by Ank @ Pusaka (Heritage) Foundation to empower community rights
15 April 2013
Merauke, Papua: Without the knowledge or consent of local landowners in Kampung Onggari, Malind district, Merauke, two subsidiaries of the Rajawali Group, PT Karya Bumi Papua and PT Cenderawasi Jaya Mandiri, are destroying ancestral forest, evicting areas of importance and swamps belonging to the people. It is believed that this has been occurring since the end of 2012.
Stephanus Gebze, a well-known figure and leader of one of the landowning clans in Kampung Onggari revealed that, “the Malind people of Kampung Onggari have never sat down and discussed this together, nor have we agreed to give permission or surrender our land to the Rajawali company”.
In 2010, the Rajawali company presented its project plans at the Malind district office, in Kampung Kaiburse, but community members from Onggari who were present stated their opposition to the company’s operations in Onggari, as they needed the forests and swamps to be able to support future generations of villagers. In 2011, Rajawali built a church in Onggari, but the people never agreed to give their forests and swamps over to the company. “We accepted the help to build the church as a contribution to us in Onggari. We cannot be coaxed into giving up our land just because a church was built for us”, said Paulinus Balagaize.
Several local people have already surveyed the site where clearing has taken place, known as Tiptidek, Kopti and Kandiput. They have found that their forests and swampland, known as Deg, Palee, Bob, have already been flattened. “These are the places we go hunting, fishing, collect wood and medicines. There are animal habitats and burial grounds of the Malind ancestors. The company has destroyed them all”, said Stephanus Mahuze, another prominent member of the Onggari community. expressing his disappointment with Rajawali for clearing the forest without permission.
The Onggari village government and other community leaders met with the leader of the Malind District, Martinus Dwiharjo, on Thursday 11th April 2013. They complained about how Rajawali was clearing the forest without permission. “This is harassment, and a violation of our traditional rights as Marind people”, said Stephanus Gebze.
The community is demanding that Rajawali’s activities are stopped until settlement is reached according to Marind customary law. There must be compensation for all the various losses the people suffer, including for grasses and other plants and disruption to animal life. The community wishes that these problems can be resolved peacefully and according to the Marind people’s traditional mechanisms.
Martinus Dwiharjo said that he had no knowledge that Rajawali had been clearing people’s land in Onggari. Martinus has offered to facilitate a meeting to resolve the issue with Rajawali as soon as possible, on
Tuesday 16th April 2013. Martinus also wishes to lend his support to resolve any questions about the location of the boundary between land belonging to the clans of Kampung Onggari and Domande. The majority of Kampung Domande’s land has already been given over to Rajawali.
Who knows how often Rajawali has overstepped the line? In November 2012, the people of Kampung Domande, Malind district, imposed a penalty on Rajawali according to their customary laws because the company had
cleared land on the Sanggayas burial ground. Fransiskus Kaize, the village head, explained this penalty consisted of a seven million rupiah fine, one pig and twelve kava plants. The Sanggayas Burial ground has
now been cordoned off with a coconut leaf fence to show that it is forbidden to destroy the surrouding areas.
When a company clears forest without permission, it is grabbing land, insulting indigenous traditions and breaking the law. It is only right that the Malind people of Onggari take action to uphold their customary law against such companies.
Available in English at https://awasmifee.potager.org/?p=334
PRESS RELEASE FROM awasMIFEE
April 25, 2012
Announcing the publication of a new report into a major land grab in West Papua:
“An Agribusiness Attack in West Papua: Unravelling the Merauke
Integrated Food and Energy Estate” is now online at:
(direct pdf download: http://awasmifee.potager.org/uploads/2012/03/mifee_en.pdf )
The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) is a vast mega-project, a plan for over a million hectares of plantations and industrialised agriculture that threatens the people and environment across the southern part of West Papua. Indonesian and foreign companies have each claimed their share of the land, and offer the local Malind people next-to-nothing in exchange for the forest that has sustained them for countless generations.
