Monthly Archives: February 2014

Photo Essay: JPIC reveals abuses at Mam plantations of PT Dongin Prabhawa

A Report of a Visit to PT Dongin Prabhawa’s Plantation at Mam from our partners at AwasMifee and JPIC.

February 19, 2014

mam6A recent visit to Mam to monitor the latest developments around PT Dongin Prabhawa’s oil palm plantation near the south bank of the Digoel River in Merauke has revealed several concerns, from irregularities in the logging plan and ill-treatment of workers to human rights abuses.

PT Dongin Prabhawa is a subsidiary of the Korindo Group, which has several other oil palm and forestry businesses along the Digoel River.

The monitoring by JPIC MSC Indonesia revealed that PT Dongin Prabhawa had been clearing the forest and taking the wood on barges to Korindo’s plywood factory upriver in Asiki.  An employee working as logging coordinator claimed that there were some irregularities in the work – the company was supposed to only log the areas assigned in its 2012 annual work plan during 2013, but actually logged the areas in the 2013 work plan as well. Although logging was not currently taking place at the time of the visit, logs were piled up in several places, including three log piles at the port. In other parts of the concession oil palm had already been planted.

The presence of police and military in the area were giving cause for concern. It was reported that on the 12th December 2013, two policemen from the Okaba police station who were assigned as security for PT Dongin Prabhawa at Mam, confiscated liquor from three local vendors after a search. The three local people were ordered to report regularly to the police station, but the police officers resold the alcohol to local customary landowners, also getting drunk with them.

Gambling with dice also takes place around the PT Dongin Prabhawa plantation and two police officers are involved in this. Addiction to gambling and alcohol often causes serious social problems in indigenous communities and so it is highly irresponsible of the police to promote such practices, and make money from them.

The Indonesian Army and Navy are stationed at Bade, a 30 minute speedboat ride away across the river. As has previously been reported, several young men, who may have been drinking, have recently been arrested and beaten up by the military in this area.

Another case of abuse by the military was reported on 13th February. It was claimed that the previous day a company employee originally from the Kei islands in South-East Maluku, was arrested in PT Dongin Prabhawa’s Division Two and tortured by a member of the Army.

There was also evidence of a worrying disregard for worker’s health and safety. Workers stationed at Division Two are drinking water from holes dug by diggers. The workers have complained about this. What is worse, chemical fertilizers are being used close to these water sources.

During the last three months (December to February) PT Dongin Prabhawa had not given either contracted nor casual workers the foodstuffs they were entitled to.

Some photos of the area are shown below, taken in January/ February 2014. All photos courtesy of WF from Papuan Voices and JPIC MSC Indonesia.

You can view the entire set here also at Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/103590506@N06/

mam5 mam4 mam3 mam2 mam1

SKP: An Oil Palm Plantation is Threatening the Kamoro People in Mimika

from Bintang Papua

February 15, 2014

The Justice and Peace Secretariat (Sekretariat Keadilan dan Perdamaian – SKP) of Timika Diocese in Papua are worried about how the environmental impacts of PT Pusaka Agro Lestari clearing forest for an oil palm plantation could affect the survival of the Kamoro people along the coast of Mimika Regency.

The co-ordinator of SKP in the Timika Diocese, Saul Wanimbo, told the Antara News Agency on Thursday that clearing the forest near to Iwaka and as far as the headwaters on the Timika-Paniai road to make way for PT PAL’s oil palm plantation could affect the Kamoro people’s survival.

The Kamoro people have always relied on sago palms, canoes and rivers, the key elements of their continued existence.

“I can’t imagine how it will be for the Kamoro people living along the shore in five to ten years time. They are bound to suffer as a result of the presence of oil palm upstream,” said Saul.

He said that the SKP Timika Diocese was in the process of compiling the necessary data and information to hold a seminar on the effects of oil palm investment in Mimika, to which they would invite experts and government bodies.

Based on the experience of Keerom, Jayapura, Manokwari and Sorong, where oil palm has been developed since the 1980s, he said, this industry brought absolutely no economic benefit to Papuan indigenous communities.

