Tag Archives: environmental journalism

Deforestation of the Nabire Region continues from HPH to the oil palm plantation (Part 1)

by Sin Nombre (Mongabay-Indonesia),  

May 29, 2013

https://i0.wp.com/www.mongabay.co.id/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Hutan-hutan-keramat-Nabire-yang-dibongkar.jpg
Nabire sacred forests are dismantled (photo: Mongabay Indonesia)

Approximately 55 kilometres on the West of Nabire region of Papua Province unfolds a large amount of forest that is owned by a large tribe called the Yerisiam. This tribe has 4 (four) sub tribes namely Wauha, Akaba, Karoba and Sarakwari. The area with tens of thousands hectares is situated at the shoreline of Cenderawasih Bay.

Apart from the sea, the forest has been the source of life for these four tribes from which they obtain sago, traditional medicine and it’s their hunting ground. There is also a sacred place believe to be the resting place of the spirits of their forefathers.

The situation changed since 1990-1991 when HPH (Forest Concession) Company, PT Sesco entered Wanggar and Yaro districts and took bars of Merbau wood. The chairperson of the Cooperative Society, Yunus Kegou, said that the company ended its operation in 2000 and left many broken promises.

“At that time, the company hadn’t paid Rp.40 million which is approximately A$3900 with the count of Rp.1000 per cubic meter with is equivalent to A$0.95. The request from the local which are 4 motors, 4 chainsaws and 1 vehicle for the locals to use hasn’t been paid till present,” said Kegou.

In 2003, three companies entered and established in this area, namely PT. Pakartioga, PT. Junindo and PT. Kalimanis (PT Jati Dharma Indah).  Allegedly, these companies changed their names from PT. Sesco to PT. Pakartioga, and the HPH (forest concession holder) to the name PT. Junindo, and PT Jati Dharma Indah (JDI) to the the name PT. Kalimanis.  In the HPH permit, the operating period of JDI ends on 2017, with the permit of operation on the West and East of the Nabire Region  – a huge part of Cenderawasih Bay.

The presence of all these companies left many opaque stories. Their social responsibilities are negative, labourers were imported, and the experiences with transmigrant and the outsiders created conflicts not only with in the civilians but with the companies as well.

Erens Rumbobiar, the Chief of Makimi village situated on the eastern side of Nabire town, said that the conflicts with the locals occurred several times, and were the logging companies fault at that time.  One of the cases that stimulated conflict was when Jordan and Paulus Ha’o permitted logging company PT. Barito to chop down the trees and turn them into logs, not knowing that the area is a customary land of Sefnat Monei.  The conflict almost ended up in physical attacks (according to Customary Law) so the matter was taken to Didimus Warai’s residence,  who as the Chief of Wate’s tribe, solved it. People that were present at that time represented their clan which were Utrech Inggeruhi, Simon Hanebora as a witness for Sefnat Monei, Nikanor Monei and Jordan Ha’o.

In 2007, JDI that had been permitted to operate till 2017 invited PT Harvest Raya Company from Korea to start the oil palm plantation in the region. The locals refused PT Harvest Raya because it is thought to be threatening their future and future of their generations. However, this refusal produced polemic within the Monei clan whereby Sefnat Monei as the owner of the customary land refused, but his children allowed the exploitation of the land to be carried out.

This time, PT. Nabire Baru (NB), another oil palm company entered and settled in two of the villages in Yaur District of Nabire Region namely Sima and Wami village. This concession is located with the Northern side bordered by the ocean of Cenderawasih Bay, and the Southern side bordered by the JDI production forest and Wami village.  The western side borders the road connecting Nabire – Wasior and also PT. Sariwarna Adiperkasa HPH, and the Eastern side of the area borders the production forest, Jaya Mukti village, and Wanggar River.

The company is said by local villagers to be building communication with the local people in the area which led up to a thanksgiving at the early 2010. Traditional prayer was carried out as a start of the business and the compensation of the land was agreed as Rp.6, 000,000,000 which is equivalent to A$600,000. This agreement is said to be completed without the involvement of JDI.

Afterwards, several individuals persuaded Nabire Regional Government to issue new permits.  After the thanksgiving, the people demanded the government solve the HPH land issue so it doesn’t interfere with the oil palm plantation. Eventually local people were driven by few individuals sign a petition on a piece of white cloth, and took it to the Parliament office in Nabire with the hopes that the issue of the location is solved.