West Papua, where the MIFEE project is set to take place, is a conflict zone. The Papuan people have been struggling for decades for their freedom and self-determination. West Papua is also the next frontier for Indonesia’s plantations industry – after Sumatra and Borneo’s forests have been decimated for the pulp and oil-palm industries, now Papua becomes the target. Although some plantations already exist, MIFEE represents another order of magnitude, opening the floodgates to development projects across Papua in which the losers will be the Papuan people.
awasMIFEE! has been created as an act of solidarity with the social and ecological struggles of the people of Merauke and elsewhere in West Papua. We believe that it is important that people outside of West Papua also know what is happening in Merauke. However, information available about MIFEE can be confusing – much of it comes from different companies and government bodies, and each have their own way of describing the project that fits with their own interests and objectives.
By compiling information from different sources, such as reports from the villages affected, from NGOs and other groups, from Papuan, Indonesian and financial media, from local and national government, and from company websites, we have tried to unravel what MIFEE is likely to mean for the people of Merauke. We hope that a more coherent understanding of how this land grab is taking shape will be of interest to people who are interested in West Papua, in the defence of forests and forest peoples, in the struggles against agro-fuels and against the growth of industrialised agriculture.
Most of all we hope that this information can be the catalyst for action! Our initiative is independent, unconnected to the programs of any NGO, and we hope it can also be a source of inspiration.
The report “An Agribusiness Attack in West Papua : Unravelling the
Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate” is an attempt to give an
overview of the situation in April 2012. It focusses on the following areas:
- Background information – to understand MIFEE in the context of West
- Papua, it’s history and struggles, and the local Malind people.
- What is MIFEE – how MIFEE presents itself as the answer to Indonesia’s food security needs. But is it actually just an excuse for oil palm and logging companies to conquer new territory? A look at the difference between the propaganda and the reality of development in Merauke.
- Reports from villages: A summary of news of what has been happening on the ground around the MIFEE project area, compiled from reports of NGOs that have visited the area, local media and letters sent from villagers.
- Company Profiles: Tracing where the money comes from behind each proposed plantation.
- Which of Indonesia’s top business conglomerates are involved?
- How South Korean companies have been buying up plantations.
- How Australia’s top-selling sugar brand is connected to forest destruction in Papua.
News of further developments will be posted on the website, and from
time to time updates containing news of all recent developments will be published.
[awasMIFEE minta ma'af karena versi Bahasa Indonesia belum siap. Laporan masih dalam proses terjemahan. Semoga dalam waktu dekat kami akan menerbit versi Bahasa Indonesia]
- Concerns of JPIC in Papua regarding the situation in Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
- Rallies reject Indonesian status quo in Papua, and demand referendum (westpapuamedia.info)
Joint Press Release,
14 August 2011
Walhi, Pusaka, Sajogyo Institute, Sorpatom, Papuan NGOs Working Group, Sawit Watch, Aman, Huma, JKPP, KPA, Kontras, Green Peace Indonesia, DtE
MIFEE Project Violates Human Rights
[Translated by TAPOL]
One year after the MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate) Project was launched by the central government, the situation of the people in Merauke has become a matter of grave concern. The indigenous Malind people and the inhabitants in Merauke in general have been threatened and marginalised as a result of the conversion of their land and their ancestral forests by the MIFEE Project.
Research undertaken by Pusaka, called ‘MIFEE does not reflect the aspirations of the Malind people’ drew the conclusion that the MIFEE Project was launched as the illegitimate offspring of the global food crisis for Food, Feed, Fuel and Climate Change (3F and 2C). MIFEE is called the ‘illegitimate offspring’ because it is not a solution that serves the interests of the majority of the people but is the result of a conspiracy between capitalists and the government in search of economic rent side by side with cramped living conditions for the majority of the people. In the words of Emillianus Ola Kleden, a researcher for Pusaka Foundation, the MIFEE programme will have a number of negative impacts on the social and cultural fabric, the demographics, the social and economic conditions and the environment of the people. These negative impacts will also worsen the living conditions of many groups living in the areas affected by the project.
