Communities Should Decide First, Before Permits are Issued

By AwasMifee

Published: September 9, 2014


Indigenous people in Okaba think the government is disrespecting and ignoring the rights of indigenous Marind communities to information, and to take their own decisions about whether or not to surrender land rights.

According to Gerardus Kaize, a Marind community leader from Okaba district, before the government issues any location permits the community should be able to decide whether they want plantations. “The government and companies should come and talk to the community and give them information, and then the community should discuss these proposals according to our customary law and come to our decsion, because this land has owners, it is not some empty wasteland”, he said.

Gerardus Kaize conveyed this opinion as a criticism of the government policy after receiving a circular letter and notice from the head of the Regional Environmental Management Agency for Papua Province, which asked for written suggestions, opinions and responses from the community about granting an Environmental Permit to PT Wahana Samudera Sentosa to use forest wood for an industrial timber plantation (HTI) over 79,006 hectaares in Ngguti and Okaba districts, which was issued by the Merauke Bupati (elected regency leader) in his decision document 133/2014 on 20th March 2014.

The government and company have yet to sit down together with the villagers and discuss in detail the planned industrial timber plantation or reach an agreement with the community. How can the community give their suggestions or responses if they have not been given any information about what the company wants to do?

“It’s just about keeping the people in a state of ignorance. However good a government land-management program might be, it is bound to fail if it does not involve the community, that’s why we are asking for the industrial tree plantation to be delayed until the community has discussed it and come to a decision.” Gerardus Kaize said. He is also a well-known educator and was a successful candidate in the Merauke District Legislative Assembly elections this year.

Community aspirations are that they do not wish to give up their rights to their land and forests, and the reason is because forest is the source of the Malind indigenous people’s livelihood, which the community wants to use for their own benefit. “We don’t need money, but we do need the forest to be able to continue our livelihoods and for future generations,“ Gerardus Kaize said.

Source: Pusaka

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