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An Agribusiness Attack in West Papua: Unravelling the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate

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:
http://awasmifee.potager.org
(direct pdf download: http://awasmifee.potager.org/uploads/2012/03/mifee_en.pdf )

AwasMIFEE

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]

A Food Project Invasion in West Papua: Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE)

http://www.wri-irg.org/node/12386

War Profiteer of the Month:

Merauke Integrated Food & Energy Estate (MIFEE)

– A Food Project Invasion in West Papua

18 Mar 2011 — javier

Rosa Moiwend

Background

Papua is the western half of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island, located about 200 km from the north of Australia. When the Dutch colonised this territory, it called it Dutch New Guinea. The name of this territory has changed over time according to its political status. The Papuan political leaders then changed the name of Dutch New Guinea to West Papua when they prepared for the self-government of this territory in 1961. As soon as the Dutch left in 1962, Indonesia took over the territory, and then West Papua became one of the Indonesian provinces, called Irian Jaya. In 1999, the demand for independence from Papuans increased. In 2001 the Indonesian government granted a Special Autonomy status for Papua under law number 21, and accepted the original name of Papua. Yet, the autonomous status does not mean self-government. All development policies are still under the control of Jakarta, including the policy over investment in natural resources. Moreover, Papua is the only province of Indonesia which it is still identified as a conflict zone under the national defence policy after East Timor became an independent country in 1999 and after Acheh Province signed a Peace Agreement in 2008.

After nine years of Special Autonomy, Papuans realised that this status does not provide significant changes in many aspects of their life. Moreover, the Indonesian government controls the regulation of investment in natural resources by opening easy access for multinational companies to exploit the abundant minerals and forests. Some multinational corporations such as Freeport McMoran, a US giant mining company, plan long-term investment and spend huge amounts of money on security using Indonesian military from the Special Forces (Kopassus) and police. The UK/US company BP and some Korean and Chinese companies, are on the list of investors as well. The Indonesian government through its programme to save energy and deal with the world food crisis plans to open up a massive area of land in the southern part of Papua with a mega-project on food and bio-energy called MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate). Since the demand for independence and the various demands for indigenous people’s rights cause opposition to the investors, the government uses a military approach as the only way to stop the conflict. After Freeport McMoran, MIFEE would be the next disaster for Papua. This article will portray a small part of the struggle over Food and Bio Energy project in Papua.

Malind, one of the indigenous communities in Merauke

Merauke is the southern part of Papua, covered by swampy forest with many rivers flowing down, mixed with massive savannah. The ecosystem in this region is unique. According to WWF, Merauke is one of the important places in the New Guinea Trans Fly Eco-region with its abundant bio-diversity.

Local tribes who have been living in the region are the Malind, Muyu and Mandobo, as well as Mappi and Auyu. The Malin tribe is one of the tribes most affected by the Food and Energy project. Some missionaries and anthropologists such as EB Savage from London Missionary Society, AC Haddon and Van Baal from the Netherlands, wrote in the early of 19th century about the Malind people in the region1. Malind people identify themselves according to their Dema (ancestors). They believe that some places in Merauke are sacred, as Demas had visited that place on their journey. More than that, they believe that ancestors live there so they should protect that place and give their respect to it. If they disobey, they will get a customary sanction which bring bad things in their lives. These beliefs are transferred from generation to generation. Malind recognised each other according to the symbols of clans. There are six big clans with their own symbols; Gebze with coconut, Mahuze with the sagoo palm, Basik with a pig, Samkakai with a kangaroo, Kaize with a cassowary and Balagaise with a falcon bird. These symbols integrated with the customary rules that control and influence their lives. Losing one of the symbols in nature means losing their identity.

Malind people have their own mechanism for using their natural resources. Each clan has its own customary territory that functions as a hunting place, for gardening, as a fishing ground, and to settle. Each place has a boundary that doesn’tt appear on the government map of land rights. All explanations and knowledge of customary matters are found in their customary law. If the sacred places and boundaries are lost, it means that internal conflict between clans might happen. This is the reason for the importance of keeping the customary boundaries and sacred places.

Merauke Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE)

In 2009, when a food and energy crisis hit the world in connection with global warming, the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhyono, declared his goal of feeding “Indonesia and the world” by developing a food and energy estate in Merauke, Papua. As a mean of stabilising the security of Indonesia’s food, the project – called Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate, or MIFEE — covers 1.6 million hectares of commercial plantations. Merauke has been designated a national Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in order to attract the $8.6 billion of investment needed for the project. MIFEE is one of the priority programmes of the second term of his presidency (2009 to 2014).

