Activists threatened with twenty years jail for organising a nonviolent march about media freedom in West Papua
by Alex Rayfield
28 September 2012
Two West Papuan activists currently in police detention in Yapen Island in West Papua are being threatened with twenty years jail by the Indonesian police for organising a nonviolent march in support of the United Nations International Day of Indigenous People which this year celebrated the role of indigenous media.
Edison Kendi (37 years) and Yan Piet Maniamboy (35 years) from the pro-independence group West Papua National Authority were arrested by Indonesian police on 9August 2012.
The activists were leading a march of approximately 350 people in support of the International Day for Indigenous People. Police used force to break up the march. According to witnesses they beat up several Papuans and repeatedly discharged their weapons into the air. Sixteen people were arrested at the scene and a laptop, hard disk, modem, digital camera, documents and three Morning Star flags were later seized by police.
Those arrested were subsequently released except for Edison Kendi and Yan Piet Maniamboy who remained in police custody. A local stringer told West Papua Media and New Matilda that Indonesian police investigators Sudjadi Waluyo and Arip Marinto have charged the two men with rebellion (makar) under section 155 of the Indonesian Criminal Code. Both defendants have been told that the police will seek jail sentences of 20 years each.
The controversial charge of makar has come under intense criticism from Papuan lawyers Yan Christian Warinusy from the Legal Aid Institute in Manokwari and Gustaf Kawer and Olga Hamadi from the Commission for the Disappeared (Kontras Papua). The lawyer argues that the charge of makar has been used as a tool of political repression to deny nonviolent activists their right to free speech. The law actually dates back to Dutch times and was used extensively by the former dictator to repress dissent in Indonesia. Suharto was overthrown by a nonviolent student movement in May 1998 but the law has remained on the statute books. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also called for the makar provisions to be struck from the criminal code and all political pisoners in Papua to be released.
The WPNA march was organised to commemorate the International Day of Indigenous Peoples. Ironically the United Nations theme for this year was to celebrate indigenous media. Yapen is extremely isolated. International media is banned in West Papua and local media is censored. So the very fact that story got out in the first place is testimony to the growing power and skill of indigenous media activists in West Papua.
Kendi and Maniamboy told New Matilda and West Papua Media by text message from their jail cell that they want the international community to help them. “We don’t want Autonomy or to remain with Indonesia. We want to be free! Don’t continue to let us be killed and thrown in jails” they said. WPNA media activist and Governor of Jayapura (under WPNA’s parallel political structure), Marthen Manggaprouw said his organisation wants the Indonesian government to negotiate with the independence movement to resolve the conflict. “The basic rights of indigenous Papuans are not respected in West Papua. There is no democratic space for us Papuans. We are criminalised simply for expressing our opinion” said Manggaprouw.
The men number amongst some 100 West Papuan political prisoners currently languishing in Indonesian jails. Although the Indonesian constitution technically guarantees freedom of speech in reality basic rights are routinely denied to the indigenous Papuan population. Papuans calling for genuine political freedoms are vigorously repressed by Indonesian police and military.
This is the original article to one which appeared in New Matilda
- All the ingredients for genocide: is West Papua the next East Timor? (westpapuamedia.info)
- Indigenous Papuans Arrested for the Celebrating the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. (westpapuamedia.info)
- So, who is the real terrorist? West Papua Responses to Australia, U.S. and Indonesia (westpapuamedia.info)
- Police torture students after brutal attack on Abepura university dormitory (westpapuamedia.info)
- Carr must do more on West Papua: Greens (westpapuamedia.info)
- WEST PAPUA: ABC report raises questions for region’s leaders (westpapuamedia.info)
- Third Degree Radio: West Papua Media’s model (westpapuamedia.info)
PUBLISHED ON WEDNESDAY 11 APRIL 2012.
Reporters Without Borders offers its condolences to the family and friends of Leiron Kogoya, a journalist with the newspapers Pasific Post and Papua Pos Nabire, part of the Pacific Post group, who was killed in an attack by gunmen on a plane at Mulia airport in the province of Papua three days ago.
