The below press release and letter was originally posted 12 November 2014 by awasMIFEE!, a group of independent activists in the UK in solidarity with the people of the Merauke and elsewhere in West Papua threatened by the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) mega-project for the pulp and oil palm industries.
They state their purpose on their website:
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 taken independently, because we believe in international solidarity, unconnected to the programs of any NGO apart from communication and collecting data. We hope it can also be a source of inspiration.
Below, they describe a recent meeting that brought together members of frontline communities in Papua, many Indigenous, along with allies to respond to the longstanding and worsening problems linked to large-scale plantation industries.
Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle, co-founders of GJEP, are now in Paraguay at a similar type of meeting also addressing the ecological and social damage of large-scale plantation industries, but focused on South America, and, for their day to lead the meeting, on the encroachment of genetically engineered trees into plantations, bringing a new threat to forest-dependent communities.
This story out of Papua reminds us of the struggles across the world against plantations, as well as the power of solidarity and strong demands.
Papua-Wide meeting calls for 10 year Moratorium on Plantation and Forestry Industries
Between 4th-7th November 2014, representatives of indigenous communities, environmentalists and human rights defenders from every corner of West Papua met in Jayapura to discuss problems linked to the forestry and large-scale plantation industries, which in recent years have been expanding rapidly throughout the island. This was an important meeting, as the difficulties and expense of travel around Papua means that communities are frequently isolated to face the companies alone, even though the problems they face are remarkably similar. With many more plantation companies set to start operations within the next few years, and timber companies still keen to harvest high-value logs, it is also vital to share the (often bitter) experiences of communities which have already seen how these industries operate, and also to formulate some common platform of demands with which to confront government and policy makers.
Participants at the event heard about the long-term injustices connected with plantations in Jayapura, Keerom and Boven Digoel, where land was taken with military backing during the Suharto dictatorship causing problems which are still not resolved. In Papua’s deep south, participants told of how they have been marginalised by plantations connected to the MIFEE agribusiness development. Others from Sorong, Nabire and Mimika, told of how they were unprepared for the problems which started unfolding as the companies moved in. Delegates from Bintuni and Wondama Bays explained how the effects of the timber industry on communities are no less destructive.
In many of these cases, the same problems could be seen to emerge time and time again: intimidation from military and police officers supporting the companies, loss of livelihood as the forest is destroyed, companies’ broken promises to bring development to communities, environmental problems such as pollution, flooding and loss of water sources. Taking all this into account, the participants agreed to call on all agencies involved in allowing these industries to address these problems.
Top of the list was a call for a 10 year moratorium into for large-scale plantation and forestry investment, during which time part violations should be resolved, and the challenge of finding a way that these industries could exist on indigenous land without disadvantaging indigenous people. Hopefully we will translate some of the testimony on this site soon, in the meantime here is the full list of recommendations:
Organisations involved in organising the event were: Yaysan Pusaka, Greenpeace Papua, SKP Jayapura, Jerat Papua, Foker LSM Papua and Jasoil Papua. A copy of this declaration in Indonesian together with a list of participants can be found at:http://pusaka.or.id/demo/assets/REKOMENDASI-TEMU-RAKYAT-ADAT-KORBAN-PAPUA-Nov-2014.pdf
Meeting of Community Victims of the Forestry and Large-scale Plantation Industries.
Dialogue on Building a Green Economy and Sustainable Development
Today, Friday the seventh of November two thousand and fourteen, in the Maranatha Convent, Waena, Jayapura,
After hearing and discussing Reports of Victims of the Forestry and Large-scale Plantation Industries from throughout the land of Papua, and also discussing various developments in development policy, we as representatives of indigenous communities from twelve Regencies or cities throughout the land of Papua, want to hereby make clear that the state has violated and ignored our human rights, by not protecting, respecting and advancing the rights of indigenous communities throughout the land of Papua, including: acts of discrimination, repression and expropriation of what rightfully belongs to indigenous people throughout Papua. These human rights violations, which have occurred between 1982 and 2014, have caused great loss for indigenous people, as their social and cultural fabric and their natural environment disappear. Because of this, we as representatives of indigenous people who have suffered because of the forestry and large-scale plantation industries, coming from twelve regencies and cities, hereby state the following:
1. To the President of the Republic of Indonesia, to issue a ten-year moratorium on forestry and large-scale plantation development throughout the land of Papua. During the moratorium period, the government would resolve the different problems and violations of indigenous communities’ rights that have already occurred, and amend policies and legislation currently in force in the land of Papua.
2. To the Governors of Papua and West Papua Provinces, to reconsider all policies concerning the granting of permits for the forestry and large-scale plantation industries which disadvantage indigenous people across the land of Papua.
3 To the Commander of Military District XVII Cenderawasih Command and the Papuan Police Chief, to discipline and take action against any members of the military and police forces who openly participate in pressurising and intimidating indigenous people that wish to defend their rights throughout the land of Papua. Also to take action against members of the forces who are either directly engaged in illegal business involving forest products, or back-up and protect others in such businessses.
4. To Bupatis and city mayors throughout the land of Papua, to end the practice of unconditionally giving out permits and recommendations in the forestry and large-scale plantation sector.
5 To the honourable members of the Papuan and West Papua People’s Assemblies (MRP), to hold a Special Dialogue with the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, and the Environment and Forestry Ministry, concerning making changes in policy and regulations related to forestry and large-scale plantation investment in the land of Papua, both ongoing and in the future, which would be based on indigenous peoples’ rights and the spirit of Papuan Special Autonomy.
6 To the Provincial Legislative Councils in Papua and West Papua, to form a Special Committee to conduct investigations into the violations of indigenous communities’ human rights in the land of Papua, which are a result of policies and investment activities in the forestry and large-scale plantation sector.
7 To Customary Tribal Councils throughout the land of Papua, to organise reconciliation and customary assemblies in each area to map the customary lands of each tribe/ethnic group and follow up the findings of this Meeting of Community Victims of the Forestry and Large-scale Plantation Industries.
8 http://pusaka.or.id/demo/assets/REKOMENDASI-TEMU-RAKYAT-ADAT-KORBAN-PAPUA-Nov-2014.pdf, to take an active role in reporting violations in human rights and environmental problems so they can be brought to the attention of wider society and institutions that are actively attempting to protect, respect and advance human rights at the Papuan, national and international levels.
9. Participants of the Meeting of Community Victims of the Forestry and Large-scale Plantation Industries – Dialogue on Building a Green Economy and Sustainable Development hereby declare the foundation of the Indigenous People’s Environmental Council in the Land of Papua (Dewan Lingkungan Masyarakat Adat di Tanah Papua).
These are the recommendations which have been made and agreed together, and we hope they will be heeded and implemented. May our ancestors and the Creator be with us all.