by John Pakage for West Papua Media
Wednesday, 28 March 2012
PROTESTS AGAINST FUEL PRICES INCREASE SWEEP INDONESIA AND PAPUA
In Nabire, Papua, there are gas stations owned by active Police officers, and rumours are circulating that security forces are manipulating subsidized fuel stocks in Papua. While in Papua Police officers own gas stations, elsewhere Police officers are seizing fuel belonging to civilians. Take for example the case in Tuban, East Java: on March 22, 17 drums of diesel fuel were found by police during sweeping raids to counter fuel hoarding in anticipation of the Indonesian government’s increases to fuel prices which come into effect April 1 2012.
Besides this, Police Inspector-General Saud Usman Nasution, Division Head/Community Relations, also stated that there have been no fewer than 266 charges laid in 232 cases of fuel hoarding in Kalimantan, with a further 11 cases still under investigation. If Police are empowered to seize people’s fuel, then who can tackle the Police’s control of fuel stocks in Papua?
Meanwhile though the price of fuel has yet to increase officially, in Papua and especially in the areas of the interior, fuel prices have already skyrocketed up to Rp. 20 000-30 000 ($2.15-3.25 USD) per litre, leaving one to wonder: just how high will prices rise after April 1?
To oppose the program of the SBY (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono)-Boediono government to raise fuel prices from Rp. 5000 to 6500 ($0.55 to $0.70 USD), mass protests have spread throughout Indonesia. With students and workers leading the way, it is not simply party cadres demonstrating, but even housewives are taking to the streets and refusing to accept the government’s policy.
Regrettably, at the time of these massive demonstrations, President SBY, who was selected by the Indonesian people, has not even been present in Indonesia. Will the President answer the demands of the people, meet with them and comment on their aspirations? Until now no such word has been uttered by the President.
Many parties judge fuel prices increase to be unrelated to world fuel price fluctuations but rather intended simply to increase net revenues, as suggested by Hendrawan Supratikno, member of Committee 5 of the People’s Legislative Assembly (DPR), Tuesday March 27.
Of course, the increase to fuel prices is felt directly by the people, such that a coalition of Papuan students from different Universities in Jayapura have demonstrated in front of the Papua People’s Legislative Assembly (DPRP), Tuesday March 27.
Alas, the government seems unwilling to alter its fuel increase policy even facing masses of thousands organizing actions all over Indonesia.
Still, the efforts to pressure the Indonesian government continue. These actions have brought victims: the protest in Jakarta left 15 people injured after a clash with police at Gambir, Central Jakarta; the victims were taken to Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital (RSCM).
Here are the names of those hospitalized, as posted at RSCM Emergency Department:
1. Fajar, student from Univertas Pamulang (UNPAM)
2. Makmun, student from UNPAM
3. Pungky, student from UNPAM
4. Erwin, student from Palu, South Sulawesi
5. Fariz, from Lenteng Agung
6. Ahmad Sofyan, student from UNPAM
7. Okki, student at IISIP
8. Alif al hafidi from Bogor
9. Alan Fitnur from Cirebon
10. Moch Taufik
11. Moh. Imam, student from BSI
12. Idris Syahrian, PDIP officer, Bekasi
13. Ahmad Bagja from Komplek Depag, Tangerang
14. Bribtu Dhany, from Mako Den B, Pelopor Cipinang
15. Zein, student from Sulawesi
Besides this, in Makassar as well, Metro TV has reported on the beating of a student by Police. The student’s condition is of course cause for serious concern.
Meanwhile, President SBY continues to sojourn overseas. To counter the mass demonstrations, SBY has deployed thousands of Military (TNI) troops as well as fully armed Police units. Not only this, but Interior Minister Gamawan Fauzi asserted that if the legislation confirming the fuel price increase is made law then local and regional officials known to participate in protest actions will be fired.
The increasing authoritarian and undemocratic character of the State is becoming more visible, as laws guaranteeing freedom of public expression are being pushed aside.
The Interior Minister’s pressure has not succeeded in reducing the number of state officials joining in voicing the people’s aspirations. In East Java, Mayor of Surabaya Bambang Dwi Hartono, who is also a cadre of PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle Faction), joined the protests rejecting the President’s policy.