“Although the journalist did not appear to be the target of the attack, it illustrates the insecurity that prevails in the region, where at least two other journalists were killed late last year,” the press freedom organization said.
“Covering the Papua region is highly risky for journalists. Leiron Kogoya was among those courageous reporters who strive to keep the world informed about the region, which has been the scene of violent clashes. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.”
“We expect the authorities to shed light on the attack. Contradictory information about the identity of those behind the shooting said to have been provided by security forces to journalists indicates that an independent investigation must be carried out as soon as possible.”
The plane, a Twin Otter of the Indonesian airline Trigana Air, landed at Mulia at about 8 am when at least five gunmen opened fire. The pilot and co-pilot, who were both hit, lost control of the aircraft, which then crashed into one of the terminal buildings. Four people were wounded. Kogoya, was fatally shot in the neck.
The 35-year-old reporter was flying to Mulia in the Puncak Jaya district to cover local elections in the provincial capital, Jayapura.
Photo by: Agus Fakaubun
The news website westpapuamedia.info quoted the head of public relations for the Papua police, Commander Yohanes Nugroho Wicaksono, as saying the gunmen were hiding in the hills 50 metres from the airport. It said police had not yet been able to identify the perpetrators or the type of guns they used.
According to military intelligence, the separatist group Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or OPM, in Indonesian) was behind the attack, while local police said they had no information about the identity of the attackers.
Indonesia is ranked 146th of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 world press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
- Doubts grow of OPM responsibility for Puncak Jaya aircraft shooting (westpapuamedia.info)
- Gunmen attack plane in Indonesian Papua, kill one (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- West Papua Report March 2012 (westpapuamedia.info)
13 October 2011
The killing and abduction of journalists in Indonesian-occupied West Papua has been highlighted in a special new report on Pacific media freedom over the past year by Pacific Journalism Review.
“By far the most serious case of media freedom violations in the Pacific is in West Papua—far from international scrutiny,” says the journal in an editorial.
The 39-page report on the state of media freedom in the Pacific in 2011 notes that in August, in particular, “sustained repression has also hit the news media and journalists”.
At least two journalists have been killed in West Papua, five abducted and 18 assaulted in the past year.
West Papua has replaced Fiji as the most urgent media freedom issue in the region, says the journal. The report has been published just as regional protests have been voiced over the brutal suppression of a strike at the giant Freeport copper mine in the past week in which at least one person was reported shot dead.
Ten West Papuan activists were arrested by Indonesian authorities in Jayapura last week for being in possession of material that featured the banned West Papuan Morning Star flag of independence.
Poengky Indarti, executive director of the Indonesian human rightsmonitor Imparsial, said recently: “Freedoms of expression, association and assembly are routinely violated in Papua, which seriously fuels tensions. Besides, gross human rights abuses, such as acts of torture, remain unaccounted for.”
This free media research report, compiled by Pacific Media Watch contributing editor Alex Perrottet and Pacific Media Centre director Dr David Robie with a team of contributors, including West Papua Media editor Nick Chesterfield, is the most comprehensive and robust media freedom dossier on the region published in recent years
“The state of Pacific media freedom is fragile in the wake of serious setbacks, notably in Fiji, with sustained pressure from a military backed regime, and in Vanuatu, where blatant intimidation has continued with near impunity,” says the report.
“Apart from Fiji, which has a systemic and targeted regime of censorship, most other countries are attempting to free themselves from stifling restrictions on the press.
“Coupled with governments that are sluggish to introduce freedom of the information legislation and ensure region-wide constitutional rights to free speech are protected, there are limited media councils and advocacy bodies with few resources to effectively lobby their governments.
In New Zealand, another major threat to media freedom has been the consolidation of contemporary transnational corporate ownership patterns.
Researchers Merja Myllylahti and Dr Wayne Hope demonstrate in another special report on global capital and media communication ownership that NZ media corporations treat news as a commodity and news organisations as revenue generators.