“We want to ask what benefits oil palm has brought to build up the economy of Papuan indigenous people over the years? Not one Papuan has seen a positive economic improvement as oil palm plantations have moved in,” said Saul.

According to him, the lack of economic benefits which indigenous Papuans have received from oil palm is due to the Papuan methods of farming, which are still very traditional if compared to other areas. Farmers in Papua, he says, are not yet familiar with techniques of permanent cultivation, and still keep shifting their cultivated plots from one area to another.

As well as this, he said, the majority of ethnic groups in Papua still rely foodstuffs that they obtain from the natural environment .

If forest areas are destroyed, felled in the interest of new oil palm plantations, then the ecosystem which supports the people’s livelihood will be damaged or even lost for ever.

“We are asking that local government act wisely and treat this problem seriously. Maybe the effects are not yet visible, but in a few years we will reap the problems. The government must be firm and put a stop to this investment if it doesn’t want the people to suffer”, said Saul.

He added that SKP groups throughout Papua have declared war on oil palm investment because it also provides no benefits for forest conservation.

Despite several workshops and seminars to which experts and decision-makers were invited, local governments in Papua seem incapable of taking on investment in the guise of oil palm.  According to data from the Mimika forestry service, PT PAL plan to develop a 38000 hectare oil palm plantation from Iwaka District to West Mimika District.

The company is in possession of a cultivation rights permit (HGU) from the government and a permit to operate from the Mimika Bupati since 2007.

English Translation by awasMifee

[awasMIFEE note: In 2011 PT Pusaka Agro Lestari was bought by the Noble Group, a company which trades in agricultural commodities, and has only recently started investing in oil palm plantations. PT Pusaka Agro Lestari is its second plantation in Papua, after PT Henrison Inti Persada in Sorong]

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.

Blasius Sumaghai beaten by Indonesian Navy Officers in Bade, Mappi

February 20, 2014

from our partners AwasMifee, Majalah Selangkah,plus trusted sources in Mappi interviewed by both AwasMifee and West Papua Media

Mappi, Majalah Selangah – Blasius Sumaghai (23 years old), a resident of Bade village, Edera District, Mappi, Papua has been beaten by members of the Indonesian Navy. The reasons for the beating were not clear.

According to information compiled by majalahselangkah.com, Blasius
Sumaghai, the son of the late Abraham Sumaghai who was an Awyu community leader, was beaten by several Navy officers on the 26th January 2014. The beating meant that Blasius Sumaghai was unable to walk for four days. He is still in a fairly serious state of trauma.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The incident reportedly started as Blasius Sumaghai was seated outside a kiosk on Jalan Duyumu in Bade Village. Suddenly two Navy officers who were stationed at the Bade Navy outpost showed up. They showed no initial courtesy, just directly started striking the victim on his back and chest using the butts of their rifles

After the beating, our source said that the victim was brought to the
Navy outpost on a motorbike. On arrival at the outpost, he was beaten
over his whole body using rifle butts and hosepipes.  He suffered serious injuries.

It is reported that Blasius Sumaghai is not the only person to have suffered violent harrassment at the hands of the Navy.  Yustinus Akabagaimu, the 27-year-old son of local teacher Xaverius  Akabagaimu, has also been beaten up without any clear reason.

Yustinus is currently unable to walk as a result of the beating he
received. Several victims of harassment are unable to bring a case
against the perpetrators either because of fear or because they don’t
know to whom they should bring their complaint.

Majalah Selangkah‘s credible informant has said that that members of the security forces have often carried out beatings of young men in Bade when residents have reported that the men have done something wrong.

“But that’s what the police are for. What is Bade Police station doing?
The police are clearly tasked with maintaining law and order. The Navy’s role is to fight wars against other countries. Why should the navy take over the Police’s job right in front of their face? It’s very strange”, said the aforementioned source, sounding surprised.

The police in the Bade Police Station reportedly cannot be counted upon to maintain law and order in the area. As the community were celebrating Christmas 2009, the festive season which should be full of happiness was tainted by the murder of a young local man, Stefanus Silooy (38). He was killed by three police officers. This incident ended up with the community destroying the local police station.

