Jakarta – A civil society coalition took action outside the Environment and Forestry Ministry on Friday (23/03/2018), protesting a permit to release state forest land near the Wosimi River in Naikere and Kuriwamesa subdistricts of Wondama Bay Regency, Papua Barat which was issued to an oil palm company, PT Menara Wasior. Despite a statement of community opposition to the permits issued to this company –sent to the ministry in 2015, to which no response has ever been received– the Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar has now issued PT Menara Wasior a permit (SK No. 16/1/PKH/PMDH/2017 - dated 20 September 2017) for an oil palm plantation.
Stephanus Marani, a representative of civil society from Wasior who attended the action, explained how the company’s plans threatened to destroy the areas where the Wondamen, Torowar and Mairasi ethnic groups lived. A similar point was made by Yohanes Akwan, the chair of the Federation of Indonesian Trade Unions (GSBI) for Papua Barat province, who said that the one-sided practice of permits being issued in Jakarta was highly detrimental to Papuan indigenous communities. “It’s forest that supports our livelihoods, not oil palm; we can’t eat oil palm if our sago groves have been converted into palm plantations” Yohanes said in his speech.
According to him, the people in this area had been the victims of violence from security forces in 2001. The violence, which became known as ‘Bloody Wasior’, was to be described by the National Human Rights Commission as a Gross Human Rights Violation in 2004. The aggression took place between April and October 2001. In July 2004, the National Human Rights Commission’s ad hoc team for Papua investigated the 2001 Bloody Wasior case and the 2003 Bloody Wamena case, uncovering data about how violence had escalated, coming to the conclusion that there had been structural violence from both the police and the military.
The director of Yayasan Pusaka, Franky Samperante drew attention to the inconsistencies in Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla’s government. He said that during 2017 the government had issued forest release permits to three companies in Papua, comprising an area of 60,000 hectares. However, it was not only plantation companies which received permits, but an area of 85,000 hectares was also allocated to mining companies. This protest was jointly staged by several civil society organisations: Yayasan Pusaka, Foker LSM Papua, KPKC GKI Tanah Papua, Walhi Papua, Wongkei Institute, JERAT Papua, SKP KC Fransiskan Papua, Perkumpulan Belantara, Perkumpulan Bin Madag Hom, GSBI Papua Barat and Papua Forest Watch.
Read their Letter of Protest below.