In Muting, near Merauke, oil palm company PT Agriprima Cipta Persada (ACP) is expanding its plantation area by clearing forest on which local indigenous people hold customary ownership rights.
Previously in 2013, PT ACP had already cut down the forest and cleared around 2000 hectares of land, allocated to the local transmigrant population but some distance from their village, to plant oil palm.
The forestry ministry still has not accepted PT ACP’s request to release land (currently classified as production forest that can be converted) from the state forest estate. Even without the permits, the company has continued to clear the forest around the Alfasera 4 transmigration area, and the area cleared continues to increase.
At the border of the forest belonging to Alfasera 3, the head of the Ndiken Malindan clan, Pius Ndiken, has planted poles which are a traditional symbol to forbid the company to undertake activities in the forest for which his clan holds the customary rights. The pole is wooden, and is tied with coconut leaves, with red paint around the tip, driven into the ground around the forest’s edge.
“We are making this customary blockade because the company is not keeping to its promises to resource the local population”, said Pius Ndiken. Pius had previously been recruited as one of ACP’s security guards, but was forced to leave his job because there was no indication that the company was going to fulfil the promises it had made, for example to build housing, help to pay for education and because the company was not paying a reasonable wage.
According to Paulus Ndiken, former village head in Muting, the reason the people are blocking the company is because they know that the land which has been ceded to the company [by other clans] is actually part of the territory of two transmigration settlements, and not ‘adat forest’ [where the indigenous people are the undisputed owners].