also officially HMI will send aid to flood victims.
Distribution of aid will be delivered by representatives of HMI in Papua, namely HMI Cenderawasi Coordinating Board in collaboration with HMI Branch of Jayapura, Manokwari, and Sorong.
Currently PB HMI also continues to actively raise funds for distribution to victims. If you are interested in sending aid, you can send donations to be channelled through us in our account at:
Account Number: 124 000 569 9807
On behalf of Y PB HMI
So we convey this news with concern and hope that eventually we are all moved to help our brothers and sisters who are victims of flooding in Papua.
Jakarta, October 8, 2010
MAJOR ISSUE MANAGEMENT
ISLAMIC STUDENTS ASSOCIATION (HMI)
M Chozin Amirullah
SECRETARY PB HMI
Jl. Saharjo Gg. Swadaya I RT 12 RW 09 No 10 kelurahan Manggarai , Tebet Jakarta Selatan 12850
|NOTE: Westpapuamedia.info apologize for lack of sourced original coverage, we have been working directly with international news agencies to assist in their coverage. We are still trying to get West Papuan voices to tell their own story. If you have any local coverage, please contact us info<at>westpapuamedia.info
Papua floods may fuel tensions
Disaster in West Papua could add to local grievances as aid workers struggle to reach the affected areas.
Yasmine Ryan Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 18:03 GMT
Relief workers say they are struggling to reach West Papuans hit by heavy flooding in the Indonesian province.
Criticisms over tardy relief effort are already beginning to emerge from the region, where relations between the indigenous Papuans and the Indonesian state have long been difficult.
There are fears that a failure to address the humanitarian crisis could add to tensions over the recent killings of indigenous Papuan protesters by the Indonesian security forces in the towns of Wamena and Manokwari.
Denny Yomaki, a humanitarian NGO worker, told Radio New Zealand International on Thursday that some of the flood’s victims felt the state was not doing enough to assist them.
Aid workers told Al Jazeera the damage from the landslides has made it hard to reach the worst hit areas.
Hundreds have fled or been evacuated from the devastated seaside town of Wasior to seek shelter in Manokwari, the province’s capital. Most are staying with extended family or in makeshift shelters on a military base, Ridwan, a member of the disaster management team for the PMI (Indonesian Red Cross), told Al Jazeera.
“The current situation is very difficult, it’s very difficult to reach Waisor,” Ridwan said.
Red Cross barred
Ridwan said that the conflict was not affecting his organisation’s relief efforts in West Papua, but the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is restricted from working in the province, even in the aftermath of the recent disaster.
It was forced to close its West Papua branch in April 2009, but is providing funding to the PMI’s response to the flooding.
“We are not actively present in the area for the present,” Patrick Megevand, the spokesperson for the ICRC’s Indonesia delegation, told Al Jazeera.
The government told A Jazeera it had dedicated 200 million rupiah ($22,000) to the relief efforts following the flooding, which left at least 91 people dead and and more than 800 others injured, many of them suffering broken bones.
Maman, an officer at the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB), said the government had sent tents, food and medical supplies to Wondama Bay, along with army, police, technicians and medical workers. A navy boat and three cargo ships have already set off for the area.
The flooding comes at a time when calls for independence for West Papua and Papua are growing, especially in the wake of heightened US interest in the provinces. Indigenous Papuan leaders say that the “special autonomy” status granted by Indonesia in 2001 has been a farce.
Nick Chesterfield of West Papua Media told Al Jazeera that if the aid were felt to be insufficeint by those living in the stricken villages there is a risk it would enflame the tensions between the indigenous Melanesian populations and Indonesian security forces.
West Papua has already been hit by two major earthquakes this year and the government-led relief efforts were “very slow,” Chesterfield said.
He also warned that the aid effort could be compromised by anger over two separate incidents in which the police have killed local residents in recent weeks.
The latest alleged killing was in Wamena, a town in West Papua’s highlands, just days ago.
Local authorities there have established the unarmed peacekeeping force, known as Balim Petapa, “to keep away the Indonesian police, their proxies and militias,” Chesterfield explained.
Violence broke out after a group of people from the force confronted police at the Wamena North airport to demand an explanation for the seizure of a box of berets – their uniforms – along with 40 million Rupiah ($4,468) in cash.
In the other incident, a priest, his wife and son were shot by Indonesian police in the city of Manokwari, which is close to the flooded areas.
Reverend Naftali Kuan, his wife Antomina Kuan and their 23-year-old son Setinus were shot by police on September 15 as locals protested a hit-and-run road accident by a member of the security forces, who fled to police headquarters after accidently running down an elderly Papuan woman on his motorbike.
In the days after the shootings, thousands of protestors took to the streets. Indonesian soldiers were sent in to quell the demonstrations.