This is the third in a series of media ownership papers published in PJR and initiated by Bill Rosenberg’s mapping of media ownership (2007, 2009). This ongoing project has now been adopted by AUT University.
The report authors point to the closure of the 20-year-old influential business and politics newspaper The Independent and the phasing out of the 130-year-old cooperative news agency New Zealand Press Association (NZPA) as key symptoms of the malaise: ‘Consequently, public media space is shrinking as the practice of journalism declines.’
This edition of PJR is themed on “Media, cultural diversity and community”, and includes articles on Australia’s Reporting Diversity Project, the Yumi Piksa community television project in Papua New Guinea, a study of the use of te reo Māori by Fairfax-owned Suburban Newspapers in New Zealand by the Te Rōpu Whariki research team, reporting of Islam in Australia, the Australian country press, and the development of a cross-cultural communications degree in Oman by a New Zealand university.
Book reviews include investigative journalist Nicky Hager’s Other People’s Wars: New Zealand in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror.
This edition, published in partnership with the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney is being published next week on October 20.
Edition editors: Professor Wendy Bacon, Dr Catriona Bonfiglioli and Associate Professor David Robie.
More information on the Pacific Media Centre website: www.pmc.aut.ac.nz
- Pacific media freedom report can be downloaded online.
- NZ media ownership report can be downloaded online.
Contacts: Dr David Robie (Pacific Media Centre) + 64 9 921 9999 x7834
Alex Perrottet (Pacific Media Watch) + 64 9 921 9388
- Greens concerned over escalation of conflict in West Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
- Pacific cannot be truly free until West Papua is free, say activists (westpapuamedia.info)
- Indonesian security forces open fire on West Papuan striking miners – kill one (westpapuamedia.info)
- Statement from the West Papua solidarity gathering at Nga Wai o Horotiu, Tamaki Makaurau / Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand (westpapuamedia.info)
- NZ: Harawira discusses West Papua with Ban Ki-moon (westpapuamedia.info)
A Veil of Silence is Killing Papua
December 22nd, 2010
By John Barr
Isak Jeksen Mebri shot dead by an Indonesian soldier in Wutung border area with Papua New Guinea on 11th February; an estimated 30 people killed in the Paniai Regency in July: a journalist, Ardiansyah Matrais, found dead in a river near Merauke on 27th July; Naftali Kwan and Septinus Kwan shot dead by Police Mobile Brigade in Manokwari on 16th September; video footage obtained in October showing the torture of Papuans by the Indonesian military in the Tingginambut area; Ismail Lokobal found dead from a bullet wound after police shoot indiscriminately and Amos Wetibo shot dead in the head after refusing to get down from a police vehicle in Wamena on 4th October; 29 homes burned in Brigiragi Village in Puncak Jaya by officers of the Police Mobile Brigade on 11th October – and the list goes on.
Violence against the local population continues in Papua, the most eastern part of Indonesia and few people are held accountable.
Komnas HAM is the National Human Rights Commission in Indonesia and its report on the human rights situation in the Land of Papua (commonly known as West Papua) is disturbing reading. Matius Murib, Vice Chair in Papua, highlights a serious scenario where Papuans continue to suffer human rights violations at the hands of the Indonesian military and police.
“The actors most responsible are not held accountable” says Matius. Indeed, law enforcers and military officers operating in many parts of Papua gain impunity due a lack of media and public exposure. Arbitrary detention of protesters and sexual violence against women is common. Community leaders and their families are harassed and threatened. People live in constant fear.
Papua rarely makes the news. This is because media is restricted and international scrutiny is minimal. Much has changed in the rest of Indonesia in recent years with the process of “reformasi” and real progress towards democracy. These developments deserve recognition and significant praise.
But things remain the same in Papua. Little has changed since the days of Suharto and his “New Order” regime. The military are in control and no-one appears to be answerable to the violence that is continually inflicted on locals.
