Tag Archives: illegal logging

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 – https://www.linkedin.com/in/yovita-natalia-b5168882  [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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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.

Papua-Wide meeting calls for 10 year Moratorium on Plantation and Forestry Industries

From our partners at AwasMifee

Between 4th-7th November 2014, representatives of indigenous communities, environmentalists and human rights defenders from every corner of West Papua met in Jayapura to discuss problems linked to the forestry and large-scale plantation industries, which in recent years have been expanding rapidly throughout the island.

This was an important meeting, as the difficulties and expense of travel around Papua means that communities are frequently isolated to face the companies alone, even though the problems they face are remarkably similar.

With many more plantation companies set to start operations within the next few years, and timber companies still keen to harvest high-value logs, it is also vital to share the (often bitter) experiences of communities which have already seen how these industries operate, and also to formulate some common platform of demands with which to confront government and policy makers.

Participants at the event heard about the long-term injustices connected with plantations in Jayapura, Keerom and Boven Digoel, where land was taken with military backing during the Suharto dictatorship causing problems which are still not resolved. In Papua’s deep south, participants told of how they have been marginalised by plantations connected to the MIFEE agribusiness development. Others from Sorong, Nabire and Mimika, told of how they were unprepared for the problems which started unfolding as the companies moved in. Delegates from Bintuni and Wondama Bays explained how the effects of the timber industry on communities are no less destructive.

In many of these cases, the same problems could be seen to emerge time and time again: intimidation from military and police officers supporting the companies, loss of livelihood as the forest is destroyed, companies’ broken promises to bring development to communities, environmental problems such as pollution, flooding and loss of water sources. Taking all this into account, the participants agreed to call on all agencies involved in allowing these industries to address these problems.

Top of the list was a call for a 10 year moratorium into for large-scale plantation and forestry investment, during which time part violations should be resolved, and the challenge of finding a way that these industries could exist on indigenous land without disadvantaging indigenous people. Hopefully we will translate some of the testimony on this site soon, in the meantime here is the full list of recommendations:

Organisations involved in organising the event were: Yaysan Pusaka, Greenpeace Papua, SKP Jayapura, Jerat Papua, Foker LSM Papua and Jasoil Papua. A copy of this declaration in Indonesian together with a list of participants can be found at: http://pusaka.or.id/demo/assets/REKOMENDASI-TEMU-RAKYAT-ADAT-KORBAN-PAPUA-Nov-2014.pdf


Meeting of Community Victims of the Forestry and Large-scale Plantation Industries.

Dialogue on Building a Green Economy and Sustainable Development

Today, Friday the seventh of November two thousand and fourteen, in the Maranatha Convent, Waena, Jayapura,

After hearing and discussing Reports of Victims of the Forestry and Large-scale Plantation Industries from throughout the land of Papua, and also discussing various developments in development policy, we as representatives of indigenous communities from twelve Regencies or cities throughout the land of Papua, want to hereby make clear that the state has violated and ignored our human rights, by not protecting, respecting and advancing the rights of indigenous communities throughout the land of Papua, including: acts of discrimination, repression and expropriation of what rightfully belongs to indigenous people throughout Papua. These human rights violations, which have occurred between 1982 and 2014, have caused great loss for indigenous people, as their social and cultural fabric and their natural environment disappear. Because of this, we as representatives of indigenous people who have suffered because of the forestry and large-scale plantation industries, coming from twelve regencies and cities, hereby state the following:

1. To the President of the Republic of Indonesia, to issue a ten-year moratorium on forestry and large-scale plantation development throughout the land of Papua. During the moratorium period, the government would resolve the different problems and violations of indigenous communities’ rights that have already occurred, and amend policies and legislation currently in force in the land of Papua.

2. To the Governors of Papua and West Papua Provinces, to reconsider all policies concerning the granting of permits for the forestry and large-scale plantation industries which disadvantage indigenous people across the land of Papua.

3 To the Commander of Military District XVII Cenderawasih Command and the Papuan Police Chief, to discipline and take action against any members of the military and police forces who openly participate in pressurising and intimidating indigenous people that wish to defend their rights throughout the land of Papua. Also to take action against members of the forces who are either directly engaged in illegal business involving forest products, or back-up and protect others in such businessses.

4. To Bupatis and city mayors throughout the land of Papua, to end the practice of unconditionally giving out permits and recommendations in the forestry and large-scale plantation sector.

5 To the honourable members of the Papuan and West Papua People’s Assemblies (MRP), to hold a Special Dialogue with the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, and the Environment and Forestry Ministry, concerning making changes in policy and regulations related to forestry and large-scale plantation investment in the land of Papua, both ongoing and in the future, which would be based on indigenous peoples’ rights and the spirit of Papuan Special Autonomy.