“Manokawri has been one of the hotbeds for independence for years,” Chesterfield said. “If the Indonesian army doesn’t put down its guns and pick up its shovels, there’s going to be a lot of tensions there.”
Al Jazeera and agencies
Bintang Papua, 31 August 2010
AJI to continue investigating the murder of Ardiansyah
Following the investigations which were undertaken by the Jayapura branch of AJI (Aliansi Jurnalis Indonesia) into the death of the journalist Ardiansyah Matra’is, the national AJI is planning to undertake a more thorough investigation into the case.
A member of the central board of AJI, Eko Matyadi, who is responsible for advocacy, said he would be flying to Merauke the following day. Besides trying to discover more data about the death, he will seek to verify the earlier results of AJI’s investigations that the journalist’s death was not due to natural causes.
‘Although no autopsy is available yet from the police, our findings are that he did not die of natural courses; There were signs of injuries on his body that were the result of violence. This is what we what to confirm.’
He said that his organisation was coordinating with the police about their trip to Merauke.
He stressed that the state must accept responsibility for investigating the death of a journalist because journalists are citizens just like other citizens. ‘Jouranlists are human beings with the same rights to life and for the safeguard of their personal security,’ he said.
Meanwhile, Victor Mambor, the chairman of AJI in Jayapura, said that AJI will continue to insist on the four demands made recently to the police in Papua, calling on them to be more serious in their investigations of the death of Ardinasyah. Victor also expressed regret that a statement by PWI on behalf of Papuan journalists had apologised to the police for the peaceful action by Journalists Solidarity on 23 August.’While there is no issue between AJI as an institution and the PWI, for me personally there is still an issue to be resolved.’
He said that the demonstration to the Papuan police was well within the constitutional rights of all citizens of the state, there had been no violation of the law, while actions undertaken by journalists in solidarity with their professional colleagues were entitled to the protection of the law.’
Tuesday, 31 August 2010 12:37
(first appeared at http://www.indigenouspeoplesissues.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6461:a-small-paradise-that-will-be-annihilated-view-from-merauke-west-papua&catid=62:southeast-asia-indigenous-peoples&Itemid=84 )
A Small Paradise That Will Be Annihilated: View From Merauke, West Papua
Rosa Biwangko Moiwend, 2010
The Land of Papua, a land of great riches, a small paradise that fell to earth. This is how Frangky Sahilatua, the Malukan musician, sings the praises of the land of Papua in his song Aku Papua which is so popular thanks to the singer Edo Kondologit.
These riches have turned this small paradise into an attraction for investors from Indonesia and from around the world. Forests, land, water, minerals – everything is there to be plundered by these people. The lyrics are all too true: ‘All that land, all those rocks, the riches that are full of hope.’ Everything in that land is of priceless value. Not only the land itself but the savannahs that stretch for miles, the Kayu Putih (Melalaleuca sp), the peat and the tall, elegant trees in Merauke that cover 1,6 million hectares, full of hope that they will save Indonesia and the whole world from a looming food crisis. But then, what hope is there that anything will be left for the children and grandchildren of the owners of this land? Will all this be consumed by the people who come here just to collect those rocks that are full of hope?
In Merauke, in 2000, district chief Johanes Gluba Gebze offered Merauke as a granary when launching his massive project called the Merauke Integrated Rice Estate – MIRE. This was to be a fantastic programme, with the full support of the agriculture department of the central government. Then in 2008, when a food crisis struck the world, forcing up the price of food everywhere, many agrarian countries, including Indonesia, started to get busy, thinking up new sources of food round the world. This crisis provided the launching pad for increased investment in food production. This led to the Indonesian government and its department of agriculture looking everywhere for strategic locations, land that is unused, land with the potential to attract these investors.
In a presentation at the editorial office of Kompas in June this year, the IPB (Institut Pertanian Bogor) which had conducted research regarding the MIFEE project, said that Indonesia will face a crisis in 2010 – 2025. The lack of sufficient land in Java, due to the very rapid increase in population, has resulted because of the emergence of nine megalopolises in Java. This has resulted in a decline in the supply of food while the Indonesian population is estimated to increase to 300 million. This could lead to famine by 2025 which highlights the need to find a solution in the form of vast areas of land. Merauke was seen as the best way to solve the problem. Agus Sumule, an expert on the staff of the governor of Papua, said it would be an act of grave injustice because it meant that Papua, and especially Merauke, would be expected to bear all the consequences of the food crisis in the world and in Indonesia. This burden, he said, should be borne by districts throughout Indonesia, from east to west and from north to south. According to Sumule: ‘It is grossly unfair for a single province, a single district and still worse, a single ethnic group, to have to carry the burden of the national food crisis.’