A veil of silence encircles Papua and justice appears to be as aloof as ever. The Papuans I know fear the future. Effectively, they are experiencing a slow death.
This is simply not good enough. The world must take note!
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-128-2010
8 September 2010
INDONESIA: Killing of a journalist in Papua explained as suicide by local police
ISSUES: Human rights defenders; freedom of expression; extrajudicial killings
The Asian Human Rights Commission has been informed about the killing of a journalist and human rights defender in Merauke, Papua, Indonesia. Mr. Ardiansyah Matra’is (25 years old) was found dead on July 30, 2010 floating naked in the Maro River after he disappeared two days previously. Several journalists received intimidating SMS (short message service) in the weeks before the killing. Unofficial police reports have indicated that his ribs were broken and his lungs filled with water.
CASE NARRATIVE: (according to information received from Foker LSM – NGO Forum for Coorperation in Papua)
In the late evening of July 28, 2010 Mr. Matra’is was reported missing after his wife had not seen him returning home all day. After the police was informed, a special team searched for him for two days. They had only found his helmet and motorbike parked near the Waliwali Tujuh Bridge on the Maro River. At 7 am on July 30, 2010, fishermen found his naked corpse floating near the Dermaga Gudang Arang Warehouse, Merauke. (warning: this image is graphic in detail. Photo of Mr. Matra’is body as it was found in the river). The body was brought to the hospital and identified by his family. The first formal autopsy result did not acknowledge any signs of violence while according to an informal notice from the District Police the lungs were filled with water and two ribs were broken which indicates the use of physical violence. The regional police announced the conduct of a second autopsy at a different location, to which several of Mr. Matra’is organs were sent.
The bridge where Mr. Matra’is motorbike was found is a popular place where locals frequently go for recreation to enjoy the scenery. Mr. Matra’is was known to have often visited for taking photos near the bridge where his motorbike was found. The Police chief of Merauke, Djoko AKBP Prihadi SH concluded this case to be a suicide based on interviews with the victim’s family and colleagues and the evidence on the bridge and the first autopsy report by the local district hospital. According to the police the suicide would have been committed as a result of the stress that he must have experienced from the daily work as a journalist.
(photos’ source: http://kebebasan-kebebasancom.blogspot.com)
Journalist work and intimidation
(according to information received from the local journalists community)
Mr. Matra’is had been working as a journalist for several years including for the national private TV channel ANTV. He joined http://www.tabloidjubi.com, a Papuan civil society media in May 2009. After he published a video about illegal timber mining in Keerom, several journalists received intimidating messages. Following the increasing threats Mr. Matra’is temporarily left Jayapura, his place of work at that time. He continued to feel intimidated and often reported to have been followed by unidentified persons. Colleagues reported that he had received SMS threatening the security of his children. Months later Mr. Matra’is worked with a local TV station in Merauke.
Journalists are reported to have frequently received threats in the period before Mr. Matra’is’ killing. The threats are allegedly related to local elections in which a large scale food estate project with international investors became the subject of controversy. For example, a fellow journalist received the following message, “To the coward journalists: never play with fire if you don’t want to be burned. If you still want to make a living on this land, don’t do weird things. We have data on all of you and be prepared for death.”
Please write letters to the concerned authorities below requesting them to conduct a thorough investigation into the victim’s death. The intimidation against other journalists should also be investigated and pursued.
The AHRC has also written letters to the Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression for their intervention.
INDONESIA: Short title describing the type of violation
Name of victim: Mr. Ardiansyah Matra’is (25 years old)
Date of incident: July 28, 2010
Place of incident: Maro River, Merauke, Papua
I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the death of Mr. Ardiansyah Matra’is, a journalist and human rights defender in Papua.