6 To the Provincial Legislative Councils in Papua and West Papua, to form a Special Committee to conduct investigations into the violations of indigenous communities’ human rights in the land of Papua, which are a result of policies and investment activities in the forestry and large-scale plantation sector.

7 To Customary Tribal Councils throughout the land of Papua, to organise reconciliation and customary assemblies in each area to map the customary lands of each tribe/ethnic group and follow up the findings of this Meeting of Community Victims of the Forestry and Large-scale Plantation Industries.

8 http://pusaka.or.id/demo/assets/REKOMENDASI-TEMU-RAKYAT-ADAT-KORBAN-PAPUA-Nov-2014.pdf, to take an active role in reporting violations in human rights and environmental problems so they can be brought to the attention of wider society and institutions that are actively attempting to protect, respect and advance human rights at the Papuan, national and international levels.

9. Participants of the Meeting of Community Victims of the Forestry and Large-scale Plantation Industries – Dialogue on Building a Green Economy and Sustainable Development hereby declare the foundation of the Indigenous People’s Environmental Council in the Land of Papua (Dewan Lingkungan Masyarakat Adat di Tanah Papua).

These are the recommendations which have been made and agreed together, and we hope they will be heeded and implemented. May our ancestors and the Creator be with us all.

As President celebrates ‘Sail Raja Ampat’, one of his critics is abducted, killed and dumped at sea

(Apologies for the delay in Posting to the site (all news still is being delivered to journalists direct as it breaks). WPM has been under severe security threat from Indonesian agents in Papua and Australia, associated with the arrests of French journalists).

Reports from our network partners at AwasMifee

On 19th August, Martinus Yohame in his role as the chair of the Sorong Branch of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) held a press conference, explaining his organisation’s opposition to the Indonesian President’s visit to the area to open the Sail Raja Ampat event aimed at promoting tourism to Papua. He also raised the issue of illegal logging. The next day he disappeared.

As friends and colleagues spent the subsequent days searching for him, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono opened the sailing regatta, where he once again promised extra funds to develop infrastructure for infrastructure in Papua, and also inaugurated a statue of Jesus Christ on Marsinam Island near Manokwari.

Then on the 26th, a fisherman found the body of Martinus Yohame floating by the shore in at Nana Island, near Sorong. He had been shot in the chest, his face smashed up, and with another wound in his stomach. He had been placed in a sack, with his arms and legs tied. His abductors remain unknown.

This story has not yet received widespread coverage in the Papuan media, and at the time of writing the KNPB had yet to issue a statement on its website. Tabloidjubi however has picked up the story – here is a translation of one of their articles:

Deceased Sorong KNPB Chair believed to have been disappeared.

Jayapura, 26/8 (Jubi) – Martinus Yohame, Chair of the Greater Sorong area branch of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) was found found dead floating near the shore of Nana Island, in the Doom Island area of Sorong. He is believed to have been disappeared.

A spokesperson for the Papua-wide KNPB, Basoka Logo made this clear to tabloidjubi.com. He said that previously on the evening of Wednesday 20th August, the KNPB had received information that Martinus Yohame had been abducted.

“But we can’t be sure yet who his captors were. Now today we have heard the news that he has been found dead. We cannot yet say which group is responsible for his diasppearance.  At the current time we are
still unsure,” Basoka Logo said via his mobile phone on Tuesday (26/8).

He explained that the late Martinus Yohame was responsible for the Bird’s Head peninsula area of West Papua. He could not give any further information at the time as he had not received a full report from his colleagues in Sorong.

“Just now we only received a short report about the death of the Sorong KNPB Chair – what I know is that he was found near the Kota Baru area, and his body is currently lying at the Sorong KNPB secretariat”, he said.

At present, according to Logo, colleagues in Sorong are still collecting data and statements about the death of the Chair of the KNPB in Sorong. “Only when this is done will we be able to give a full statement. The First Chair of the KNPB central organisation, Agus Kosay just arrived in Sorong by plane. It was him that officially reported to us that it was true the Chair of the KNPB in Sorong had been found,” he said.

The chair of the KNPB in the Bird’s Head region, including Greater Sorong, Martin Yohame, was tragically found dead some time before, his body was discovered by a fisherman on Tuesday morning (26/8) at around 7.00 am local time floating near Nana Island, not far from the Doom Island area. When found, Martinus’s body had been tied up tightly in a sack. Both his legs and arms had also been tied, presumably hoping his body would sink to the bottom of the ocean.

According to the Sorong City General Hospital’s examination, a gunshot wound was found on the left side of his chest. The victims face was also smashed up by being hit by a hard object, “We found a gunshot wound in his left chest. His face was destroyed,” said Yori, a worker at the hospital.
The Sorong police chief Adjunct Commissioner Harri Golden Hart confirmed that a body had been found. “We are still in the process of identification, and finding out whether it is true that he was killed,” Harri said.