To fulfill its ambition, the government of Indonesia has invited multinational companies from the Middle East, Asia, and the US, as well as from Indonesia. More than 30 companies confirmed their interest in this project and have already received concessions from the Indonesian government. Some, such as the Bin Laden Group from Saudi Arabia, announced their interest in spending 43 million dollars for 500,000 hectares of land on rice fields in Merauke. Then it was followed by some other companies from Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates who also want to invest in agribusiness in Indonesia2. International Paper, based in Memphis, Tennessee, is also reported to have had exploratory talks with the Indonesian minister of forestry concerning developing a mill either in Kalimantan or in Merauke3. From Asia, a Japanese Corporation, the Mitsubishi group, the Wilmar group from Singapore, and LG International from Korea, also made commitments to this project though a joint venture with Indonesian companies. Companies such as Medco Group, owned by Arifin Panigoro; Artha Graha Network, owned by Tomy Winata; PT Bangun Cipta Sarana, owned by Siswono Yudhohusodo; Comexindo International, owned by Hasyim Djojohadikusumo; Sumber Alam Sutra; Korindo; PT Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia; Sinar Mas; PT Kertas Nusantara; PT Digul Agro Lestari as part of Astra Agro Lestari, and Sinar Mas Group4 are the Indonesian partners of these multinational companies. As well as investing in food plantations, many of them are interested in industrial timber plantation and cheap production.

MEDCO Group vs Malind

Medco International is an integrated corporation that invests in oil, gas, mining and energy sectors across Asia, Africa, and the US. It has 8 production blocks in the US and the Gulf of Mexico, 2 exploration blocks in Yemen, 2 blocks in Cambodia, 1 block in Tunisia, and 1 in Libya1. According to The Jakarta Post, Hilmi Panigoro, the presidential commissioner, stated that Medco Energy International will collaborate with the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) for US$ 400 million investment on an oil facility in Libya. The investment will be shared fifty-fifty with LIA.2 In Indonesia, Medco Energy owns 10 blocks in total in Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan and Sulawesi.

In order to spread out its business, Medco Energy particularly shows an interest in bio-fuel and bio-energy. In Sumatra (Lampung), Medco is spending US$ 45 million for 13,000 hectares of Cassava plantations. Then in Merauke, Papua, Medco is investing in 170,000 hectares for an industrial timber plantation. MIFEE has one of its priorities as energy investment. It has been planning to operate using a similar model of corporate farming as in Brazil. According to Hilmi Panigoro, Brazil is a successful model of an integrated agriculture project regarding energy and food security. Panigoro said Brazil has switched 50% of its fuel consumption from only 1% of its fertile land. Moreover, he quotes the studies of the FAO in 2005 that suggested Indonesia has more potential for developing bio-energy than Brazil. 3

Medco has strong support from the Indonesian government and the local authorities in Merauke. Without consulting with the Malind people, the Indonesian government, with help from the local government, has split opinions in the area about forestry and agriculture.

In September 2009, LG International announced its partnership with Medco Group to obtain 1 million hectares of Papua’s forests for wood chips. For that reason, the Korean corporation spent about US$ 25 million on 25% of PT Metra Duta Lestari (Medco Group), with another 66% held by Medco.4

Local independent media, Jubi online, reported complaints from the Malind tribes’ leader Alberth Onoka Gebze Moiwend, in Merauke, about Medco’s activities. Alberth explained that Medco’s forest clearance was destroying hunting places, and firewood and food grounds of the Malind tribes who live in Bupu village. In addition, wastes from Medco’s pulp factory in Bupu village is polluting the river, which is the only water supply for the village. Yet Medco Group refuses to say that its activity affects deforestation. The company, is already producing large amounts of timber from natural forests, and has shipped several barges, mostly of acacia and eucalyptus trees for chips in Merauke. All the land will be cleared and then replanted with other seedlings of commercial timber. Moreover, Onoka Moiwend asserted that Medco activities could potentially bring the indigenous people in Merauke towards slow extermination.

The Malin people in Kaliki, a small village near the town, are waiting for their compensation from Medco. According to the local church, the PT Medco Papua (PT Medco) company entered Kaliki village in 2008 and promised to pay compensation to five clans (Mahuze, Kaize, Balagaize, Gebze, and Ndiken) who own the land. On 3 March, 2008, they organised a meeting with villagers. PT Medco promised to give them compensation for the use of land with 10 motorbikes for the Gebze family, who owned most of the land; and they promised to build houses for the villagers. Additionally, the company would provide each villager with their own bank account and provide a school and houses for the teachers. Also, there would be guaranteed scholarships and dormitory costs for children of Kaliki who continued their studies in the city. The company would facilitate a new road to Kaliki as well. Medco would provide jobs for villagers in order to improve their economic situation.