In the late evening of July 28, 2010 Mr. Matra’is was reported missing after his wife had not seen him returning home all day. After the police was informed, a special team searched for him for two days but only found his helmet and motorbike parked near the Waliwali Tujuh Bridge at the Maro River. At 7 am on July 30, 2010, fishermen found his naked corpse floating near the Dermaga Gudang Arang Warehouse, Merauke. The first formal autopsy result did not acknowledge any signs of violence while according to an informal notice from the District Police the lungs were filled with water and two ribs were broken which indicates the use of physical violence. The regional police announced the conduct of a second autopsy at a different location, to which several of Mr. Matra’is organs were sent.
Mr. Matra’is as well as other journalists in Merauke received intimidating messages via SMS (short message service) in recent months. Many see them related to local elections as well as other critical activities of journalist in Papua. The heavy military presence and the ongoing corruption had since been the serious obstacles for the region to sustainably develop and results in ongoing human rights violations and aggravates social tensions. The free and critical work of the media is central to the development in the region.
I request you to conduct a thorough investigation of the killing of Mr. Matra’is, as well as the intimidation against journalists in Merauke and other areas in Papua. I would like to point out that strongest action needs to be taken in accordance with law to ensure the safety of all journalists, the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression in Papua.
I am calling for your intervention into the case to ensure an independent and qualified investigation in the killing of Mr. Matra’is as well as into the intimidating climate for journalists in Merauke.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Drs.Bekto. Suprato. M.Si
Head of Police Area Headquarters Jayapura, Papua province
Jl. Samratulangi No. 8 Jayapura
Tel: + 62 0967 531014
Fax: +62 0967 533763
2. Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri
Chief of National Police
Jl. Trunojoyo No. 3
Fax: +62 21 720 7277
3. R. Widyopramono SH,M.Hum
District Attorney Papua
Kejaksaan Tinggi Papua
Jl. Anggrek No.6 Tj. Ria Jayapura
4. Paulus Waterpauw
Director of the Criminal Unit
Papua Regional Police
No. 8 Jayapura
5. Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudoyono
Republic of Indonesia
Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara
Jakarta Pusat 10010
Fax: + 62 21 231 41 38, 345 2685, 345 7782
6. Mr. Ifdhal Kasim
KOMNAS HAM (National Human Rights Commission)
Jl. Latuharhary No. 4B Menteng
Jakarta Pusat 10310
Fax: +62 21 3151042/3925227
Urgent Appeals Programme (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Indonesia Desk (email@example.com)
Asian Human Rights Commission
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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.’
News from Papua: Journalists will boycott police for failing to investigate Ardiansyah's murder; Restrictions on alcohol to combat spread of HIV; Women traders promised their own market
Bintang Papua, 23 August 2010
Abridged in translation
Ardiansyah murder repercussions
Journalists to boycott police news
About one hundred print and electronic journalists, following a
demonstration in Jayapura, announced their decision to boycott all news
from the police as from 23 August for failing to reveal the perpetrator
of the murder of Metro TV journalist, Ardiansyah Matra’is whose body was
found on 28 July floating in the Maro River.
They also called for the chief of police in Papua to be dismissed for
his failure to thoroughly investigate the journalist’s murder.
Victor Mambor, the chairman of the journalists organisation AJI, said
they had waited for hours to meet the police chief but he never appeared.
According to the results of an autopsy by the police, there were many
swellings on the journalist’s body, several teeth were missing and his
neck showed signs of his having been strangled. At the time of the
tragic incident, other journalists had been receiving terror threats by
SMS. [Other reports suggest that Ardiansyah was still alive when he was
thrown into the river where he drowned.]
During the demonstration, the journalists carried banners calling for
an end to the terror. A journalist from Tempo said it was up to the
police to investigate the case.
‘Today, our colleague is murdered. Tomorrow it could be one of us,’ he
Cenderawasih reporter Ronald Manurung said: ‘We are partners of the
police. Every day we report about police activities in safeguarding
security in Papua, but the chief of police doesn’t show any interest in
the sufferings of our colleague and his grieving family.’
At this point, a police official appeared and said the demonstrators
should delegate someone to meet the chief of police but this was rejected.