Laksmi A Savitri, a researcher for the Sajogyo Institute, came across facts showing that MIFEE is a development model which makes no provision for improving the living standards of the indigenous people in Merauke and is only focussed on the accumulation of corporate profits. There are three reasons for this, according to Laksmi: firstly, it fails to respect the concept of land and identity which is inseparable from the identity and dignity of the Malind people; secondly, it fails to understand the close links between the Malind people’s system of living and the natural resources and the forests, and assumes that the loss of forestry resources will be replaced by opportunities to work as day labourers for the companies; and thirdly, it pays no attention to the process of meaningful social transformation for the Malind people towards a better life in ways and forms that are defined by the Malind people themselves.
According to Billy Metemko, chairman of Sorpatom Merauke, the Merauke Project has already caused significant damage to the social structure of the customary groups who have lost land where they are able to look for food and fulfil their social needs, like what has happened in Zanegi Kampung in the operational area of PT Medco or Domande Kampung in the operational area of PT Rajawali and Nakias Kampung in the operational area of PT Dongin Prabhawa. The destruction of these forests has resulted in the destruction of traditional symbols, the source of their livelihood, while in the longer term, it will lead to the wholesale destruction and extermination of traditional communities in Merauke.
Since 2010, Sawit Watch and the Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Merauke (SKP-Merauke) have held a number of meetings in kampungs along the border region between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea in South Papua and have discovered that land has been allocated for palm oil plantations on a massive scale. In the district of Merauke, at least 380,887 hectares have been allocated to ten companies, and 320,000 hectares in the district of Boven Digoel where licences have been issued to eight palm oil plantation companies. Opening up the land to palm oil plantations on such a large scale has resulted in forest areas in the south of Papua having been turned into mono-cultural plantations leading to ecological destruction and the permanent and irreversible loss of its vitally important diversity. The presence of traditional communities and indigenous Papuan people whose lives still depend on the forests will eventually be uprooted and marginalised as a consequence of development schemes that fail to take account of local wisdom and culture.
Bearing these conditions in mind, civil society in Indonesia has warned the Indonesian government and parliament, the DPR RI, that this project is more harmful than beneficial. Nevertheless the government seems to have refused to listen to reports about the destruction of the environment, the food culture of the traditional communities and their life spaces and the destruction of Merauke’s forests. Sorpatom (Solidarity of Papuan People Rejecting MIFEE) has on numerous occasions organised activities to reject the presence of MIFEE. Komali (the Community of Traditional Communities) wrote to the Indonesian president last year expressing the same views about MIFEE.
A field visit to Merauke by the environmental NGO WALHI in June 2011 discovered that during the course of the past year, at least one hundred thousand hectares of natural forest in Merauke have been cleared, including sago hamlets which protected food security at all times, regardless of the season, and are very adaptable to changes in the climate. The marshlands are threatened by drought, as a result of which fish, birds and deer that have provided the local people with their source of protein will find it increasingly difficult to enjoy the necessary living space. Eventually, the Economic, Social and Cultural (ECOSOC) rights will become ever more inaccessible to protection and provision by the state. Berry N. Forqan, the national executive director of WALHI, has stated that it is reasonable to say that the Indonesian government should be regarded as having caused the violation of basic human rights with the MIFEE Project.
Sinal Blegur, a member of the Working Group of NGOs in Papua, said that the violation of these ECOSOC rights will ultimately lead to the violation of civil and political rights because MIFEE could potentially pave the way for the security forces to enter the region on a massive scale to protect the operations of the companies.
In view of the above, dozens of local, national and international NGOs have in the past month jointly produced a report to be submitted to the Special Rapporteur of the UN on the Right to Food, drawing attention to threats to the right to food of the traditional communities in Merauke. According to Abet Nego Tarigan, executive director of Sawit Watch, 22 NGOs have so far signed this document, representing the traditional communities in Merauke who are the victims or potential victims of the MIFEE Project The report has also been sent to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the Human Rights Treaties Division.
