Tag Archives: Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate

New film ‘The Mahuzes’, documents conflicts between indigenous Merauke people and agribusiness

from our partners at AwasMIFEE

First Published: February 20, 2016

‘The Mahuzes’, a film about conflicts between indigenous people and agribusiness companies in Merauke, was released in Indonesian last year, and now it is available with English subtitles. It’s one of a series of documentaries produced as part of the ‘Ekspedisi Indonesia Biru’, a one-year road-trip on motorbikes by filmmakers Dandhy Laksono and Ucok Suparta, visiting diverse communities around the archipelago, often communities in struggle.

The Mahuzes follows one clan of Marind people in Muting village, where oil palm companies have started clearing land in the last few years on five massive plantations. The effects of these plantations are having a major impact – even the water from the Bian River has become undrinkable. The Mahuze clan is resisting – refusing to sell their land, erecting customary barriers to forbid the company from entering – but the company (PT Agriprima Persada Mulia) just pulls up their boundary markers. As well as these direct conflicts with the plantation companies, we see how they attempt to deal with the conflicts that inevitably arise when irresponsible companies show up with compensation money – there is an emotional peacemaking ceremony between the Marind and the neighbouring Mandodo people, but also anger in meetings that some elders in their own clan may have struck a secret deal with the company.

The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate was originally launched as a massive industrial agriculture project in 2010, but it failed to reach the stated ambition in its original plan, and the cluster of oil palm plantations around Muting were some of the only developments that have actually started work in the last years. However, in May 2015 President Joko Widodo travelled to Merauke to relaunch the plan to convert over a million hectares of forest and savannah to mechanised rice production. The filmmakers also visit the site of the new rice development, revealing that once again the central government is ordering a mega project without due consideration of the local social and environmental conditions. One issue is the water – Irawan, who works for the water provider, explains that most of the water in the flat Kurik sub-district comes from rainfall. How could these conditions possibly support huge areas of irrigated rice-fields?

The Marind people’s staple food is sago, and sago palms grow abundantly in groves in the forest. As Darius Nerob explains in the film “If we plant rice, it’s 6 months before we can eat. But with sago, any day we need, we can just go and fell a tree… This tree can feed a family for half a year…. Even though the transmigrant program has existed for 33 years, Marind people have stuck with sago, they haven’t shifted to rice.”

Thanks to MIFEE, 3.6% of Indonesia’s Emissions produced in Merauke

From Bintang Papua via awasMifee

Published: September 13, 2014

The Merauke Regency is experiencing a rapid rate of forest degradation and loss. This is illustrated by Merauke Regency’s contribution to total emissons1 in the province of Papua which is 45.29%. Merauke’s contribution to Indonesia’s national emissions is 3.6%.

Tangke Mangi, who is the Merauke Bupati’s Expert Staff for Economy and Finance, said that a high emissions rate resulted from forest degradation and loss in Merauke. The extent of forest cover in Merauke Regency is 2.12 million hectares, compared with 22.25 million hectares of forest cover and 3.084 million hectares of scrubland in Papua [province] as a whole.

“Merauke Regency as part of Indonesia, has already been assigned as an area for low-carbon development in Papua Province. So we have to swiftly follow up this initiative by compiling a Regency-level Strategic Action Plan (SRAK), he said in a workshop presenting the idea of the SRAK in Cafe Bellafiesta yesterday.

It has been mentioned that Merauke’s emissions are a result of forest degradation and loss, which means they are caused by exploitation on the part of several corporate investors that are involved in the MIFEE program.

“We can understand that this is happening because of the MIFEE program, so we need to balance it with the right mitigation actions. That way there can be a balance between economic development and environmental conservation”, he said.

He made it clear that several actions that are already taking place can be synchronised with a mitigation program such as participative mapping of important places for indigenous communities, as is outlined in Merauke Regency’s land-use plan (RTRW) “The people need to be give space and places so they can take care of their sacred sites as well as the important places which are sources of the indigenous community’s everyday livelihood needs”, he added.

Additionally the national commitment to reduce emissions by 41 percent is supported by Papua province which has been putting together a strategic action plan for the whole province. This will then be implemented by all development sectors in Papua, creating three zones of green economy and low-carbon development.

Source: Bintang Papua http://bintangpapua.com/index.php/lain-lain/papua/papua-selatan/item/17014-kabupaten-merauke-penyumbang-emisi-terbesar-di-papua

Blasius Sumaghai beaten by Indonesian Navy Officers in Bade, Mappi

February 20, 2014

from our partners AwasMifee, Majalah Selangkah,plus trusted sources in Mappi interviewed by both AwasMifee and West Papua Media

Mappi, Majalah Selangah – Blasius Sumaghai (23 years old), a resident of Bade village, Edera District, Mappi, Papua has been beaten by members of the Indonesian Navy. The reasons for the beating were not clear.