Then another journalist, Cunding Levi read a joint statement setting a
deadline for the police to show results in their investigation to
discover the perpetrator of Ardiansyah’s murder. The statement will be
sent to the president and other ministers as well as the National Human
Rights Commission, whose deputy chairman Matius Murib was present. He
invited those present to bow their heads in tribute to their murdered
colleague. All sections of the community in Papua should pay close
attention to the human rights cases in Papua, he said. Thereafter, the
journalist dispersed in an orderly fashion
Bintang Papua, 23 August 2010
Alcoholic drinks and the increase in HIV in Papua
With the number of HIV/AIDS sufferers in Papua continuing to increase,
the Papuan provincial government has announced its intention to restrict
or to stop the sale of alcoholic drinks throughout the province of
Papua. The number of sufferers in Papua reportedly reached a total of
more than 5,000 in 2009.
Provincial governor Barnabas Suebu said that during a two-month tour of
many kampungs, many people had urged the government to pay more
attention to this problem. ‘So we have now drafted a regulation to end
the sale of alcohol which will soon be submitted to the DPRP.’
The governor said that the alarming rise in the number of HIV sufferers
was a warning to Papuans that this sickness must be brought under control..
Bintang Papua, 23 August 2010
Special market for women traders to be built
The Papuan provincial government has said that it is still committed to
the plan to build a special market for women traders. A spokesman said
that a location had been chosen and once the legalities of the
conversion of the land ere completed, construction would begin.
The spokesman Jansen Monim said this was an example of the governor’s
determination to listen to the wishes of the people.
For the past nine years, Papuan women traders have been pressing for a
special market but as yet, their demands have not been realised and they
have been pushed from one location to another, having to do their
business under the open sky and sitting on the bare ground. During th
course of their struggle, some of the women have died.
One location that was offered to the women was rejected because, they
said, it was too far away from people coming to buy things. After
submitting their demands to the governor, he has now promised that the
special market for women traders will be built in 2010. The governor
also promised to provide other facilities for the women traders. There
are also plans to provide the women with special training for marketing
management and to supply four trucks along with fuel to help transport
It was also said that the governor’s commitment applies not only to
Jayaura but to the whole of Papua.
[Comment: The reference throughout this item was only to Papua, meaning
that this pledge does not apply to the province of West Papua. ]
TAPOL and DTE press release
Journalist’s death overshadows launch of Papua food project
11 August 2010 – The death of a local journalist has increased concerns about a giant food estate launched today in Merauke, Southeastern Papua by Indonesia’s Minister of Agriculture.
TAPOL and Down to Earth, the International Campaign for Ecological Justice in Indonesia are calling for a moratorium on the food project, known as MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate) until independent assessments of the political, economic, socio-cultural, environmental and gender impacts of the project have been undertaken.
The suspicious death of the journalist, Ardiansyah Matra’is, in late July, following threats against him, has been linked to his coverage of this week’s local elections for the district head in Merauke.
Other journalists have also been threatened in what appears to have been a concerted campaign to stifle free expression ahead of the elections. Current district head, Johannes Gluba-Gebze, has been instrumental in planning and promoting the food project.
“The potential adverse impacts of MIFEE for the local population are massive such that full transparency and accountability are required. A free media is essential to ensuring effective democratic oversight of the project,” say TAPOL and Down to Earth who are closely monitoring the project.
“President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono’s ambition to ‘feed Indonesia then feed the world’ may come at the expense of many Papuans, and could add to wider frustrations about the lack of political, social and economic autonomy in Papua,” they add.
The project is likely to contribute to the marginalisation of indigenous Papuans by taking over the customary-owned land and resources which provide their livelihoods. It is also likely to exacerbate existing human rights grievances, and accelerate environmental deforestation and degradation.
“The enhanced security presence likely to be associated with MIFEE will increase tensions and add to the vulnerability of Merauke’s inhabitants, especially as Indonesia’s notorious Kopassus special forces are active in the area”, warn TAPOL and Down to Earth.