Responding to the grave threat from the Interior Minister towards the Mayor of Surabaya, Bambang Dwi Hartono stated that he was chosen by the people of East Java therefore the Minister may go ahead and fire him.
The Mayor’s weighty decision is an example worthy of emulation: putting one’s position on the line for the good of many.
# John Pakage/westpapuamedia
- Thousands across Papua demand UN step up to protect Papuan people: PHOTO AND VIDEO REPORT (westpapuamedia.info)
- Unconfirmed Reports of 3 Foreigners arrested in Fak-fak, West Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
- Ban Ki-Moon gets “diplomatic answers” from SBY over Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
- Rallies reject Indonesian status quo in Papua, and demand referendum (westpapuamedia.info)
- Recovering the State of West Papua, Sentenced to Three Years in Jail (westpapuamedia.info)
West Papua Report
This is the 86th in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at email@example.com. If you wish to receive the report via e-mail, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The daughter of prominent Papuan political prisoner Filep Karma has written about the failure of justice in West Papua. In spite of democratic progress in much of Indonesia, she notes that “the old regime dies hard in West Papua.” Amnesty International‘s annual report on human rights trends in Indonesia documents continued human rights abuse, notably in West Papua, where AI cites the poor performance of security forces. The failure of the Indonesian government to afford justice in a number of outstanding cases of security force abuse in West Papua is exemplified in a recent case in which a civilian was killed by security forces who deny responsibility. The Indonesian government’s intervention to prevent an elected member of the Papuan Peoples Council from taking her seat is only the latest example of discrimination against Papuan women. The Indonesian military appears to be reassuming a major role in providing security for the Freeport mining complex. HIV/AIDS infections in West Papua continue to rise dramatically with the Freeport mine complex town of Mimika recording the largest increase. Observers continue to comment on the failure of “special autonomy” in West Papua.
- Daughter of A Papuan Political Prisoner Calls for Justice
- Amnesty International Draws Attention to Continuing Violations of Rights in Indonesia
- Failure of Justice in West Papua: A Continuing Saga
- Indonesian State Interferes in Papuan Woman Leader’s Election to the MRP, Underscores Discrimination Against Women
- Indonesian Military to Provide Security for Papua’s Freeport Mine
- HIV/AIDS Infections Rise Sharply in Papua, Area Near Freeport Leads the Trend
- More Observers Comment on The Failure of Special Autonomy
Audryne Karma, daughter of Filep Karma, one of West Papua’s most prominent political prisoners, published a May 23 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.
Ms .Karma, while praising the democratic advances under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono throughout much of Indonesia, observed that for West Papuans “the old regime dies hard. Indonesia has yet to realize the promise of democracy and human rights for all of its citizens,” she writes. After ten years of failed “special autonomy” policies, Ms. Karma writes that West Papuans were “systematically persecuted” as they sought to call attention to special autonomy’s “broken promises.”
The piece by Ms. Karma, boldly and articulately explains that in West Papua, those members of the security forces who commit torture targeting innocent Papuan civilians receive the lightest of sentences (if prosecuted at all) while Papuans who engage in peaceful protest demanding their human rights are locked up for years.
She persuasively describes the case of her own father, Filep Karma, who is serving a 15 year sentence for his peaceful protest. She describes how a notoriously biased judge sentenced her father to three times the sentence recommended by prosecutors and that his Christian faith was openly mocked in the courtroom. During his imprisonment he has suffered repeatedly at the hands of his jailers, denied urgent medical care and punished for his efforts to mediate a dispute within the prison where he is incarcerated.
Ms. Karma notes that her father is one of at least 130 political prisoners who suffer torture and other abuses within a penal system strongly criticized by UN and other international observers.
In a an affront to justice, Ms. Karma writes that in 2007, Indonesia’s Supreme Court struck down the sedition provisions of the Indonesian Criminal Code under which her father and many other political prisoners were prosecuted. None of the political prisoners convicted under these overturned provisions has been released.
Recalling President Obama’s November 2010 visit to Indonesia and his appeal that “every child born in this country be treated equally, whether they come from Java or Aceh; Bali or Papua,” Ms. Karma hopes that the international community would hold President Yudhoyono to this standard. “The Indonesian government cannot be an exemplar of democracy, human rights and the rule of law while it persecutes those who peacefully insist that it live up to those very aspirations.”