According to information compiled by majalahselangkah.com, Blasius
Sumaghai, the son of the late Abraham Sumaghai who was an Awyu community leader, was beaten by several Navy officers on the 26th January 2014. The beating meant that Blasius Sumaghai was unable to walk for four days. He is still in a fairly serious state of trauma.

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The incident reportedly started as Blasius Sumaghai was seated outside a kiosk on Jalan Duyumu in Bade Village. Suddenly two Navy officers who were stationed at the Bade Navy outpost showed up. They showed no initial courtesy, just directly started striking the victim on his back and chest using the butts of their rifles

After the beating, our source said that the victim was brought to the
Navy outpost on a motorbike. On arrival at the outpost, he was beaten
over his whole body using rifle butts and hosepipes.  He suffered serious injuries.

It is reported that Blasius Sumaghai is not the only person to have suffered violent harrassment at the hands of the Navy.  Yustinus Akabagaimu, the 27-year-old son of local teacher Xaverius  Akabagaimu, has also been beaten up without any clear reason.

Yustinus is currently unable to walk as a result of the beating he
received. Several victims of harassment are unable to bring a case
against the perpetrators either because of fear or because they don’t
know to whom they should bring their complaint.

Majalah Selangkah‘s credible informant has said that that members of the security forces have often carried out beatings of young men in Bade when residents have reported that the men have done something wrong.

“But that’s what the police are for. What is Bade Police station doing?
The police are clearly tasked with maintaining law and order. The Navy’s role is to fight wars against other countries. Why should the navy take over the Police’s job right in front of their face? It’s very strange”, said the aforementioned source, sounding surprised.

The police in the Bade Police Station reportedly cannot be counted upon to maintain law and order in the area. As the community were celebrating Christmas 2009, the festive season which should be full of happiness was tainted by the murder of a young local man, Stefanus Silooy (38). He was killed by three police officers. This incident ended up with the community destroying the local police station.

In fact, a naval outpost in Bade is not strategic for national defence, because Bade is located on the shore of the Digoel River, and not on the coast. The town should really be guarded by a water-borne police unit.

So why is the Indonesian Navy present in Bade? Actually they are there to demand tribute from plywood and palm oil companies:  the Korindo group in Asiki which has been operating since the nineties and PT MAM* which has recently commenced operations near Bade.

Bade is a strategic port town, because all the plywood and Crude Palm Oil produced by PT Korindo in Asiki can only be transported by one route, the Digoel River. Bade represents the entrance and exit to this river system.

Source: Majalah Selangkah

[awasMIFEE / WPM note: a source (also in contact with WPM directly)  in Mappi has interviewed the victim and passed on these photos of his injuries, and also a letter from Blasius Sumaghai and his family addresses to the Governor of Papua Province, reproduced below in English. WPM has translated it despite the content being very similar to the Majalah Selangkah article above, and it is worth highlighting that the family request action be taken against the perpetrator and to close down the Navy Outpost.

*The article mentions a company named PT MAM, but this is slightly erroneous. MAM is the name of the location where another Korindo subsidiary PT Dongin Prabhawa has an oil palm plantation. Bade is on the Mappi side of the Digoel river, but lies close to the border with Merauke Regency – PT Dongin Prabhawa’s plantation is also just a few kilometres away.]

Open Letter: And so the Inhumane Cruelty of Indonesian Armed Forces Against Papuans Continues…..

By SOURCE in Bade, Mappi Regency in West Papua

15 February 2014

It seems the bitterly cruel treatment of the Papuan indigenous community by the Indonesian armed forces will never come to an end. This time their cruelty has been unleashed on a young 23 year old man by the name of Blasius Sumaghai from Bade in the regency of Mappi in the far southern region of Papua. The incident involved use of brutal unrestrained violence against Blasius by two members of the Indonesian Marine Corps on 26 January 2014. Blasius is the son of a well known figure from the Awyu Tribe called Abraham Sumagahai and had done no wrong whatsoever that could have given reason for the ruthless attack by the marines. The attack on Blasius left him severely traumatized and unable to even walk for four days following the incident.