After the autopsy, the victim’s family and KNPB members brought the victim’s body to be laid out in the house of mourning in Malanu village, in the Papua Christian University complex.

From data collected by tabloid jubi, the external examination conducted at the Sorong City General Hospital revealed a hole in the left chest 1x1cm, and another in the right side of the stomach of around 2x3cm. The man’s height was 179 cm and he had dreadlocks.

Before his body was found, the KNPB had issued a statement with some further details of the press conference and what happened afterwards, along with their guesses for possible abductors and their motives. This is an excerpt from that statement, as published on umaginews.com:

We believe that the Sorong KNPB chair was abducted by Kopassus [army special forces] or BIN [state intelligence agency] because on the 20th he received a phone call from someone and went outside. Now five days have passed but he hasn’t been found.

Previously on 19th August Martinus Yohame and other KNPB officials held a press conference at 15.00 Papuan time in front of the Sorong Mayor’s office, attended by several reporters from the Sorong area, in connection with the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s visit to Papua and in particular to the Sorong area to open the Sail Raja Ampat event in Waisai, on Saturday 23rd August 2014.

Martinus Yohame, supported by the deputy chair of the KNPB, Kantius H, invited journalists from several print media organisations to use information from the press conference in their reports about the president’s visit KNPB used the opportunity to express their opposition to President SBY’s visit to the land of Papua.

At the same time they expressed their opposition to illegal logging, exploiting Papua’s natural riches and developing Raja Ampat as a Global Marine Tourism centre, all of which they judge to be stealing from and destroying Papua’s ecosystems and forests with no benefit for the people of Papua as a whole who own the land and resources.

This is why the KNPB and the PRD (People’s Regional Parliament) are clear in their opposition. We believe he was abducted by the security forces or the intelligence agency as part of their efforts to secure SBY’s visit, which the KNPB opposes.

Just two minutes after the press meeting finished at 3.15, a woman telephoned the KNPB Sorong chair. This woman claimed to be from the National Human Rights Commission in Jakarta, and she wanted to meet.  Several moments later, she came to meet the KNPB chair and his group outside the mayor’s office in a red Avanza. Inside was a man with a large Canon video camera, and they invited Martinus Yohame to accompany them to the Sorong Mega Mall, at the 9km post. The woman then took them to eat in a cafe next to the Megamall, and while they ate they held a meeting, although it is not known what they spoke about in this meeting.

Before the meeting broke up, he and the woman exchanged mobile phone numbers. The woman then said that “the next meeting will take place on Wednesday 20th August and we will get in touch”.

Afterwards they maintained communication via telephone and text message, with the last message on Wednesday 20th at 12.00 Papua time. That night they told Martinus to leave his house and it was on the street that they abducted him. He has not been found until now….

Source: Umagi News

The West Papua National Committee is an organisation that believes West Papua should have the right to self determination. It was formed in around 2009, but after it gained prominence with a series of large demonstrations demanding a referendum on independence there was a major crackdown, with many leaders around Papua jailed or killed, especially in 2012.  Since that wave of repression, the KNPB has found it difficult to organise, as local leaders are often detained a day or two days before a planned demonstration or significant event.

If elements of the Indonesian State were indeed responsible for Martinus Yohame’s disappearance, it is likely that he was targeted for his pro-independence stance. However, it is worth remembering that in the press conference before he disappeared Martinus Yohame also spoke of the problems of illegal logging and the tourism industry, and he is not the first KNPB leader have raised the issues of natural resource development that marginalises the Papuan people.  At the same time, indigenous people are threatened by state security forces of being treated as separatists when they state their opposition to development projects. The climate of intimidation in Papua is not limited to the independence movement alone, but impacts all areas in which Papuan people need to assert their needs and desires for a more just future.

As Martinus Yohame was being brutally beaten, or maybe he was already dead by that time, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was nearby on Raja Ampat celebrating the progress made in his development-focussed strategy for Papua, making statements such as “ lets keep going with the positive development that has already been achieved in Papua and West Papua”.  His audience of civil servants and tourism executives listened and watched as a flotilla of boats including 14 Indonesian navy ships as well as warships from the US, Australia and Singapore joined a sail past. Media hailed the event as a great success.

West Papua Media has highly credible but unconfirmed reports that Martinus Yohame was also targeted by Indonesian intelligence for potentially having contact with the two French Journalists still being detained in Abepura.  Many of our people are currently in danger because of this situation.

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

nb 2,6

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.

nb 2,0

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.

nb 1,10

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.

nb 2,8

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

nb 1,11

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]