The reason was that JDI has long left the area and there was no communication with the indigenous people even though the permit HPH is still valid.  At that time, Benyamin Karet the Setda (Regional Secretariat) for Nabire Region, said that the status of the area of 17,000 hectares was problematic because it’s still owned by PHP JDI.  That area itself had not been plotted for oil palm plantation, but driven by the persuasion of the indigenous people, Nabire Regional Government issued a permit in the form of the Regent’s decision.  The principle of the cultivation permit is that the funding is issued by an Investor’s Agency on 21 of September 2010.

Nabire Regent Isaias Douw, said the indigenous people admitted that the location is safe and can be used NB.  “There had been a conversation between the company and the indigenous people and had been an agreement with the locals. Therefore, we issued a permit to the investor because the locals demanded,” he said.

However, the Regional Government knew there would be a problem with JDI, they therefore asked the locals and NB to solve the problematic location with the companies PHP. At that time, the activists blamed NB and JDI as if they deliberately stirred up the conflict in deceiving the locals of taking merbau wood from their area.

NB Consultant, PT Widya Cipta Buana, led by Iwan Setyawan, at the public consultation analysis in regards to the environmental impact (AMDAL) in early May 2013, explained in Sima Village that the company “is based on the Environmental Act, Government’s rules and policies, and even the rules and policies of the Minister of Environment Number 16 and 17 of 2012 concerning the Guidelines for community involvement in the EIA (Environment Impact Assessment), and an environment permit process. “From the legal perspective, the company has feasibility to carry out the activities”.

NB started the business in 2011 and recruited more than 1250 labours. In 2012, the company applied for the extension of the permit (which was granted via the) Regent’s decree number 71 2012 dated 24th of July 2012 about extending the location permit. The trees were then chopped down and turn into logs, and were taken out of Nabire, when the owner of the land protested.

The data collected by Mongabay, shows from the permit of 17,000 hectares, the area that was cultivated were 12.438,77 hectares including the conduit and the path in the garden and the cultivated area of 10.758.00 hectares. The rest include 1.851.88 hectares of the beach, 1.957.38 hectares of the river, 688,32 hectares of hills and the sacred places, 63,69 hectares of sago plantation and the nursery of 224,82 hectares. In 2013, the plan to cultivate is approximately 2.500 hectares, 4.500 hectares will be in 2014 and around 3.428 hectares will be in 2015. The factory will be built around 2015 with the processing capacity of 90 tonnes an hour.

Mr Kim, the owner of the company, claimed that he has been given the permit for 200,000 hectares of land and 20 other companies in Nabire Region and the surroundings, including several gold companies in Topo and Batu Bara area at the Eastern part of Nabire. Kim didn’t mention the details of all the companies that he owns.

To Be Continued…

 Translated by West Papua Media

Mpur Peoples and development: a film by Mnukwar


with support from DownToEarth

This new film explores the views of the Mpur community, West Papua, on development plans for their region which will affect their land, livelihoods and culture.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/32076025]

Mpur Peoples and Development from Down to Earth on Vimeo.

About Mnukwar: bringing about change through film-making

Armed with medium-size video cameras and other film-making paraphernalia when they are out and about making films in different areas of West Papua, the Mnukwar crew often attracts local people’s attention. Knowing their background in environmental activism, some people think they are just showing-off with expensive gadgets and their interest will wane once the novelty wears off.

Set up in 2007 by several environmental and social justice activists, Mnukwar (a type of the Bird of Paradise as well as the name of the old capital of Manokwari) focuses on facilitating change through making film. Mnukwar staff are not too bothered by such cynical comments because the target for Mnukwar is not the film itself.

Being grassroots activists, the Mnukwar crew are very much aware of the urgent need for local people to be able to express themselves freely and without fear of intimidation. For many years, Papuans have been living under the threat of being stigmatized as rebels, making communications  with communities difficult. Communication, as the communities know from previous experience, can sometimes mean interrogation.

Mnukwar uses a variety of methods to build a rapport with a community, including showing other films to villagers as a way of introducing what can be done in film. More often than not, once a rapport is built, curiosity about the gadgets and the process of film-making itself overcome people’s anxiety about talking. Then people start to engage.

