Tag Archives: Manokwari

Manokwari Tastes the Bitterness of Oil Palm

By Pietsau Amafnini at Jasoil
First Published: March 2, 2014

Little by little, people start to taste the bitterness of oil palm.

It came as a big shock to both the indigenous people and residents of the transmigration settlements in SP8 to SP10 Masni and Sidey, Manokwari regency. Heavy rain all night long eventually meant that by the morning of 16th February 2014 the calm atmosphere of the night before had been turned to panic. Nikson Kasi, a volunteer for Jasoil Tanah Papua, reported that in his village Mansaburi, floodwaters were assailing the village. The Wariori River, which passes through PT Medco Papua Hijau Selaras’s oil palm plantation, had burst its banks with the volume of water from the mountains upstream.

At least 139 houses in Mansaburi village, Masni District, Manokwari, West Papua Province were swept away by the floods. There were no fatalities, but damage to property is estimated at billions of Rupiah. Even sadder is the news that people’s crops and livestock were also washed away by the floods as they charged through the oil palm plantation.

According to Nikson’s account, the floodwaters rose at about 04.30 AM. The river’s levees were breached and a flash flood struck houses that lay behind them. The Mansaburi village head, Robert Gasang confirmed that 139 houses had been destroyed by the current. The 700-or-so residents were forced to evacuate to escape the rising waters of the Wariori river, as heavy rain continued for the next two days, even though the level of flooding receded.

“We’re just worried, what it next time the rain continues for two or three days? Well now we’ve tasted the bitterness of oil palm after this flood”, said Demmy Safe, an activist with Jasoil Tanah Papua whose home is also close to the site of the flooding. Nikson continued, “even though there were no fatalities, the flood has wiped out people’s gardens, including rice, chilli, beans, tomatoes and other plants. Farm animals were also swept away by the floods”

Local residents, who came as part of transmigration programs or on their own initiative, say that previously, when the only plantation was that of PTPN II Prafi, flooding wasn’t particularly often seen. Now flooding has become a constant threat to the people because forests have been cleared [by Medco] as far upstream as the mountains, and so people have started to be worried that the floods will keep coming back. Especially in the rainy season like now, we always have to be on our guard, because when the big disaster comes it will not give notice beforehand.

Translated by awasMifee

[translator's note: this article claims that houses were swept away (hanyut) by the floods. I've kept that dramatic term in my translation, although would point out that other media accounts have said that houses were merely severely damaged. (rusak parah).]

Medco in Manokwari: stepping up the pressure on land and community

From AwasMifee

January 20, 2014

Medco moved into Manokwari in 2008 to start an oil palm plantation. At that point it could still be counted as one of the pioneers of oil palm in West Papua.   A few years later, as large expanses of land for new plantations become increasingly hard to obtain in Sumatra and Kalimantan, more and more companies have been turning their eyes eastward to Papua’s vast forests. Yet given the huge inequalities in Papua, it is unlikely that any of these new plantation developments will be without its problems.

In the case of Medco, the new plantation has increased the pressure on land in a relatively densely populated agricultural area, potentially also increasing tensions between indigenous Papuans and transmigrants.

The land around Manokwari is mostly mountainous, except for one long broad plain stretching along the coast and into the interior. Much of this land was allocated for transmigration programs in the 1980s, and some of the migrants who came were employed as smallholders on the first oil palm plantation in Papua, run by the state-owned company PTPN II, which got its permit to operate in 1980.  Other  transmigrants farm food crops in this area, which is the only large area suitable for lowland agriculture near to Manokwari city. Many local Arfak people also live in the area, they are also farmers but tend to use the technique of shifting cultivation, while the transmigrants stick to their allocated two hectares.

This is the environment which Medco’s subsidiary PT Medcopapua Hijau Selaras moved into, occupying some of the forest areas unused by PTPN II and the transmigrants, and also westwards further along the plain. This agricultural environment and its mixed population structure is a very different context from some other areas where oil palm is expanding in Papua, such as the sparsely populated forests the Korindo and Daewoo groups chose for their plantations near Merauke.

Everywhere in Papua, the consent of local communities which hold customary land rights have to be obtained before a company can operate. However this is often treated as a formality, rather than giving communities a real choice to decide the future of their land. Medco has met this requirement by compensating traditional leaders at a rate of Rp 450,000 per hectare. The company also offers local Papuans smallholdings of two hectares of oil palm, which they would manage and then sell the fruit to the company.

450,000 per hectare is not much (around A$45 dollars). One place we visited told us that the chief had received 30 million Rupiah for the villages’ land (he wasn’t sure of how many hectares that was for). That meant signing away rights to the land for 35 years. However, in one year, he claimed, the farmers could make 30 million growing chilli on just a portion of that land. They felt cheated.