In fact, a naval outpost in Bade is not strategic for national defence, because Bade is located on the shore of the Digoel River, and not on the coast. The town should really be guarded by a water-borne police unit.

So why is the Indonesian Navy present in Bade? Actually they are there to demand tribute from plywood and palm oil companies:  the Korindo group in Asiki which has been operating since the nineties and PT MAM* which has recently commenced operations near Bade.

Bade is a strategic port town, because all the plywood and Crude Palm Oil produced by PT Korindo in Asiki can only be transported by one route, the Digoel River. Bade represents the entrance and exit to this river system.

Source: Majalah Selangkah

[awasMIFEE / WPM note: a source (also in contact with WPM directly)  in Mappi has interviewed the victim and passed on these photos of his injuries, and also a letter from Blasius Sumaghai and his family addresses to the Governor of Papua Province, reproduced below in English. WPM has translated it despite the content being very similar to the Majalah Selangkah article above, and it is worth highlighting that the family request action be taken against the perpetrator and to close down the Navy Outpost.

*The article mentions a company named PT MAM, but this is slightly erroneous. MAM is the name of the location where another Korindo subsidiary PT Dongin Prabhawa has an oil palm plantation. Bade is on the Mappi side of the Digoel river, but lies close to the border with Merauke Regency – PT Dongin Prabhawa’s plantation is also just a few kilometres away.]

Open Letter: And so the Inhumane Cruelty of Indonesian Armed Forces Against Papuans Continues…..

By SOURCE in Bade, Mappi Regency in West Papua

15 February 2014

It seems the bitterly cruel treatment of the Papuan indigenous community by the Indonesian armed forces will never come to an end. This time their cruelty has been unleashed on a young 23 year old man by the name of Blasius Sumaghai from Bade in the regency of Mappi in the far southern region of Papua. The incident involved use of brutal unrestrained violence against Blasius by two members of the Indonesian Marine Corps on 26 January 2014. Blasius is the son of a well known figure from the Awyu Tribe called Abraham Sumagahai and had done no wrong whatsoever that could have given reason for the ruthless attack by the marines. The attack on Blasius left him severely traumatized and unable to even walk for four days following the incident.

The incident occurred when Blasius was sitting in front of a kiosk (at Duyumu Road in Bade) at around 1945 hours on 26 January. Two members of the Marine Corps working at the Bade Post approached him without clear reason and started viciously beating him, striking him across his back and chest with their rifle butts. They then forced him into their vehicle and took him to their military post. They continued to strike him over his entire body with their rifle butts and a hose, leaving wounds over his entire body.

Blasius is by no means the first victim of such cruel tyranny by the Indonesian Marines in Bade. There have been numerous young people from the Bade Papuan indigenous community who had suffered seriously at the hands of the Marines in Bade but whose names cannot be mentioned due to their fears of retaliation. Many have no idea to whom they could possibly safely report things that have happened. To name just one, another 27 year old man Yustinus Akabagaimu (son of the local school teacher Xaverius Akabagaimu) was beaten so mercilessly by the Indonesian Marines in 2013that he is no longer able to walk to this date.

A trustworthy source stated that the brutal treatment of local Papuan youth by the Marines usually occurs due to a citizen having made a report to the Military Post that a certain youth has done something wrong, following which the Marines immediately find and arrest the youth, beating them far beyond the limits of what is humanitarian.

To understand what’s really going on behind these regular incidents of unwarranted violence against citizens, once must question the very existence of a prime Indonesian Military post in Bade. It’s hardly needed for national defense reasons, as Bade is located on the edge of the Digul River. It’s not as if it’s a strategic location bordering with another nation or the like. So why should the second largest base for the Indonesian Marine Corps in the entire southern region of Papua be located on the edge of a river in Bade? The answer lies in the fact that the location enables the forces to demand ‘tribute’ from the nearby multinational plywood and oil-palm company Korindo (in Assiki) and also from a second company which has recently been opened at a location also close to Bade. In terms of Indonesian economics Bade is a key location for these companies as their products are shipped out only along the River Digul. There is not only an Indonesian Marine Corps Post at Bade but also a Police Post, a Regular Military Post (TNI), an Indonesian Army Shore Unit (TNI-AD).