The incident occurred when Blasius was sitting in front of a kiosk (at Duyumu Road in Bade) at around 1945 hours on 26 January. Two members of the Marine Corps working at the Bade Post approached him without clear reason and started viciously beating him, striking him across his back and chest with their rifle butts. They then forced him into their vehicle and took him to their military post. They continued to strike him over his entire body with their rifle butts and a hose, leaving wounds over his entire body.

Blasius is by no means the first victim of such cruel tyranny by the Indonesian Marines in Bade. There have been numerous young people from the Bade Papuan indigenous community who had suffered seriously at the hands of the Marines in Bade but whose names cannot be mentioned due to their fears of retaliation. Many have no idea to whom they could possibly safely report things that have happened. To name just one, another 27 year old man Yustinus Akabagaimu (son of the local school teacher Xaverius Akabagaimu) was beaten so mercilessly by the Indonesian Marines in 2013that he is no longer able to walk to this date.

A trustworthy source stated that the brutal treatment of local Papuan youth by the Marines usually occurs due to a citizen having made a report to the Military Post that a certain youth has done something wrong, following which the Marines immediately find and arrest the youth, beating them far beyond the limits of what is humanitarian.

To understand what’s really going on behind these regular incidents of unwarranted violence against citizens, once must question the very existence of a prime Indonesian Military post in Bade. It’s hardly needed for national defense reasons, as Bade is located on the edge of the Digul River. It’s not as if it’s a strategic location bordering with another nation or the like. So why should the second largest base for the Indonesian Marine Corps in the entire southern region of Papua be located on the edge of a river in Bade? The answer lies in the fact that the location enables the forces to demand ‘tribute’ from the nearby multinational plywood and oil-palm company Korindo (in Assiki) and also from a second company which has recently been opened at a location also close to Bade. In terms of Indonesian economics Bade is a key location for these companies as their products are shipped out only along the River Digul. There is not only an Indonesian Marine Corps Post at Bade but also a Police Post, a Regular Military Post (TNI), an Indonesian Army Shore Unit (TNI-AD).

The community leaders of the Papuan community of Bade in response to the frequent violence by the Marine Corps against the indigenous Papuan community, call on the Governor of Papua Lukas Enembe :

i) To immediately take stern disciplinary action against those members of the Marine Corps in Bade who have been unleashing brutal cruelty against the indigenous people of Bade.
ii) To close the Indonesian Marine Corps Post in Bade
iii) To carry out an investigation as to the reasons for the existence of the Marine Corps Post located at Bade on the banks of the Digul River.

Footnote :

Bade is located in the south of Papua in the district of Edera in the Mappi Regency which borders the region of Merauke.

Indigenous People Demand Companies Give Work to Papuans

January 10, 2014

Source: Bintang Papua

Translation by AwasMifee

Four companies in Muting and Ulilin Districts of Merauke Regency have been asked to give work to indigenous Papuans, and especially holders of customary rights over the land the companies are using. The four companies that are operating in the two districts are PT Bio Inti Agrindo, PT Cahaya Bone Lestari, PT Agrinusa Cipta Persada and PT Berkat Cipta Abadi. All four companies are involved in the oil palm sector.

Imanuel Basik-Basik, the Traditional Chief of the Malind Bianim in Muting, said that these four companies had been in operation for two
years but were still not recruiting indigenous Papuans to their workforce, in particular the customary rights holders. This is despite a
written agreement between the companies and the customary land rights holders to recruit local Papuan labour, said Imanuel Basik-Basik.

“Documents exist in which all four companies promise to recruit local
Papuan labour once the company started operations, but until now there has been no follow-up on this”, said Imanuel Basik-Basik.

Based on data from the Merauke forestry and plantation service, these four oil palm companies are operating on customary land belonging to the Malind Bianim indigenous people of Muting, with respective operational areas of:

  • PT Bio Inti Agrindo 40,000 hectares,
  • PT Cahaya Bone Lestari 403 hectares (under a self-management scheme),
  • PT Agrinusa Cipta Persada, 33,540 hectares,
  • and PT Berkat Cipta Abadi 14,525 hectares.

Efendy Kanan, the head of the Forestry and Plantation service pointed
out that of the four companies operating in the two districts, one was
self-managed. “PT Cahaya Bone Lestari is a self-management corporation where the profits from the production are shared with 30% going to the customary rights holders and 70% to the company. This is because about 363 hectares of the land worked by the corporation belongs to local residents, while 60 hectares belongs to the local government,” revealed Efendy Kanaan.

Wilmar’s New ‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation’ Policy: What will it mean in Merauke?