(Note: also see Pacific Scoop’s May 5, 2011, “Jailed Leader Filep Karma And The Fight For Papua’s Future.” a detailed and compelling analysis by renowned scholar Dr. Richard Chauvel of Victoria University in Australia.)
In its annual report for 2011, released in May, Amnesty International issued a broad condemnation regarding the performance of Indonesian security forces and of the Indonesian judicial system, singling out for particular criticism their role in West Papua and Maluku:
“The security forces tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees, and used excessive force against protesters, sometimes leading to death. No adequate accountability mechanisms were in place to ensure justice or act as an effective deterrent against police abuses. The criminal justice system remained unable to address ongoing impunity for current and past human rights violations. Restrictions on freedom of expression were severe in areas such as Papua and Maluku.”
Security forces “tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees, particularly criminal suspects from poor and marginalized communities, and those suspected of pro-independence activities in Papua and Maluku provinces.”
Two videos which emerged during 2010 revealed “members of the police and military torturing and otherwise ill-treating Papuan men. The first video
showed Yawan Wayeni, a Papuan political activist, just before his death in August 2009.” Amnesty International observed that despite severe abdominal injuries, Wayeni “was denied medical assistance by the police.” The second video “showed Papuans being kicked and otherwise physically abused by members of the Indonesian military, and two Papuan men being tortured during interrogation.” The AI report noted also that “Indonesian officials confirmed the authenticity of both videos.”
The AI writes that “freedom of expression continued to be suppressed.” For example, Ardiansyah Matra, a journalist covering corruption and illegal logging in Papua, was found dead in the province in July. “At least 100 political activists were in prison for peacefully expressing their views in areas seeking independence such as Maluku and Papua.” AI calls attention also the case of Filep Karma (see above).
AI reports that “Impunity for past gross human rights violations in Aceh, Papua, Timor-Leste and elsewhere continued… Most past human rights violations against human rights defenders, including torture, murder and enforced disappearances, remained unsolved and those responsible were not brought to justice.“
The Papuan Customary Council, DAP, expressed its disappointment with the rule of law in West Papua, including the number of cases in Papua that have not been solved, according to a May 14 report in Jubi, translated by Tapol.
DAP’s Forkorus Yaboisembut expressed disappointment that “the shooting of Opinus Tabuni on August 9, 2009 on International Indigenous People’s Day in Wamena has not yet been solved.’
Yaboisembut explained that “incidents like this result in the marginalization of the Papuans. They are being exterminated in their own homeland.’
The same Jubi article reports that Markus Haluk, the secretary-general of the Association of Students of the Central Highlands, complained that “a huge number of cases in Papua have remained unsolved. He mentions the Wasior case (2001), the Biak case (1998) and the Abepura case (2000).
These complaints about fractured justice in West Papua were made as yet another case of a Papuan killed by security forces was surfacing. According to a May 18 Jakarta Post report, a dispute involving members of the Indonesian military (TNI) allegedly led to the death of Papuan Derek Adii, 26, from Manokwari regency.
The article cites a news release by the synod of the Papuan KINGMI church which “said the incident erupted as a passenger ferry was about to leave the Samubase Port in Nabire.”
The synod report claimed that Adii called on soldiers blocking access to the ferry to make way after some children had reportedly fallen and been trampled by other passengers. The offended soldiers, who were part of the Nabire Military Command, then assaulted him. “One of the soldiers, Chief Sergeant Hans Aru, drew his bayonet and stabbed Derek in the eye and he died. His body was later thrown overboard,” according to the synod.
When asked for confirmation, the Jakarta Post wrote that Nabire Military commander Lt. Col. Tatang Suyatna denied the reports. “It’s slander,” Tatang said, who claimed that the soldiers were securing the ferry while it was docking when the incident took place. He alledged that the victim was fighting with other passengers who had accused him of stealing and the victim turned on the soldiers as they separated the fight and fell to the sea by accident. The commander did allow that the victim “could have been injured when he was falling overboard.”
A conflicting military account alleged that the victim was drunk.
WPAT Comment: The failure of Indonesian authorities to pursue justice in instances when Indonesian security forces kill or maim Papuans is common place as noted by Yaboisembut and Haluk. The May 18 incident offers an illustrative example of security force impunity in matters where death and injury to Papuans transpires.