The community leaders of the Papuan community of Bade in response to the frequent violence by the Marine Corps against the indigenous Papuan community, call on the Governor of Papua Lukas Enembe :

i) To immediately take stern disciplinary action against those members of the Marine Corps in Bade who have been unleashing brutal cruelty against the indigenous people of Bade.
ii) To close the Indonesian Marine Corps Post in Bade
iii) To carry out an investigation as to the reasons for the existence of the Marine Corps Post located at Bade on the banks of the Digul River.

Footnote :

Bade is located in the south of Papua in the district of Edera in the Mappi Regency which borders the region of Merauke.

Papuan cultural parade blockaded then broken up by Jayapura Police

From KNPB and West Papua Media sources in Jayapura

February 20, 2014

https://westpapuamediaalerts.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/565e1-dscf2364.jpg
Traditional Cultural Action, Jayapura, 17 February 2014

A cultural parade organised by university students in Jayapura was blockaded and then dispersed with force by Indonesian police on February 17, after Indonesian police refused to recognise West Papuan cultural expression.

The demonstration of culture, music, art and dance from across Papua’s indigenous tribes, in which several hundred students in two groups marched wearing traditional Papuan dress, was to highlight the demand of “Save the Papuan Culture”.  The manifestation was organised by the Youth Coalition for the Rise of Students (Koalisi Pemuda mahasiswa bangkit or KPMB) and the Cenderawasih University’s (Uncen) Student Executive Body (Badan Eksekutif Mahasiswa or BEM).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Speakers, songs and dances were performed from 8-10am local time in two locations, outside the Uncen Waena Housing Complex (Perumnas III) and in front of the post office in the town of Abepura, and at 10am, the Perumnas III mass began to march and dance their way to Abepura.

However Police blockaded the mass action once the crowd reached the Waena traffic lights.  Despite having previously notified police of their intention to hold the parade, field coordinators of the action were forced to negotiate with the police, pointing to the KPMB’s intention to hold a peaceful action that day in the form of Papuan cultural art.

However, in an outburst witnessed by a West Papua Media stringer, the Deputy Commander of the Jayapura District Police, the notorious hardliner Kiki Kurnia refused to let the gathering continue, warning the crowd that he would not tolerate “introducing some culture from an unknown place”.  “There is no such culture such as that in Indonesia,” Kurnia asserted, dismissing over 45,000 years of Papuan language, culture and art.

Kurnia then prohibited the students from displaying any form of Papuan culture, and further stated that the crowd “was prohibited from carrying out any action of any form whatsoever as the Governor had prohibited all forms of actions,”. according to independent sources and verified by WPM.  Just after 10am local time, ordered several platoons of heavily armed police to blockade and disperse the cultural gathering.  Several injuries were reported but unconfirmed.

After being forcefully dispersed,  a much larger mass returned and gathered in front of UNCEN’s main entrance, lighting a bonfire on the road in response.  According to witnesses, this crowd was spread out as far as Perumnas III in Waena, a distance of several kilometres.

According to the cultural event organisers, the crowd outside UNCEN was angrily voicing their objections to the continued silencing of the democratic space throughout all of Papua by the Police, with speakers expressing outrage at the betrayal of the culture of Papua.

“That the police had been obstructing the mass action stating ‘Where are you bringing this culture from? We don’t have any culture like that in Indonesia’ angered us all, as it is seen as a denial of the Papuan culture,” an organiser told West Papua National Committee (KNPB) media workers.

Members of the gathering clearly spoke out that if the police continued to betray and deny Papuan culture in such a way, that Papuans would mount an even larger scale action asserting the Papuan culture, and that they would boycott the 2014 presidential election, according to reports from the KNPB.  The action Coordinator Beny Wetipo then called upon the Papuan community and all parties to save the Papuan culture from being replaced by a foreign culture that was threatening the existence of the Papuan race.