This means that all civil society organisations which are concerned with the rights and living space for indigenous Papuan people should call on the government to immediately halt all MIFEE activities and Food Estates in general in Indonesia that are damaging the environment and forcing the removal of traditional communities from their traditional land and areas which they manage. The national, provincial and district governments must stop granting location licences to companies and hold an inclusive dialogue, in which the Malind people are central, to discuss the allocation of land, the provision of space and development capital for agriculture, in conformity with social transformation that can bring the Malind people self-reliance and dignity.
All this is intended to ensure that similar operations that have resulted in the massive destruction of the environment which have occurred in Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan and Sulawesi should not be repeated in Papua.
Islah, Manager of the Water and Food Campaign, WALHI;
Frangky Samperante, Director of Psaka;
A Karlo Nainggolan, staff member of Advocacy, Policy and Legal Defence, Sawit Watch;
Laksmi Savitri, Sajogyo Institute;
Sinal Blegur, member of the Working Group of NGOs in Papua.
- AlertNet: Indonesia re-thinks Papua food project – report (westpapuamedia.info)
- Indonesia food security project threatens Papuan way of life – activists (westpapuamedia.info)
- Cabinet minister visits Merauke to promote the MIFEE project (westpapuamedia.info)
- Tempo: Papua MIFEE Project Faces Criticism (westpapuamedia.info)
- Ecosystem in Merauke must be preserved, says agricultural expert (westpapuamedia.info)
JUBI, 16 July 2011 PT Rajawali is planning to establish a sugar factory in two areas in Merauke, Malind district, in Kampung Kaligi and Kampung Domde. The government has already agreed to hand over 37,500 hectares for this purpose. The company is waiting for an agreement on the release of forestry land which is expected to be issued by the Director of Panology (?).
This is likely to happen in August this year. The project manager of PT Rajawali, Abdul Wahab, told JUBI that they were waiting for the AMDAL license. Speaking for the company, Abdul said they had carried out tests on 200 hectares and this will be followed by the hand over of 1,000 hectares. Abdul said that laboratory tests have not yet been conducted because the sugar cane must have grown for at least one year, but he said that, considering the results of the seedling tests, the prospects are very good indeed.
Tests in the nursery have indicated that from one hectare of seedlings, the sugar cane can cover an area of seven hectares. Asked about the work force, Abdul said that their priority would be to employ indigenous people. He said that for the initial tests, local people had been employed for planting the seeds and other jobs. He said that they were urging the company to commence its operations as soon as possible.
- Local people reject PT Nutfa Malind-Papua in Okaba (westpapuamedia.info)
- PT Medco refuses to pay compensation for Papuan land used for three years (westpapuamedia.info)
- Cabinet minister visits Merauke to promote the MIFEE project (westpapuamedia.info)
JUBI: 27 June 2011
On his first visit to Merauke to see preparations for MIFEE, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate, Marie Pangestu, the Minister of Industry and Trade said that the customary rights of the local community should be dealt with first, by issuing certificates, in connection with the MIFEE project that is being developed in the district of Merauke. The land which will be used for planting must be suitable for whatever crops are to be grown there.
The minister was speaking to journalists after flying over the land that will be used for the MIFEE project.
‘I have been closely following the discussions and reports about this projects which have been taking place at the centre. And now, I have come to see things for myself at close range and I have come to the conclusion that the land is very suitable indeed for agricultural production. ‘
He also said that he had received a short account from the Merauke governmental chief about the plans being made for the project, as well as measures for its implementation and land usage. Companies planning to invest can now go ahead to acquire the necessary licences and start planting their crops.
He went on to say that it was now necessary to build the necessary infrastructure, in particular harbours to support the project once it gets underway. For instance, he said, investors who intend to establish palm oil plantations will need harbours of their own.