Arguing in favour of the need to improve the local economy and in favour of food self-sufficiency, the Merauke project was enthusiastically welcomed by John Gluba Gebze. The local government and the central government then carried out their own studies and produced a draft for this project. The central government came up with the idea of a mega project called Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), along with government regulation No 20/2008 on National Land Allocation, identifying Merauke as the main area for the national agricultural sector. These plans were drawn up unilaterally; there was no co-ordination between the central government and the provincial government. The district chief and his staff in Merauke sidestepped discussions with the provincial government. The result was that the Indonesian president enacted Inpres 5/2008 requiring the adoption of the MIFEE plan as part of provincial land allocation.
Taking several things into consideration, the provincial government recommended the allocation of 5,552 hectares for MIFEE, but the department of agriculture decided that 1.6 hectares should be allocated to the project. An area of such huge dimensions, imposed on the map of Papua, includes not only agricultural land and transmigration sites which are suitable for food production but also virgin forests and protected areas including peat, water catchment areas and even residential areas including the kampungs of the indigenous people, the Malind people.
So, what about the people who live on this land? In all the discourse about the mega MIFEE project that has taken place between the Merauke district government and the central government, there has been virtually no mention of the indigenous people who live in the area. Yet, long before the Europeans ‘discovered’ New Guinea and the southern regions, the Malind-Anim (Malind people) had been living there for generations. Findings by anthropologists and missionaries like the Rev. E.B Savage from the London Missionary Society wrote about the Malind people in a publication of 1891. A.C. Haddon published the first portrait of the Marind/Malind people. And later Van Baal and several other Dutch anthropologists began to document the lives of the Malind/Marind people in the southern regions of Papua.
This project has been drafted without any mention of the human developments of the Malind people as one of its definitive impacts. Indeed, the central and local governments have given the impression that this land is uninhabited, that it belongs to no-one. The people who live in unity with nature and in their native dwellings have simply been ignored. During the planning stage, the indigenous people were never invited to negotiate, nor were they even told about the MIFEE project. They were kept quite unaware of the fact that their kampungs and villages would be included within the strategic mapping of MIFEE. As a result, their customary land has been valued at a very low price. Moreover, they face the threat of being relocated to land that belongs to other clans, when this project goes ahead.
The strategic planning of MIFEE does indeed say that the project will raise per capita income of the local people, that peasants will be supported by the provision of modern equipment and technology. But it also states that, in the initial stages, skilled transmigrants from outside Merauke will be moved in to run the project and to handle the transfer of technology. It will only be in the longer term that training centres will be set up to educate local people in the techniques of agricultural production. This raises the question: how will local peasants be involved in the project? It is extremely regrettable that such plans will only result in the further dis-empowerment of the Papua people in Merauke.
The marginalisation of the Malind people in Merauke can only get worse. Ever since the commencement of the large-scale transmigration programme and the inadequacies of education, health and economic facilities in Merauke, the Malind people have been elbowed out and have become nothing more than spectators. They have even become spectators in the transmigration kampungs. And what is even more regrettable, they will lose their customary lands as a result of the seizure of their land in the name of development, they will lose their customary systems and regulations. Their regulation of kampong boundaries, of village boundaries, their seasonal management as well as a range of customary laws will become indistinct and will disappear altogether.
With regard to the transfer of values and culture, our native language is more infrequently being spoken, the reason being that language is inseparable from land, water, forests, livestock, things that are all part of an inseparable unity. Should any of these elements be lost, the language gets lost too. Stories that pass down through the generations from our ancestors (Dema) become more and more difficult to understand because the sacred borders are replaced by rice-fields, fields of maize and palm oil plantations. The identity of the Malind people is gradually lost along with the destruction of the natural features that are the symbol of each clan. The Gebze with their coconut symbol, the Mahuze with their sago symbol, the Basiks with their pig symbol, the Samkki with their kangaroo symbol, the Kaize with their Kasuari and Balagaise (falcon birds) symbol; everything will get lost. In other words, the MIFEE food project will lead to the annihilation of the Malind people.
It is more than likely that in five or ten years time, the next generation of Malind people will no longer sing: ‘I grew up together with the wind, together with the leaves, together with the sago, together with the coconut trees.’ Instead, they will sing: ‘I grew up without the wind, without the leaves, without my sago village. I know nothing about my Dema, the symbol of my tradition, my language, my homeland. I will no longer be able to speak about my origins. All I will be able to say is that Papua is the land of my ancestors, the land where I was born.’
Because of all this, no-one should be surprised when people start describing MIFEE as a clear case of genocide by the Indonesian government, because it has been well-planned and well-organised. All the legal elements are there: government regulations, presidential instructions, the strategic planning and the maps that provided the necessary requirements for genocide.
When all these cries are heard, the Indonesian government will have to be ready to take the consequences, it will have to take responsibility before the ancestors of the Malind people, the Papuan people and the international community.
EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency)
05 August 2010
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