Background and issues
MIFEE is a collection of commercial plantations, planned to cover 1.6 million hectares. The project is being promoted as a means of stabilizing Indonesia’s food security. It has received support from the Government of Indonesia, and Merauke has been designated a national ‘Special Economic Zone’ (SEZ) in order to attract the US$8.6 billion of investment needed for the project. Over 30 investors from Indonesia, Japan, China, Singapore, Korea and the Middle East have expressed an interest in MIFEE, Their involvement appears to be part of a global trend to make money by buying up lands abroad for food production.
Tens of thousands more workers and economic migrants, mostly from outside Papua, are expected to settle in Merauke and the surrounding areas. The indigenous people of Merauke have already felt the impact of transmigration programmes, first implemented under Dutch colonial rule and continued under Indonesia’s Suharto regime. Population growth, changes in population demographics and the further loss of land and resources as a result of MIFFE could have a devastating and irreversible impact on the livelihoods of the local population, especially indigenous Papuans.
The huge number of newcomers may strain Merauke’s underdeveloped services and further marginalise an already minority indigenous population. The commercialisation of land and takeover of indigenous Papuans’ land will affect the livelihoods of Papuans and could prevent the transfer of knowledge, culture and language from one generation to the next.
Sustained local knowledge of tribal boundaries, land rights, land use, customary law and taboos are all dependent on having access to land and respect for traditional rights over the land. If MIFEE goes ahead, indigenous people will be faced with new boundaries and non-traditional crops such as oil palm, rice, sugar cane, corn and soyabean.
There has been strong opposition to MIFEE from local NGOs such as SKP-KAM, FokerLSM, SORPATOM and AMAN. However, the death of Ardiansyah Matra’is and campaign of terror against journalists have closed down the space for criticism. These groups have emphasised on-going concerns about targeted surveillance and intimidation of NGOs and journalists. In 2009, a joint report by the Indonesian environmental NGO Telapak and the UK’s Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) stated that ‘irregular groups allied to [Johannes Gluba] Gebze’ operate in Merauke and ‘work in unison with the state security forces to monitor and intimidate any dissenters in the region.’
The security strategy for MIFEE is unclear, as is the resulting direct and indirect impact on the local population. Merauke is located near the Indonesia-Papua New Guinea (PNG) border and is already a highly militarized area. A 2009 Human Rights Watch report details abuses committed by Kopassus, who have close ties with Gebze.
In other parts of Papua where natural resources are being exploited, state security forces are routinely employed to protect commercial assets. There has often been an expansion in these areas of the sex and alcohol industries, which are run by migrants or the police and military themselves. The potential impact on the population’s health is made clear by FokerLSM which reports that Merauke has the highest number of HIV/AIDS cases after Mimika district, where the giant mining company Freeport operates.
The scale of MIFEE raises major environmental and ecological concerns. The conversion of protected forest for agricultural use seems likely, despite both Indonesia’s Forestry Minister and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy stating otherwise.
Widespread licensed deforestation in Merauke would contradict the Government of Indonesia’s commitment to reduce green-house gas emissions by 26% by 2020. It also raises questions over a recent billion dollar REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) agreement with the Government of Norway to preserve Indonesia’s rainforests, in particular in Papua.
Contact: Paul Barber (TAPOL) on +44 1420 80153 or +44 7747 301 739 or Carolyn Marr (DTE) on +44 16977 46266
 Medco Group; Artha Graha Network; PT Bangun Cipta Sarana; Comexindo International; Sumber Alam Sutra; Korindo; PT Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia; Sinar Mas; PT Kertas Nusantara; Mitsubishi (Japan); Wilmar (Singapore); LG International (Korea).
 Office for Justice and Peace of the Archdicese of Merauke (SKP-KAM); Papua NGOs Cooperation Forum (FokerLSM); Solidarity for Papuans (SORPATOM); The Indigenous People’s Alliance of Indonesia (AMAN)