[COMMENT: The central government will clearly be investing huge sums of money to promote the interests of companies planning to invest in MIFEE. Not at all clear what is meant by issuing certificates to the local communities whose customary rights to the land will be sacrificed as investors are invited to grab their land with little regard for the loss of their livelihoods based on hunting and fishing. No mention either about whether the rightful owners of the land will be granted any compensation for the loss of their land and the destruction of their livelihoods. TAPOL]
- PT Medco refuses to pay compensation for Papuan land used for three years (westpapuamedia.info)
- Local people reject PT Nutfa Malind-Papua in Okaba (westpapuamedia.info)
UNITED FRONT OF STRUGGLE OF THE PEOPLE OF WEST PAPUA [Eknas Front PEPERA PB]
‘SAFEGUARDING THE HISTORY OF THE MORNING STAR’
The mega project, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate – MIFEE – was announced on 18 February 2010 by the former Bupati of Merauke, J.G
Gebze and officially launched on 11 August 2010 by the Minister of Agriculture, Siswono Yodohusodo on behalf of the President. The project
will involve 36 investors, 13 of whom are already operating in the area. The project will cover an area of 2.5 million hectares and bring into
the area a work force of four million people.
MIFEE will have an impact on every aspect of the lives of all indigenous Papuan people, particularly the Anim Ha customary people in South Papua.
The project which has been declared a National Food Granary is unacceptable to the local communities. On 8 August 2010, the customary
Ha Anim people sent a letter to President Yudhoyono but the Indonesian State has ignored the Ha Anim people’s rejection of this project.
The attitude of the government is in contravention of the principles of democracy that have been adopted by the Indonesian state. Any legal
instrument or policy that the government intends to adopt must conform with genuine democratic mechanisms. We herewith make seven points that
would comply with these democratic mechanisms, which the government should take account of in the implementation of this project:
One, in recognition of the aspirations of the people, any government policy should be acceptable to the people after having been made public.
In the case of MIFEE, this has not happened. The MIFEE project was on the working agenda of the SBY-Budiono regime for a hundred days and it
was never made public. The decision to launch the MIFEE project did not involve the people who have customary rights over the land; there were
no meaningful negotiations in compliance with rights and responsibilities taking into account the needs of the people. In other
words, the government and the investors regard this region of Papua as being land that doesn’t belong to anyone. The government and the
investors are not interested in the people but only in the land and its natural resources.
Two, the aspirations of the people as well as the policy of the government should be drawn up within a legal framework. In the case of
MIFEE, the interests of the Indonesian state are involved and therefore during the one hundred day period, the SBY-Budiono government entered
into a Memorandum of Understanding – MoU – with the foreign investors, after which the MoU was adopted as a draft regional regulation – RAPERDA
- of the district of Merauke.
Three, the results of these decisions should have been discussed with the people. In the case of MIFEE, neither the MoU nor the RAPERDA were
discussed with the people. Nor did the plans that were drawn up involve the customary people, the owners of the land. Neither the Indonesian
government nor the local government did anything to publicise the MoU or the RAPERDA.
Four, adoption of the legal documents. The MoU entered into by the SBY-Budiono government during the one hundred day preparatory period was
adopted as Regional Regulation (Perda) No 23 by the Bupati of Merauke, John Gluba Gebze.
Five, there was no announcement of the decision that had been taken regarding the MIFEE project. As is always the case in Papua, the
decisions were not made known to the people: neither the MoU nor the Perda were made known to the customary owners of the land.
Six, adoption of a legal decision. The announcement of the MIFEE project by John Gluba Getze on 12 February, 2010, the 108^th anniversary of the
town of Merauke, was officially announced on 11 August 2010 by the minister of agriculture, Siswono on behalf of the President of Indonesia.
Seven, should the decision fail to comply with the interests of the people, it should be revoked, either because (a) it is ineffective or
(b) the decision in question should be amended if it is lacking in any material way. In the case of MIFEE, the Indonesian state closed its ears
to the many protests made by the indigenous people, by observers and by NGO activists. This is obvious from the fact that thirteen companies are
already operating in Merauke.
As regards the social implications, the number of inhabitants in each kampong could decline sharply and they will become a minority as
compared to ethnic groups brought in from outside Papua, a situation that will become even worse with the arrival of four million low-paid
workers, some of whom have already arrived and who will continue to arrive to work on the MIFEE project. The companies and the government
have never involved the local communities in any decision-making or other mechanisms in compliance with the basic daily needs and customs of
the local communities. The local inhabitants have become mere spectators. These violations have become part of the ‘culture’ of the
companies and the government with MIFEE serving the interests of the Indonesian state and the foreign investors. As a result, social problems
are emerging, such as ethnic cleansing or genocide which infringe the ethical and moral principles of the local tribes and the indigenous
Papuan people in general.
