Tag Archives: habitat destruction

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.

Journalist's death overshadows launch of Papua food project

TAPOL and DTE press release

Journalist’s death overshadows launch of Papua food project

11 August 2010 – The death of a local journalist has increased concerns about a giant food estate launched today in Merauke, Southeastern Papua by Indonesia’s Minister of Agriculture.

TAPOL and Down to Earth, the International Campaign for Ecological Justice in Indonesia are calling for a moratorium on the food project, known as MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate) until independent assessments of the political, economic, socio-cultural, environmental and gender impacts of the project have been undertaken.

The suspicious death of the journalist, Ardiansyah Matra’is, in late July, following threats against him, has been linked to his coverage of this week’s local elections for the district head in Merauke.

Other journalists have also been threatened in what appears to have been a concerted campaign to stifle free expression ahead of the elections. Current district head, Johannes Gluba-Gebze, has been instrumental in planning and promoting the food project.

“The potential adverse impacts of MIFEE for the local population are massive such that full transparency and accountability are required. A free media is essential to ensuring effective democratic oversight of the project,” say TAPOL and Down to Earth who are closely monitoring the project.

“President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono’s ambition to ‘feed Indonesia then feed the world’ may come at the expense of many Papuans, and could add to wider frustrations about the lack of political, social and economic autonomy in Papua,” they add.

The project is likely to contribute to the marginalisation of indigenous Papuans by taking over the customary-owned land and resources which provide their livelihoods. It is also likely to exacerbate existing human rights grievances, and accelerate environmental deforestation and degradation.

“The enhanced security presence likely to be associated with MIFEE will increase tensions and add to the vulnerability of Merauke’s inhabitants, especially as Indonesia’s notorious Kopassus special forces are active in the area”, warn TAPOL and Down to Earth.

Background and issues
MIFEE is a collection of commercial plantations, planned to cover 1.6 million hectares. The project is being promoted as a means of stabilizing Indonesia’s food security. It has received support from the Government of Indonesia, and Merauke has been designated a national ‘Special Economic Zone’ (SEZ) in order to attract the US$8.6 billion of investment needed for the project. Over 30 investors from Indonesia, Japan, China, Singapore, Korea and the Middle East have expressed an interest in MIFEE,[1] Their involvement appears to be part of a global trend to make money by buying up lands abroad for food production.

Tens of thousands more workers and economic migrants, mostly from outside Papua, are expected to settle in Merauke and the surrounding areas. The indigenous people of Merauke have already felt the impact of transmigration programmes, first implemented under Dutch colonial rule and continued under Indonesia’s Suharto regime. Population growth, changes in population demographics and the further loss of land and resources as a result of MIFFE could have a devastating and irreversible impact on the livelihoods of the local population, especially indigenous Papuans.

The huge number of newcomers may strain Merauke’s underdeveloped services and further marginalise an already minority indigenous population. The commercialisation of land and takeover of indigenous Papuans’ land will affect the livelihoods of Papuans and could prevent the transfer of knowledge, culture and language from one generation to the next.

Sustained local knowledge of tribal boundaries, land rights, land use, customary law and taboos are all dependent on having access to land and respect for traditional rights over the land. If MIFEE goes ahead, indigenous people will be faced with new boundaries and non-traditional crops such as oil palm, rice, sugar cane, corn and soyabean.

There has been strong opposition to MIFEE from local NGOs such as SKP-KAM, FokerLSM, SORPATOM and AMAN.[2] However, the death of Ardiansyah Matra’is and campaign of terror against journalists have closed down the space for criticism. These groups have emphasised on-going concerns about targeted surveillance and intimidation of NGOs and journalists. In 2009, a joint report by the Indonesian environmental NGO Telapak and the UK’s Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) stated that ‘irregular groups allied to [Johannes Gluba] Gebze’ operate in Merauke and ‘work in unison with the state security forces to monitor and intimidate any dissenters in the region.’

The security strategy for MIFEE is unclear, as is the resulting direct and indirect impact on the local population. Merauke is located near the Indonesia-Papua New Guinea (PNG) border and is already a highly militarized area. A 2009 Human Rights Watch report details abuses committed by Kopassus, who have close ties with Gebze.