Working with people is never easy. On a number of occasions, villagers have turned NGOs away from carrying out any activity in their place because, based on past experience, ‘NGOs do not keep their word’, ‘NGOs are good at taking data but never share it with the villagers, let alone giving anything back or being accountable for what they do’, ‘ NGOs who come to villages with short-term or one-off projects with no future perspectives only make villagers confused’.

Mnukwar has learned a great deal from others’ experiences. At the beginning of any programme, Mnukwar always tries to make it clear that they are not organisation which provides grants or income generation projects, but a group of people who are attempting to facilitate learning about peoples’ rights and citizenship through film-making. During the film-making, the Mnukwar crew works closely with the people involved, to avoid the situation where the people are only the object of the film. Knowledge is reproduced in film format and the people are consulted. Film is also a powerful form of communication and an important means of learning in a society where interest in reading is very low.

Films about Climate Change

Through various work and activities on the issue of climate change, the Mnukwar crew has learned that climate change is not a phenomenon that is easy to capture on film. When asked straight questions such as “what is climate change or what signs of climate change have you observed?”, people are puzzled. Climate change is simply a foreign idea.  The observations about climate people can share are about the inconsistency of the seasons and the impact of this on their livelihoods.

What about ‘global warming’ and ‘climate justice’? For many communities, these are just sound bites with little meaning.

There is a long way to go before we will be able to see people in Papua linking global phenomena to their day-to-day living. And yet, it is never too late to learn and one can start using whatever tools are to hand. This is the principle of Mnukwar in making-film too: there is no need to wait until you have the proper equipment, which is often expensive, to make a film. The Mnukwar crew have been teaching people how to use any media able to record moving images, such as a simple mobile phone, to create a film. Empowering people does not need to be expensive.

Website: www.mnukwar.or.id

Broadcasting Papua’s Songs of Freedom: Why the international community must support West Papua’s citizen media development

FREE THE PEOPLE? FREE THE MEDIA!

by Nick Chesterfield

A Paper presented at the University of Sydney Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies “Comprehending Papua Conference”, February 22-23, 2011.    This paper will form a chapter of the forthcoming book “Comprehending Papua”, to be published in early 2011 by the University of Sydney Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

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It is almost a cliché today that peoples wishing to free themselves from tyranny are turning in huge numbers to citizen journalism both to tell their stories to the outside world, and to put a formidable brake on the out of sight, out of mind mentality that allows state organs to conduct constant abuse with impunity. The rise of citizen media is giving mainstream journalism the kick it needs to remember its core business of giving voice to the voiceless.  In West Papua, the Voiceless are slowly discovering they can roar.

Just a few weeks ago an event occurred in Tunisia that was to be the spark for the pan-Arab awakening which has just seen yet another dictator ousted, now in Egypt.  After a local trader immolated himself in protest against the Tunisian regime, citizen media succeeded in viralizing the news of this event.  “We could protest for two years here, but without videos no one would take any notice of us,” said a relative of the martyred 25-year-old.

For media activists and journalists reporting Papua, this truth is self-evident, and its acceptance hopefully could ignite the spark of uprising in Papua.  The opportunities presented by the Pan-Arab (and other) awakenings are not being lost on the young generation in Papua.  Social media in Papua is buzzing, unafraid, with vibrant discussions of implications for Papua of the pan-Arabic revolutionary success.  The reality is that a spontaneous awakening and mass politicisation of ordinary Papuans is completely inevitable, and it is being ably assisted by switched-on local people developing their capacity to tell the story to the world.

In researching for several stories over the last few months, my sources have told me in no uncertain terms that they are all ready for a trigger to explode the situation.  The only thing holding back sustained mass action – revolution even – across occupied Papua is the constant bickering between exile groups, the actions of the collaborator elites, desperate to cling to the illusion that Jakarta is not there just to steal their land and send them to the moon, and for those who will put their own interests ahead of those surviving under occupation.

What is a mystery is how this mass consciousness will survive the elite and exile power games that are evident in most transitional polities throughout recent history (and is certainly present in West Papua today); whether those exiles will hijack the efforts of the young generation or listen to the actual wishes of their people; and if Jakarta can be trusted not to unleash the truly evil and deeply entrenched habitual brutality that is its only constant in becoming the new colonialists; or that they will claim their place amongst the civilised by not slaughtering those who want peace. History is a wise teacher, and its lesson is never trust the evil or greedy to reform of its own accord.