Indonesian State Interference in Papuan Woman Leader’s Election to the MRP Underscores Discrimination Against Women
A May 23 Bintang Papua report, translated by TAPOL, notes that representatives of number of women’s organizations in Papua demonstrated peacefully to protest Indonesian government blocking of the swearing in of Hana Hikoyabi to her seat in the Papuan Peoples Council, the Majelis Rakyat Papua (MRP).
The women complained that no legal justification for Hikoyabi’s suspension had been given. They demanded transparency regarding the government’s action and insisted that the selection of the chairperson of the new MRP should not take place until there were clarity about the membership of all its 75 members. The demonstrator met with the acting-chair of the MRP, Joram Wambrauw, who said that he lacked the power to take a decision on this matter but promised to pass the women’s concerns to the governor of Papua.
Separately, in a May 10 interview with the Jakarta Post, Papua Human Rights Working Network coordinator Fien Yarangga observed that the barring of Hikoyabi from the MRP was an example of Jakarta’s intimidation targeting Papuans. The Indonesian government “frequently intimidates Papua in the name of the unity and integrity of the Republic of Indonesia, even though such a stance creates a culture of fear among Papuan officials with strategic positions in regional administrations,” she says.
Fien made the remarks at a press conference in connection with the government’s rejection of Hikoyabi as a member of the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP) for the 2011-2016 term. Fien added that “a culture of intimidation has curtailed the development of democratization in Papua.” Fien cited the Home Minister’s refusal to accept Hikoyabi as a member of the MRP after she was declared not loyal to the state ideology Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution, even though Hana had met all the requirements for the position. “There was no legal basis for this. It is more political intimidation and character assassination against Hana and even against all the Papuan people who selected Hana,” she said. Fien added that “the way taken by the Home Minister was also aimed at curbing critical Papuan women in defending their own people.
“This places me in the difficult position of having been responsible for an act of treason – makar - whereas at the time that I nominated myself for member of the MRP from 2011 – 2016, I received an official confirmation from the local police and from the local court of law that I am well-behaved and have never been found guilty of anything or convicted of anything.”
In a May 13 report published by national daily Republika, TNI Commander Suhartono told reporters that security at the massive Freeport copper and gold mine in West Papua would become a collaborative effort involving the military and police. He told the media that “TNI continues to support Polri in providing security at the vital installation, PT Freeport Indonesia.” Suhartono comments came following a meeting between TNI and police personnel in Timika, the major town in West Papua nearest the mining complex.
A separate report by Antara says that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has asked the Indonesian military and police to give security guarantee to businesses and investments in Papua as part of efforts to accelerate economic development. A presidential spokesman said that the President had listened to the views of PT Freeport Indonesia regarding security, suggesting that PT Freeport welcomed and may have sought the joint TNI-police security arrangement.
The expanded military role in securing Freeport comes in the wake of repeated violence. Freeport security personnel Daniel Mansawan and Hari Siregar were killed on the key mountain road to the mine site in early April. That attack followed by only a few days an unsuccessful attack on Freeport personnel and a January 2010 attack on a convoy that injured nine. Local authorities report no progress in apprehending the perpetrators.
The killing of Mansawan in particular has raised concerns among Papuans. Mansawan was one of the few Papuans to reach a senior position on Freeport’s staff. The failure of security forces and Freeport to pursue his killers aggressively has been the source of protest by local Papuans.
WPAT Comment: In the recent past, the Indonesian police had been assigned the role of protecting PT Freeport with the option of seeking TNI assistance as conditions warranted. This new arrangement, which comes on the heels of renewed violence targeting Freeport personnel in the past two months would appear to restore the TNI security role of previous years when the TNI had come under strong criticism over what many saw as extortion of PT Freeport with cash flowing from Freeport to senior TNI personnel.
A May 6 report in Banjir Ambarita says that the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Papua and West Papua has risen more than 30 percent to over 17,000 in just four months as compared to 13,000 in August of 2010.
Kostan Karma, head of the Papua AIDS Prevention Commission (KPA), told the media “that the spike in infections was very worrying, and blamed it on the prevalence of unprotected sex.” He said that if the number of people living with the virus rose to one percent of the population of both provinces — which the 2010 census put at 2.8 million — the KPA would begin imposing mandatory testing for all new mothers in the region. He explained that this would at least help identify infected newborns, who could then get early treatment.