From our partners at awasMifee

First Published: December 11, 2013

Apologies for the delay in republishing:  No donations mean no internet for West Papua Media

On 5th December, Wilmar International, one of Asia’s biggest agribusiness corporations and the world’s biggest palm oil trader, announced a broad new environmental and social policy, including a commitment to no deforestation and the principle of Free, Prior Informed Consent when dealing with indigenous communities.

As these new ethical criteria would apply not only to Wilmar’s own plantations but also other companies who supply the palm oil, sugar and soy that Wilmar trades, it would seem that this pledge might have a big effect on the plantation industry’s environmental record – especially for palm oil where Wilmar controls 45% of world trade.

The question is, will it be implemented? This new policy was launched at the same time as a deal between Wilmar and food and household products giant Unilever, which has its own target to only use traceable palm oil by the end of 2014. As more multinationals come under pressure to use less environmentally-damaging ingredients, the commercial benefits to Wilmar of appearing to be an environmental leader are clear.

However the company has frequently been accused of violating ethical standards that is has signed up to in the past – for example as a member of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and recipient of funding from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation(IFC). That means many groups with experience of the company’s track record are sceptical about this new commitment.

PT Anugerah Rejeki Nusantara: a test of whether the new policy is serious.

In West Papua Wilmar has plans for two 40,000 hectare sugar-cane plantations in Merauke and two more in neighbouring Mappi regency, and these could be a key test for the company’s new policy. If these plantations for ahead, they will clearly contravene the ethical standards. Let’s take a look at the situation with PT Anugerah Rejeki Nusantara (PT ARN), one of those plantations:

  • No deforestation. Wilmar has committed to end deforestation in High Carbon Stock and High Conservation Value forest. The definition is quite broad and includes most forest that has not been cleared within the last ten years. PT ARN’s concession is an ecologically-rich area, largely forested, with some grassland and swamps.
  • No peat. Wilmar says it will not start plantations on peat of any depth. Data from Wetlands International shows intermittent shallow and medium peat within PT ARN’s concession.
  • Respect the rights of local and indigenous people to give or withhold their Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC). PT ARN has been trying to convince communities in the area to hand over their land for two years now, but many people are still determinedly opposed. A recent study in four villages affected by PT ARN revealed that the company was falling far short of FPIC principles. Where people have clearly not consented, the company keeps making its approaches, until the community feels it really has no choice. Often Wilmar only speaks with community and clan leaders individually, which was causing the seeds of conflict within the village. Security forces brought to discussions also have an intimidating effect. There are other tools of deception too – in one village PT ARN’s Public Relations Manager even pretended to be a priest to get the people’s support.

Wilmar’s policy covers a number of other areas, such as workers’ rights and dealing with land conflict. The full text can be read here.

What about the Ganda Group?

Wilmar commits itself to stop deforestation and development on peat immediately, and will not start buying from any suppliers who are deforesting or developing peat. Existing suppliers have until the end of 2015 to comply. Of particular interest is to see how this will affect the Ganda Group (Agro Mandiri Semesta Plantations), a palm oil company which sells its produce to Wilmar.

Wilmar has a special relationship with Ganda Group, which is owned by Ganda Sitorus, the younger brother of Wilmar founder Martua Sitorus. In recent years the Ganda Group have taken over plantations which do not meet Wilmar’s previous ethical commitments to the RSPO and IFC. The most notorious case is in Jambi, Sumatra, where after going through the motions of two years of IFC-facilitated mediation to resolve a land conflict with the indigenous Suku Anak Dalam Batin Sembilan, Wilmar suddenly sold it’s subsidiary PT Asiatic Persada to the Ganda Group, rather than abide by any agreements produced by that mediation. On Saturday 7th December, the Ganda Group once again violently evicted Suku Anak Dalam communities which had reoccupied their ancestral land in the plantation.

The Ganda Group also has plans for two plantations in Merauke: PT Agrinusa Persada Mulia and PT Agriprima Cipta Persada. These companies are also accused of deceiving local villagers and paying shockingly low compensation rates, as well as clearing forest for an oil palm nursery before receiving a plantation permit. The plantations, which also involve clearing natural forest, would clearly not meet the RSPO standards which Wilmar has signed up to in its bid to be seen as a responsible company, but the Ganda Group is unencumbered by such commitments.

However now Wilmar’s policy states that it it won’t be buying from companies that are clearing forests. Does that mean the Ganda Group are going to have to look elsewhere to sell their tainted palm oil?

AwasMIFEE wrote to Wilmar on 6th December to ask whether its new ethical policy would mean that it would be cancelling its plans in Merauke. No response was received by the time this article was published.