MIFEE project violates human rights: Joint press release

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.

ALDB: On 17 August, Freedom for Papua?


Since the beginning of August 2011, Papuan people have been confronted
by a series of violent actions, which have occurred one after the other.
On some occasions, activities in the community have stopped altogether
then its back to normal, with people going to their offices, to the
market, to school and to places of worship. There is hardly anywhere
that can be said to be safe. No one seems to be sure that Jayapura is safe.

Since 1 August, nothing has been normal. Shots were fired at vehicles on
11 and 15 August in Abe Pantai. On 16 August at crack of dawn, flags
were flown and there were attacks against civilians in BTN Tanah Hitam
Soon afterwards, people were chased while there were armed clashes from
5.30am till 11am. There was panic and children were sent home from
school. No one could guarantee that these acts of violence would end
some time soon.

Police and army have been seen driving in patrol vehicles on the
streets, while soldiers have been seen in cars or walking in the street
with rifles at the ready. Apart from all this, unknown people have been
mobilised in public places, not in great numbers but such things have
never happened before.

Armed violence in Papua has been occurring not only in places like
Puncak Jaya or around the Freeport mine but also in Jayapura, especially
in Abepura, Tanah Hitam, Nafri and its surroundings.Violence has even
come close to our homes. One colleague said: ‘Be careful when leaving
home because you could become a victim because these sporadic actions
are being targeted against anyone in order to spread fear.’

People are afraid that these acts of violence are aimed at creating the
conditions for a major incident that is about to occur. The thing to be
avoided at all costs is for these acts of provocation to lead to a
horizontal conflict.

The location of the incidents and the close sequence of the events has
spread fear among people, with strange ideas spreading because those
responsible are still roaming freely even though operations have been

‘It’s all a question of politics,’ said a driver in Arso13 who had a bad
personal experience because of the event on 1 August in Nafri. He had
passed through Nafri one hour earlier on his way to market and was also
taking his sick brother to Jayapura for treatment. Another trader said:
‘Why is it so difficult to catch the perpetrators when the incidents
occurred near a garden or in a residential area?’

These two people may not be able to analyse these events but what they
are saying is representative of the thoughts of people who simply do not
understand why ordinary people can be the target of acts of violence.
When they speak like this, it means that they want the government to
deal with the problems being faced by their fellow citizens. These
people are not just a statistic; they are an important component for
creating peace in Papua. They are calling on the government to do
something serious to protect its citizens.

During investigations by a joint team set up by the army and the police
consisting of about 300 people, the police identified nineteen people
who will be charged for the Nafri incident on 1 August, based on a
document that was discovered when they were hunting a group in the Nafri
mountains which is alleged to be the place where members of the TNP/OPM
led by Danny Kogoya are active. He is also alleged to have been
responsible for the Nafri incident in November 2010. Those who were
responsible must have been very clever indeed because those incidents
occurred in a very public place and within a very short period.

Whatever is being done to solve these cases of violence in Papua is a
great mystery. Even in the case of incidents that occurred in an open
place like Nafri, the perpetrators have not yet been caught .Things are
much more problematic in places like Tingginambut in Puncak Jaya. All
this is a great challenge to the capability of the police. In other
parts of the country, they have been praised for their ability to combat
terrorism with support from various international agencies. But what is
happening in Papua is a paradox..

Can we be sure about the way the police are handling these acts of
violence here in Papua? Are they themselves confident of their ability
to deal with these acts of violence? They need maximum support to ensure
that the results of their investigations will lead to formal proceedings
in a court of law.

17 August is the 66th anniversary of Indonesian independence. The
red-and-white flag will be flying everywhere to mark the day of
independence, but in our hearts there is nothing but fear. It is the
responsibility of the civil government to deal with all these acts of
violence in Papua instead of busying themselves all the time with the
election of the governor. Without realising it, their authority is
simply reduced to concerns about their political interests while
reproducing provocations that lead to acts of violence.

KomnasHAM-Papua condemns recent violence and makes recommendations

Bintang Papua. 15 August 2011

Jayapura: Komnas HAM, the National Human Rights Commission has condemned the brutal actions by unidentified people against innocent civilians as well as members of the security forces.that have occurred since June in
the province of Papua.

The chairman of Komnas HAM’s office in Papua, Julles R.A Onggen SH, together with other members of the commission called a press conference to discuss the security situation in Papua. They said that the significant increase in acts of violence was very worrying indeed, particular because of its impact on the need to safeguard peace in Papua.

They made the following points and recommendations:

First, they strongly condemned the many acts of violence perpetrated by unidentified persons towards the civilian population and members of the
armed forces acting in the course of their duties.

Second, they called on the police to take action speedily and objectively in accordance with the laws in force regarding acts of violence, while at the same time not forgetting to use the cultural approach in accordance with the terms of special autonomy to minimise these acts of violence.

Third, the Commission has set up a joint team consisting of the Komnas HAM, the DPRP, the provincial government of Papua, local governments, the churches and NGOs to investigate these acts of violence, each making their own specific contribution.

Fourth, it called upon all sections of the community to remain calm, not to be provoked, to live peacefully together, respecting each other in order to safeguard security.

Fifth, to request the military commander of Kodam XVII to clarify the issue of the KINGMI Church and it will set up a team to investigate the matter.

Sixth, in accordance with the provisions of article 34 of the Constitution, the Commission will seek the commitment of the national government as well as local governments to provide social security for the dispossessed, the poor, the street children and the unemployed people.

Seventh: in connection with the sixth point, to call upon the provincial government to put this into practice in accordance with the special autonomy law.

Other points dealt with the recognition of collective rights, including the need for peace, for development and for a healthy and clean environment. The provincial government should also ensure that civil and political rights are safeguarded, such as the right to compensation for those whose rights have been violated, freedom of thought and freedom of religion.

It also called on the provincial government to safeguard people’s economic, political and social rights, freedom from fear and impoverishment and from racial discrimination, the right to get a job with a decent wage.

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