What’s more, negotiations and payment are made to the tribal chief only.  It is customary amongst the Arfak people that the chief receives all compensation paid to use the land, and does not share it with other families. However the whole community who lose their land to theplantation. In many places chocolate trees have been cleared, and the owner was not individually compensated. The Arfak people we spoke to did not make a problem of this however, or show any bitterness towards the tribal chief. Indeed they complained about how Medco had not followed through on its promises to build a new home for the tribal chief, seeing it as a betrayal of trust by the company.

In fact, it may be low, but 450,000 Rupiah is a higher level of compensation than any other oil palm plantation in Papua. The highest rate in the cluster of plantations around Merauke is Rp 300,000 per hectare, but some communities were convinced to sell for Rp 50,000 – 70,000 back in 2007. In Sorong, the Mooi people were cheated out of their land for Rp 6000 per hectare. However, in those other cases, the land is mostly forest. Medco’s area in Manokwari is either agricultural land or could be potentially used as agricultural land. If it were not being used for oil palm it would be used by small farmers to meet the food needs of this growing city. As a comparison, one hectare of paddy fields on Java would be sold for around two billion rupiah.

Before Medco came, there were existing tensions over land, which squeezing the communities yet further is likely to exacerbate. The problems arose because when the government originally brought transmigrants from other islands including Java and Timor, it didn’t seek agreement from the local customary landowners or provide compensation. Although it is now generally recognised that retrospective compensation must be paid, in many cases the cash is not forthcoming.

In some cases, the transmigrants have settled the issue themselves, paying off the required amount in monthly instalments.  Others quite rightly argue that the government brought them there, and so they are holding out for the government to meet its responsibility and pay up. But in that situation their future is very insecure, especially if they are smallholders on PTPN II’s plantation with just two hectares of palm trees which are rapidly becoming unproductive, and no clear title over the land.

The indigenous people are also in an increasingly precarious situation, in part because Medco has also taken so much land, making it harder to make a living from shifting cultivation as they have always done.

In general, the indigenous people and the transmigrants are aware of the other side’s difficult situation and endeavour to remain good neighbours without conflict breaking out. However it is inevitable that tensions are present, and without a resolution it could explode at any time.

The new plantation also brings environmental problems. Apart from clearing the lowland forest, the plantation is already causing severe problems with erosion and flooding. One river had widened by over 100m in just a few years since the forest was cut down and replaced with oil palm. Flooding has also intensified in a transmigration area between PTPN 2 and Medco’ s plantations, so much so that the government has erected flood danger notices along the edge of Medco’s concession. Floodwaters now regularly enter their houses.

Taking all the low lying land for an oil palm plantation means also that the Papuan farmers are moving into nearby mountainous land for their shifting cultivation plots. Clearing the forest on these steep slopes also increases the risk of flooding and landslides.

There are also a number of issues for the Papuan and transmigrant workers who are taken on by Medco as day-labourers. They are paid a flat 68,000 Rupiah per day, which is a low wage taking into account the high cost of living in Papua. Workers also reported that the company didn’t provide any safety equipment to day-labourers or small-holders who were
spraying weedkillers and pesticides.

Medco still wishes to extend the area it is cultivating, westwards towards Kebar district and eastwards back towards Manokwari city. However, it has reportedly met with opposition from indigenous people and also difficulty expanding the area of its permit: the original
location permit covered 13,850 hectares, but the land released by the forestry ministry was only 6,791 hectares, and in 2011 the company said it had paid compensation on 5930 hectares.

This article was first by our partners at awasMIFEE.

Dozens of Morning Star flags unfurled in NRFPB Demonstration

Bintang Papua
28 August 2013
Manokwari:  Although controversy is still raging about the Freedom Flotilla which has a number of Papuan activists on board,  a group of Papuans who recently proclaimed the establishment of the Federal Republic of the State of West Papua (NRFPB) in Manokwari held a demonstration on 27 August.  The demonstration which was organised by the NRFPB was highlighted by a number of Morning Star flags.  The demonstration started from the office of DAP (Dewan Adat Papua  – Papuan Customary Council) on Jalan Pahlawan and continued until 10am.  In a speech at the demonstration, the deputy governor of NRFPB Markus Yenu called on all Papuans living in Manokwari to welcome the Freedom Flotilla which is sailing from Australia to West Papua.

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Some of the scenes from the Manokwari August 28 mobilisations in support of the Freedom Flotilla (Photos: WPM stringers/ NFRPB) 

Security forces composed of members of the Indonesian police force mounted a strong guard round the demonstration. The demonstrators marched round the City of Manokwari distributing leaflets proclaiming freedom for the Papuan people.