Kostan said that Mimika, adjacent to the PT Freeport copper and gold mining complex had shown the highest increase and overall number of infections.
The Papua AIDS Prevention Commission blamed the proliferation of new districts over the past 10 years as a factor for the spread of the virus.
“What’s happened is that there’s been more money spreading around, which encourages people to break with the traditional way of life and adopt a more modern lifestyle, including sexual promiscuity,” Kostan said. “What we’re trying to do is get churches to spread the message to get people to stop having casual sex, or if they must, to at least use a condom.”
WPAT Comment: Single male workers recruited by Freeport from outside West Papua to work at the mining complex have long fueled prostitution, gambling and alcohol and drug abuse in Mimika. This illicit activity operates under the protection of security forces in the area.
More Observers Comment on The Failure of Special Autonomy
An article in the May 15 issue of Jubi underscores the continuing unhappiness of Papuans with the “special autonomy” law (OTSUS). Olga Helena Hamadi, Director of the Commission for Disappearances and the Victims of Violence (KontraS) told the media that since the enactment of special autonomy, West Papua has been beset with problems. She noted that many buildings have been constructed that are of no benefit to the indigenous population, for example, the construction of commercial premises. ‘These buildings are for other people,’ (i.e., migrants) she said.
“As for the demands for permanent premises for Papuan businessmen, they are still struggling for this to happen. Their future is still very much in the air. The kind of premises they have been calling for have not been built by the government. The premises that have been built do not last long even though they have been calling for this since 2004, she said.”
OTSUS makes provision for a Commission of Truth and Reconciliation to be set up but all that has happened since OTSUS, she says, has been the creation of a National Human Rights Commission which “means that human rights violations, acts of violence and shootings are only dealt with by the Komnas HAM. The result is that many cases have got stuck, some of which got no farther than a court hearing. There has been no follow-up.”
Also, there has been no proper accounting for OTSUS funds. “There is no accountability because no procedures have been put in place,” she added,
All of this point to the failure of OTSUS.
For its part, the May 14 Jakarta Post carried a report by Nethy Dharma Somba that focused on problems with the special autonomy law. The article notes that the chairman of the special autonomy evaluation committee at the Papuan legislative council, Weynand Watori, told a forum in Jayapura that an evaluation on special autonomy implementation was needed to avoid both the failure of special autonomy and to address the continued poverty suffered by most Papuans.
He noted that special autonomy was designed to help improve education, health, economy and infrastructure for indigenous Papuans. In August 2005, Papuans held a rally at which they asserted that special had failed to bring prosperity to the people. Rallies were also held in July 2010 where protesters called on the legislative council to revoke special autonomy.
The forum agreed that an evaluation of the implementation of special autonomy was needed by involving all stakeholders with the council’s special committee as facilitator. Cenderawasih University in Jayapura and the Papua University in Manokwari, should be entrusted to prepare the right evaluation method.
- West Papua Report April 2011: VP rejects dialogue, MSG, more (westpapuamedia.info)
- Photo News: Thousands of people of West Papua Rally to Demand Referendum (westpapuamedia.info)
- Urgent need for Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Human Rights Court in Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
- DAP – Straighten history of annexation of West Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
- KNPB: Action Appeals to DEMAND REFERENDUM IN WEST PAPUA (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 _
Tabloid JUBI, 31 August 2010
Uranium exploration could harm indigenous population
The chairman of the Papuan Customary Council (DAP), Forkorus Yoboisembut is concerned that the explorations into uranium now being conducted by Freeport in the Timika region are failing to take the interests of the indigenous people into account and could result in having a negative impact on their welfare.
These explorations, which have already been under way for eight months are not transparent. ‘We have made strong representations to the company that these exploration can be harmful to the customary groups,’ he said.
To ensure that the local communities do not have any objections regarding the exploration of uranium, the investors and the government should co-ordinate with the traditional owners (of the land).’ There is a need for transparency by the investors about how long the explorations will be conducted and what the local communities will receive in payment,’ he said.
The amount of uranium thought to be present in the Freeport mine is far higher than the minimum rate of 83 ppm (parts per million), whereas the economically viable minimum universally accepted is 1,000 ppm
‘I think that the investors and the government need to be more open towards the local communities about the benefits and disadvantages of the exploration of uranium that is now under way,’ he said.
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.