In other parts of Papua where natural resources are being exploited, state security forces are routinely employed to protect commercial assets. There has often been an expansion in these areas of the sex and alcohol industries, which are run by migrants or the police and military themselves. The potential impact on the population’s health is made clear by FokerLSM which reports that Merauke has the highest number of HIV/AIDS cases after Mimika district, where the giant mining company Freeport operates.

The scale of MIFEE raises major environmental and ecological concerns. The conversion of protected forest for agricultural use seems likely, despite both Indonesia’s Forestry Minister and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy stating otherwise.

Widespread licensed deforestation in Merauke would contradict the Government of Indonesia’s commitment to reduce green-house gas emissions by 26% by 2020. It also raises questions over a recent billion dollar REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) agreement with the Government of Norway to preserve Indonesia’s rainforests, in particular in Papua.

ENDS

Contact: Paul Barber (TAPOL) on +44 1420 80153 or +44 7747 301 739 or Carolyn Marr (DTE) on +44 16977 46266

[1] Medco Group; Artha Graha Network; PT Bangun Cipta Sarana; Comexindo International; Sumber Alam Sutra; Korindo; PT Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia; Sinar Mas; PT Kertas Nusantara; Mitsubishi (Japan); Wilmar (Singapore); LG International (Korea).
[2] Office for Justice and Peace of the Archdicese of Merauke (SKP-KAM); Papua NGOs Cooperation Forum (FokerLSM); Solidarity for Papuans (SORPATOM); The Indigenous People’s Alliance of Indonesia (AMAN)

30% of Papua's forests destroyed; 3,100 kms of road to be built across Papua

Bintang Papua
6 August 2010

Jayapura: Already 30 percent of Papuan forests have been destroyed according to Benja Viktor Mambai, director of WWF Sahul Jayapura, speaking at a seminar in Jayapura. This means that close attention needs to be paid to the impact of future development projects.

‘While this means that 70 percent of Papuan forests are still preserved, this can be seriously affected if care is not taken,’ he said. He also spoke about the incomparable richness of Papua’s forests, its rich flora and fauna , the importance of the environment within the forests as well as their social and cultural aspects.

He said that research was going on to discover yet more unknown species in Papua.

‘Given the richness of its natural resources, we need not be afraid of development but the most important thing is to ensure that development takes account of these social and cultural factors as well as sustainability.’

He said that sustainability of the forests must keep in mind the sustainability of the social and cultural factors.

[Comment: These words were spoken on the eve of the launch of the MIFEE project which will profoundly affect the sustainability of the way of life of Papua’s indigenous inhabitants, as pointed out in a press release issued today by TAPOL and Down to Earth.]

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Bintang Papua, 8 August 2010

Plan to build 3,100 kms of road
Jakarta: The public works department of the Indonesian Republic is planning to build 3,100 kms of road across the province of Papua,according to Diaz Gwijangge, member of Commission X of the Indonesia parliament.

‘Many parts of the province are very isolated,’ he said, ‘added to which is the fact that because of the topography, many places are inaccessible either by air, sea or land.’

He said that if the government in Jakarta is serious about developing Papua to the level achieved in other parts of the country, building roads is part of the solution.

He told Bintang Papua that the main focus of the road building programme will be on ‘strategic’ roads.

He went on to say that besides the lack of infrastructure, Papua was also very much behind other parts of the country in the availability of education and health facilities and in empowering the local communities. All these are matters to which the central government should pay proper attention, he said.

He went on to say that Papua has enormously rich natural resources which make a huge contribution to the Indonesian state. ‘Yet, unfortunately, the people of Papua living in poverty and physical isolation. These are serious matters that must be attended to by Jakarta.’

Minister of Public Works Djoko Kirmanto explained that what meant by ‘strategic roads’. was roads that link the main centres of economic activity. ‘The products of the province can be exported through the ports of Merauke or Jayapura.

[Comment: It would be interesting to know the extent to which the Indonesian state depends on the revenue and dividends received from the Freeport mining of Papua’s copper and gold while cmmunities in the vicinity of the mine were forced to leave their land to make way for the company’s operations, with little to show for it in terms of their standard of living. TAPOL]