To keep these ugly realities in check, West Papua (and the international community) needs a determined, effective, vibrant and fearless citizen and professional media to deliver real-time accountability both internally and internationally.

Real time advocacy is vital for the international community to act to end Papua’s suffering.  Human Rights advocates conduct scientific research into abuses, but because this information does not get out easily, the problems in Papua are only now getting known to the world.

I need to ask you all today an honest question:  without the hard work of journalists in Papua and those outside assisting them to get their voice to international media, would Papua even be in people’s consciousness today?   So why is the international arena concerned with West Papua falling prey to the disease of factionalism and Big Man syndrome, and not in assisting WestPapuan people to get their stories into the living rooms of the world?

Many loud mouthed exiles claim significant legitimacy, but baulk and splutter when asked to prove it.   This has developed a culture of opacity across the exile movement.  A strong and diverse citizen based media across Papua can easily counter exile’s game playing and false claims by ensuring credibility and honesty in social movements. It benefits and strengthens social movements too by giving the skills and practice for sharpening their message, and creating a powerful argument for international support for their aims.  Strong domestic media also removes international government’s excuses for inaction, by seriously raising the credibility and verification bar.

If the international community is serious about improving the lives of Papuan people, it will help develop the capacity of the West Papuan media to tell the story of what is going on, and press Jakarta hard to allow immediate international media access.  After all, with full accountability, what is there to be afraid of?

Largely in response to years of wilful ignorance and self-censorship of the Indonesian created horrors in West Papua by international media, many sectors of Papuan society spontaneously and independently began a dramatic take-up of social media technology, exponentially increasing since 2008. Blogs, social networking and online media outlets are being utilized all over the country, by a young generation of Papuans impatient for real change.  Today’s mass Papuan movement is mainly urban, educated, innovative, nonviolence based, and embracing significantly the power of citizen and social media as a key plank of civil resistance strategy.

Very occasionally West Papua does get in the news, but only through the co-ordination between committed journalists and human rights workers working together and ear-bashing news editors.

Due to the ongoing ban by Indonesia on international media and humanitarian organisations having access to Papua, allegations of abuse are notoriously difficult to verify.  While this ban remains in place, only the most dedicated journalists make the effort to go in undercover.   West Papua Media has been proud to facilitate undercover trips into occupied territory to meet with many West Papuan people prepare to tell their own story. This is getting more difficult by the day so local people are working for a solution.

Live images, videos and online activism by Papuan people have already created tremendous momentum in action and awareness of Papua.  By creating their own media, and their own narrative, Papuan people are reclaiming self-determination denied for so long.

Reporting in West Papua is a highly risky business.   Journalists, Papuan and outsiders alike, are under constant threats for reporting West Papua, with four journalists dying in suspicious circumstance in 2010 alone.  Anywhere journalists report fearlessly they are targets, but most journalists in West Papua simply put up with it, they have no other option.  What can we do to lessen their risk?

Partly in response to this danger and partly to give local journalists a voice globally, West Papua Media (WPMA) (WestPapuaMedia.Info) was started. It aims to provide a professional service to international media covering West Papua, ensuring high quality, verifiable reporting gets into the international media, directly from the ground, and not from those who seek to distort the truth of daily experience in Papua.  By reporting Papuan campaigns to end human rights abuses and bringing these unreported Papuan issues to the front page, we hope to hold the abusers to account. With an ever growing stable of committed and disparate voices from citizen media to professional journalists, West Papua Media is proud and excited to be part of this movement.

Some of our real time work has assisted directly in the prevention of mass acts of violence by the Indonesian security forces, such as our coverage and media advocacy fixing of the July 8-9 Otsus Gagal demos and occupation of the Jayapura DPRP.

Less than ten minutes before the deadline for dispersal of the 2 day rally of over 45,000 people, Indonesian security forces were forced to back down after a BBC report aired, organised by WPMA, which brought international attention the explosively dangerous situation.  Extensive international diplomacy occurred in that 15 minutes and, together with the extreme discipline of the mass protest, enabled the protestors to peaceably leave the scene of the protest without violence.

WPMA has worked very hard raising the media profile of West Papua, with significant joint investigations with major media outlets breaking several key stories in 2010.  None of this would be possible without deep trust from the people of Papua in reporting their stories.  West Papuan citizen media, in conjunction with several colleagues here today, played a key role in alerting the world to deeply heinous cases of abuse.

