BLOG: Forest peoples under threat from new Indonesian land law

Deforestation, Lampung, Sumatra, Indonesia

BLOG: Forest peoples under threat from new Indonesian land law

By Marcus Colchester

Indigenous peoples’ organisations and supportive NGOs in Papua have strongly condemned a draft Indonesian Land Law Bill, initially designed to regularise land ownership and encourage sustainable investment.

However, organisations argue that it will curtail customary rights, further encourage business use permits – which extinguish indigenous peoples’ ownership –  and will criminalise their continued occupation of their own lands.

In a strongly worded ‘Declaration of Opposition’ the indigenous groups said:

“[This law] will exacerbate deforestation and undermine indigenous peoples’ sociocultural life and socioeconomic wellbeing in ways that run counter to indigenous peoples’ own aspirations.

“We declare and request that the members of the [parliament] and the government immediately terminate discussions pertaining to the draft Land Law, as this law has the potential to extinguish our sovereignty and rights to both customary rights and wellbeing.”     

This comes amid turmoil in Indonesia where tens of thousands have taken part in demonstrations, including outside the parliament building in Jakarta, against national law-making issues including around lack of anti-corruption activity and increasing restriction of civil liberties.


Turmoil in Indonesian law-making

The closing weeks of Indonesia’s government, before re-elected President Jokowi renews his term with a new parliament and administration, has seen a sudden flurry of activity in the national legislature.

A new law curbing the powers of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) was hastily passed. Another bill causing consternation was a revised Criminal Justice law which would have banned contraception for under 18-year-olds, abortion, homosexuality and even consensual sex outside marriage. The revised law would also have restricted minority religions and would have intruded on personal privacy and other liberties.

Protestors have demanded that President Jokowi pull back from these ‘insulting’ laws.

In response to the mounting pressure, the President announced that he will delay consideration of the Criminal Justice bill and that he is considering issuing a Presidential Decree to freeze the revised law curbing the powers of the KPK.

However, much less attention has been paid to the draft land law.

President Jokowi should ensure any land tenure reforms uphold the rights of indigenous peoples, as he has previously promised.