In view of all the above and in order to safeguard the people and land of Papua from the threat posed by the mega MIFEE project, a meeting was
held on 4 June at the OFS Convent, attended by young Papuans and students, primarily from South Papua . It was decided to set up the
Papuan People’s Solidarity to Reject MIFEE or SORPATOM.
One of its activities was the public discussion held on 11 August in Jayapura the theme of which was: ‘Investments in Papua, especially
MIFEE: A catastrophe or a blessing for the Indigenous Papuan people?’
In view of the threats posed by investments, in particular the MIFEE Mega Project, we hereby declare:
1. We support the position adopted by the Ha Nim indigenous people and their sympathisers who reject the MIFEE project on their land
because it poses a threat to the right to life of the local communities.
2. We urge the Indonesian state – SBY – to repeal the MoU about MIFEE.
3. We urge the local government to immediately revoke PERDA No 23 about MIFEE.
4. We call on the provincial assembly, the DPRP, to hold a hearing attended by all those affected, to discuss the MIFEE project.
5. We call on all those who are concerned with safeguarding the people and the land to close ranks and reject every form of
investment which poses a threat to the right to life of the local communities, especially the MIFEE project.
Port Numbay, Thursday, 30 September 2010
[Translated by TAPOL]
6 August 2010
Jayapura: Already 30 percent of Papuan forests have been destroyed according to Benja Viktor Mambai, director of WWF Sahul Jayapura, speaking at a seminar in Jayapura. This means that close attention needs to be paid to the impact of future development projects.
‘While this means that 70 percent of Papuan forests are still preserved, this can be seriously affected if care is not taken,’ he said. He also spoke about the incomparable richness of Papua’s forests, its rich flora and fauna , the importance of the environment within the forests as well as their social and cultural aspects.
He said that research was going on to discover yet more unknown species in Papua.
‘Given the richness of its natural resources, we need not be afraid of development but the most important thing is to ensure that development takes account of these social and cultural factors as well as sustainability.’
He said that sustainability of the forests must keep in mind the sustainability of the social and cultural factors.
[Comment: These words were spoken on the eve of the launch of the MIFEE project which will profoundly affect the sustainability of the way of life of Papua's indigenous inhabitants, as pointed out in a press release issued today by TAPOL and Down to Earth.]
Bintang Papua, 8 August 2010
Plan to build 3,100 kms of road
Jakarta: The public works department of the Indonesian Republic is planning to build 3,100 kms of road across the province of Papua,according to Diaz Gwijangge, member of Commission X of the Indonesia parliament.
‘Many parts of the province are very isolated,’ he said, ‘added to which is the fact that because of the topography, many places are inaccessible either by air, sea or land.’
He said that if the government in Jakarta is serious about developing Papua to the level achieved in other parts of the country, building roads is part of the solution.
He told Bintang Papua that the main focus of the road building programme will be on ‘strategic’ roads.
He went on to say that besides the lack of infrastructure, Papua was also very much behind other parts of the country in the availability of education and health facilities and in empowering the local communities. All these are matters to which the central government should pay proper attention, he said.
He went on to say that Papua has enormously rich natural resources which make a huge contribution to the Indonesian state. ‘Yet, unfortunately, the people of Papua living in poverty and physical isolation. These are serious matters that must be attended to by Jakarta.’
Minister of Public Works Djoko Kirmanto explained that what meant by ‘strategic roads’. was roads that link the main centres of economic activity. ‘The products of the province can be exported through the ports of Merauke or Jayapura.
[Comment: It would be interesting to know the extent to which the Indonesian state depends on the revenue and dividends received from the Freeport mining of Papua's copper and gold while cmmunities in the vicinity of the mine were forced to leave their land to make way for the company's operations, with little to show for it in terms of their standard of living. TAPOL]