One was the sourcing, verification and release of the deeply shocking leaked Kostrad torture videos of civilians in Puncak Jaya. The Kiwo incident neatly captures why the Indonesian military cannot be trusted to reform themselves from the inside, and why the role of a robust media is so critical in Papua.

The other was footage of Indonesian BRIMOB police taunting a former political prisoner Yawan Wayeni, having disembowelled him moments before for arguing with them. Both these videos showed the power of citizen media in activating international human rights networks to effectively raise the issue of Papua. Of course, there are many more videos in preparation for release.

A swarm movement cannot have a single media strategy, but media need to understand that it will get media out in its own way too.  The media that had wilfully ignored West Papua’s voice for so long really has no right to dictate how information disseminates, and if it wants to get the stories before others, then it just has to move faster.  Because it is new media techniques that have already, and will propel Papua onto the front page, to make people choke on their cornflakes.

Likewise, evidence dissemination also needs multiple, failsafe distribution routes: Single dissemination routes can easily be shut down or silenced.  West Papuans have tailored their mechanisms to this very effectively; yet this is significantly frustrating outside journalists.  According to many in mainstream media, West Papuans can be their own worst enemy when it comes to disseminating information.  People on the ground do need to get smarter about media distribution strategies, but the media also must adapt to a social and cultural reality.  West Papuan human rights and citizen media are not chaotic: they are maximising the potential audience  for their information.

It is important to understand that no one faction or sector in West Papua can claim dominance or leadership of this mass movement. This is not Congress in India and there is no single Gandhi figure. Rather, this is a movement with thousands of Gandhis.  The civil movement refuses to be based around a single leadership group, and instead features multitudes of groups and tribes all acting autonomously and independently (where everyone knows their role and works their hardest) but which is nevertheless unified under its collective goals.

Such a swarm structure can occasionally present difficulties for those who cannot think outside traditional top-down strategies for national change, which includes traditional media. Rather than being shut out of dialogue by the game playing of unaccountable elites, this type of structure encourages a longer lasting peace by enabling all actors to have their voices heard. It is also a natural strategy to employ in a nation where it is,  for the most part, illegal to congregate in groups.

Other barriers for West Papuan media are much more easily solved with a bit of training, and understanding the enemy (this time the enemy being the unreasonable expectations of media executives far removed from reality).

One issue is the lack of speed with which many West Papuan media activists work, and whilst improving, an event on a day has to be filmed, edited, packaged and disseminated as fast as possible. There are issues of journalistic discipline and professional journalistic practice in new media; safe information gathering, abuse documentation and investigative journalism methodology; information quality assurance; protection of sources, and more.

Effective citizen and professional media training is required to develop awareness of major current and future challenges to safe information dissemination – these are all programs that the West Papua Media network is currently engaged in and it needs help to increase its capacity.

All of this costs money, and requires the international community to understand that the development of indigenous journalism in West Papua is crucial to the protection of human security and peace across the entire Asia-Pacific region.  It requires international institutions in media and academia to get out of their cloisters and get muddy, to actually pool resources and help identify new sources of sustainable funding to start training journalists in innovative new media reportage techniques, and to support their work for the global human interest.  As I said before, West Papua Media already has training programs ready to go, we just need the funds to make them happen.

In West Papua, as across the world, accountability is always the simplest solution to combatting impunity. An aggressive culture of investigative journalism must be encouraged, and the skills to enable it must be developed, to deliver that accountability, be it in human rights, against military business mafias and corruption, human security, environmental protections, etcetera, and to cover (and protect) the desires of a population to determine their own future, in both the current occupation and in any situation for the future.  Both academia and international media must take a strong role in its development, to embed international protections to enable West Papua’s journalists and citizen media to report without fear, hindrance or threat, the stories that are important to West Papuan people and their freedom.

Our hope is that we have a really robust citizen media that can deliver accountability.  We want to stop people from being afraid of speaking out, and we want West Papua’s voice to be its weapon, to broadcast its songs for Freedom.

Nick Chesterfield, editor at westpapuamedia.info, is a human security journalist and activist with extensive experience of the Papua issue through refugee protection, human rights, environmental protection, and citizen media work and safety training. He has conducted many field investigations in the West Papuan region since 1999. Together with citizen media and human rights workers from inside Papua, Chesterfield helped set up West Papua Media in 2008, to counter the wilful lack of coverage of West Papua by the international press.