Nevertheless, the company created internal conflicts between clans in the village by signing an agreement with only the other four clans. In the meantime, Medco made another agreement with the Gebze clan who agreed to sell 20 hectares of their land with only a payment of 20 Million Rupiahs (approximately £1500). The four other clans complained to the company and the Gebze. Misunderstandings between those clans finally led to one of the Gebze members being a victim of a black magic practice that cause his death. Villagers and Gebze families believed that the black magic was sent by people from the other clans. For that reason, the clans are fighting against each other while the company continues to run its project. Just recently, the local church took an initiative to mediate between the Gebze and other clans to resolve their conflict. Finally, the villagers have decided to reject PT Medco and its activities in Kailiki.

It has been reported that there has been strong rejection of MIFEE by local people. Solidarity groups called SORPATOM and KOMALI have formed a resistance alliance. Protests and demonstrations had been organised by these groups. Furthermore, the customary leaders in Merauke wrote a letter of rejection to MIFEE and sent it to the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous People was facilitated by AMAN (The Indigenous People’s Alliance of Archipelago), the main Indonesian Indigenous People’s forum. AMAM delivered a statement of concern about human rights in Merauke in connection with the MIFEE project to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, in April, 2010. AMAN in its statement categorises the MIFEE project as “a structural and systematic genocide of the West Papuan people” this was endorsed by 24 indigenous people’s organisations around the world5. The rejection of MIFEE has now gained big support from different organisations in Indonesia and Papua, and internationally as well.

The case of Kaliki is only one of many cases that have happened in the region. Not only Medco, but also some 30 other companies cause problems for the indigenous people there. However, the Indonesian government stays quiet and continues its interest in this mega-food project. At tge local government level, Merauke recently had a new head of authority who has a different perspective on this food project. Romanus Mbaraka, the new head has decided to postpone operating this project under the local legislation. However, he has no authority to influence national investment policy.

The question is for how long the indigenous people in Papua will resist the bombardment of investments threatening their existence in their ancestors’ land.

Notes

Published in War Profiteers’ News, March 2011, No. 28

A Small Paradise That Will Be Annihilated: View From Merauke, West Papua

Tuesday, 31 August 2010 12:37
Opinion

(first appeared at http://www.indigenouspeoplesissues.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6461:a-small-paradise-that-will-be-annihilated-view-from-merauke-west-papua&catid=62:southeast-asia-indigenous-peoples&Itemid=84 )

A Small Paradise That Will Be Annihilated: View From Merauke, West Papua

Rosa Biwangko Moiwend, 2010

The Land of Papua, a land of great riches, a small paradise that fell to earth. This is how Frangky Sahilatua, the Malukan musician, sings the praises of the land of Papua in his song Aku Papua which is so popular thanks to the singer Edo Kondologit.

These riches have turned this small paradise into an attraction for investors from Indonesia and from around the world. Forests, land, water, minerals – everything is there to be plundered by these people. The lyrics are all too true: ‘All that land, all those rocks, the riches that are full of hope.’ Everything in that land is of priceless value. Not only the land itself but the savannahs that stretch for miles, the Kayu Putih (Melalaleuca sp), the peat and the tall, elegant trees in Merauke that cover 1,6 million hectares, full of hope that they will save Indonesia and the whole world from a looming food crisis. But then, what hope is there that anything will be left for the children and grandchildren of the owners of this land? Will all this be consumed by the people who come here just to collect those rocks that are full of hope?

In Merauke, in 2000, district chief Johanes Gluba Gebze offered Merauke as a granary when launching his massive project called the Merauke Integrated Rice Estate – MIRE. This was to be a fantastic programme, with the full support of the agriculture department of the central government. Then in 2008, when a food crisis struck the world, forcing up the price of food everywhere, many agrarian countries, including Indonesia, started to get busy, thinking up new sources of food round the world. This crisis provided the launching pad for increased investment in food production. This led to the Indonesian government and its department of agriculture looking everywhere for strategic locations, land that is unused, land with the potential to attract these investors.

In a presentation at the editorial office of Kompas in June this year, the IPB (Institut Pertanian Bogor) which had conducted research regarding the MIFEE project, said that Indonesia will face a crisis in 2010 – 2025. The lack of sufficient land in Java, due to the very rapid increase in population, has resulted because of the emergence of nine megalopolises in Java. This has resulted in a decline in the supply of food while the Indonesian population is estimated to increase to 300 million. This could lead to famine by 2025 which highlights the need to find a solution in the form of vast areas of land. Merauke was seen as the best way to solve the problem. Agus Sumule, an expert on the staff of the governor of Papua, said it would be an act of grave injustice because it meant that Papua, and especially Merauke, would be expected to bear all the consequences of the food crisis in the world and in Indonesia. This burden, he said, should be borne by districts throughout Indonesia, from east to west and from north to south. According to Sumule: ‘It is grossly unfair for a single province, a single district and still worse, a single ethnic group, to have to carry the burden of the national food crisis.’