Morning Star flags were unfurled in several places but the security forces failed to take action.   They just stood along the route without doing anything to confiscate the flags being carried by the demonstrators.

As has previously been reported,  the Freedom Flotilla  with Papuans on board as well as Aboriginals (Australia)  who have expressed deep concern about the situation in West Papua is now sailing towards Papua New Guinea. From there, the Flotilla will sail to Merauke, West Papua.  The Flotilla is due to arrive in West Papua at the beginning of September.

[Translated by TAPOL]

Testimony of Markus Yenu of his arrest and interrogation

Manokwari, 7th March 2013

Markus Yenu was arrested at the side of the road in from of Daniel Sakwatorey’s house (former political prisoner in Papua, 2008) at Sanggeng Manokwari West Papua. The arrest was by Manokwari’s Criminal Police Unit at 11.32am West Papua time, on the order of Manokwari’s Criminal Police AKP. KRISTIAN SAWAKI. The Manokwari Criminal Police officers were driving a black Inova with the number plate DS.9977.

According to Markus Yenu’s evidence (he’s the Executive Governor of the West Papua National Authority District 2 Manokwari) after he was arrested and taken to the police station at Manokwari, he was immediately taken to an interrogation room and asked to give information about a peaceful demonstration on the 17th January 2013 during which the morning star flag was flown. There were various sized flags flown, and also biased political speeches from several leaders from the Free Papua movement who were inciting people to overthrow the legitimate government.

Markus Yenu also gave evidence that when he was in the interrogation room at the Manokwari Police Station he was visited by Kombes (Pol) Yakobus Marzuki former chief of police in 2008 and now Director of Papuan Police Intelligence. Marzuki told Yenu:

  • Comprehensive data from the Police indicated Markus Yenu was involved with provoking the acts of arson and destruction that three police officers faced on the 5th December 2012 following the shooting of Thimotius Ap.
  • In the near future police plan to meet with Kesbangpol to get rid of all organisations that don’t support the Ideology of a United Republic of Indonesia (NKRI)
  • Eight people are already dead, but police and TNI will be pursuing and removing any subversive groups both in the forest and the city.
  • Whereas for Markus Yenu there was an order from police headquarters to disable him.

According to Yenu, the Director of Papuan Police Intelligence said many other things indicating a threat to human rights and democracy activists in Papua.

Yenu said that, ‘After me, the police will arrest another six people who have been identified as suspects

1). Frans Kapisa,

2). Billy Auparay,

3). Ottow Rumaseb,

4). Jakobus Wanggai,

5). Eliazer Awom, and

6). Zeth Wambrauw

 

Source: WPNA Manokwari

 

Police question Papuan leader over peaceful demo ‘treason’

Written up Pacific Scoop from Social Media Reports by West Papua Media

March 6, 2013

Markus Yenu, Manokwari Governor of the West Papua National Authority (National Federated Republic of West Papua), was forced to appear at Manokwari Police Sector HQ  today (March 6) for questioning over makar (treason) charges relating to the organising of a peaceful mass demonstration almost two months ago.

The executive governor of the West Papua National Authority area 2, Markus Yenu, and the chairman of Solidaritas Pemuda Melanesia Papua Barat, Abraham Wainasiri,  lead a peaceful rally at Manokari on January 17. Image: WPM
The executive governor of the West Papua National Authority area 2, Markus Yenu, and the chairman of Solidaritas Pemuda Melanesia Papua Barat, Abraham Wainasiri, lead a peaceful rally at Manokwari on January 17. Image: WPM

Yenu has not yet been released, and no further information has yet been received about his status – whether he will be charged or released.

West Papua Media has contacted police in Manokwari without reply and the Papua Police Criminal Investigation chief in Jayapura – who claims to know nothing about Yenu’s whereabouts.

On January 17, a crowd of peaceful protesters calling for a referendum on the future of Indonesian-ruled West Papua assembled at a rally point in Manokwari.

The crowd – including students and workers – moved towards the Banyan Tree at UNIPA Manokwari together with the protest coordinator, Alex Nekemen, and speakers, among them Silas Ayemi, the area secretary of Bintuni WPNA),; Abraham Waynarisy (SH chairman Solidaritas Pemuda Melanesia Papua Barat SPMPB) and the pro-independence group KNPB.

Political speeches were made accompanied by slogans of “Papua Merdeka” (“Free Papua”) along the way.

The crowd marched around the city of Manokwari towards an open field.

In front of the office of the State Attorney of the Republic of Indonesia, Markus Yenu openly questioned bout the detainees after a an incident on December 14 – Melkianus Bleskadit, Rev. Dance Yenu and 5 students from UNIPA Manokwari who have been held by police for almost four months without charge.

Earlier story by West Papua Media