Arguing in favour of the need to improve the local economy and in favour of food self-sufficiency, the Merauke project was enthusiastically welcomed by John Gluba Gebze. The local government and the central government then carried out their own studies and produced a draft for this project. The central government came up with the idea of a mega project called Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), along with government regulation No 20/2008 on National Land Allocation, identifying Merauke as the main area for the national agricultural sector. These plans were drawn up unilaterally; there was no co-ordination between the central government and the provincial government. The district chief and his staff in Merauke sidestepped discussions with the provincial government. The result was that the Indonesian president enacted Inpres 5/2008 requiring the adoption of the MIFEE plan as part of provincial land allocation.

Taking several things into consideration, the provincial government recommended the allocation of 5,552 hectares for MIFEE, but the department of agriculture decided that 1.6 hectares should be allocated to the project. An area of such huge dimensions, imposed on the map of Papua, includes not only agricultural land and transmigration sites which are suitable for food production but also virgin forests and protected areas including peat, water catchment areas and even residential areas including the kampungs of the indigenous people, the Malind people.

So, what about the people who live on this land? In all the discourse about the mega MIFEE project that has taken place between the Merauke district government and the central government, there has been virtually no mention of the indigenous people who live in the area. Yet, long before the Europeans ‘discovered’ New Guinea and the southern regions, the Malind-Anim (Malind people) had been living there for generations. Findings by anthropologists and missionaries like the Rev. E.B Savage from the London Missionary Society wrote about the Malind people in a publication of 1891. A.C. Haddon published the first portrait of the Marind/Malind people. And later Van Baal and several other Dutch anthropologists began to document the lives of the Malind/Marind people in the southern regions of Papua.

This project has been drafted without any mention of the human developments of the Malind people as one of its definitive impacts. Indeed, the central and local governments have given the impression that this land is uninhabited, that it belongs to no-one. The people who live in unity with nature and in their native dwellings have simply been ignored. During the planning stage, the indigenous people were never invited to negotiate, nor were they even told about the MIFEE project. They were kept quite unaware of the fact that their kampungs and villages would be included within the strategic mapping of MIFEE. As a result, their customary land has been valued at a very low price. Moreover, they face the threat of being relocated to land that belongs to other clans, when this project goes ahead.

The strategic planning of MIFEE does indeed say that the project will raise per capita income of the local people, that peasants will be supported by the provision of modern equipment and technology. But it also states that, in the initial stages, skilled transmigrants from outside Merauke will be moved in to run the project and to handle the transfer of technology. It will only be in the longer term that training centres will be set up to educate local people in the techniques of agricultural production. This raises the question: how will local peasants be involved in the project? It is extremely regrettable that such plans will only result in the further dis-empowerment of the Papua people in Merauke.

The marginalisation of the Malind people in Merauke can only get worse. Ever since the commencement of the large-scale transmigration programme and the inadequacies of education, health and economic facilities in Merauke, the Malind people have been elbowed out and have become nothing more than spectators. They have even become spectators in the transmigration kampungs. And what is even more regrettable, they will lose their customary lands as a result of the seizure of their land in the name of development, they will lose their customary systems and regulations. Their regulation of kampong boundaries, of village boundaries, their seasonal management as well as a range of customary laws will become indistinct and will disappear altogether.

With regard to the transfer of values and culture, our native language is more infrequently being spoken, the reason being that language is inseparable from land, water, forests, livestock, things that are all part of an inseparable unity. Should any of these elements be lost, the language gets lost too. Stories that pass down through the generations from our ancestors (Dema) become more and more difficult to understand because the sacred borders are replaced by rice-fields, fields of maize and palm oil plantations. The identity of the Malind people is gradually lost along with the destruction of the natural features that are the symbol of each clan. The Gebze with their coconut symbol, the Mahuze with their sago symbol, the Basiks with their pig symbol, the Samkki with their kangaroo symbol, the Kaize with their Kasuari and Balagaise (falcon birds) symbol; everything will get lost. In other words, the MIFEE food project will lead to the annihilation of the Malind people.

It is more than likely that in five or ten years time, the next generation of Malind people will no longer sing: ‘I grew up together with the wind, together with the leaves, together with the sago, together with the coconut trees.’ Instead, they will sing: ‘I grew up without the wind, without the leaves, without my sago village. I know nothing about my Dema, the symbol of my tradition, my language, my homeland. I will no longer be able to speak about my origins. All I will be able to say is that Papua is the land of my ancestors, the land where I was born.’

Because of all this, no-one should be surprised when people start describing MIFEE as a clear case of genocide by the Indonesian government, because it has been well-planned and well-organised. All the legal elements are there: government regulations, presidential instructions, the strategic planning and the maps that provided the necessary requirements for genocide.

When all these cries are heard, the Indonesian government will have to be ready to take the consequences, it will have to take responsibility before the ancestors of the Malind people, the Papuan people and the international community.