Finding Their Forests Flush With Foes, Provincial Tribes Push for Logging Ban

By webadmin on 11:29 pm Oct 11, 2010
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Ismira Lutfia

Jakarta. Indigenous tribes in Papua and Kalimantan urged the state on Monday to implement a logging ban, after they lost large swaths of ancestral land to loggers, miners and palm oil plantations.

Lawyers of these tribes met with National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) officials in Jakarta on Monday to push for a moratorium on new logging concessions.

“We hope the moratorium goes into effect soon so that the native people of Kalimantan don’t disappear,” said Lidya Haw Liah, one of the tribes’ lawyers.

In a deal signed with Norway in June, the government agreed to stop issuing logging permits for peatland and primary natural forests between 2011 and 2013.

Lidya said deforestation was a curtailment of the indigenous community’s right to live, and blamed the government’s “greed” as a cause of the problem.

She said more than 450 groups of the Dayak tribe in Kalimantan were “on the brink of extinction” as a result of losing their forests and livelihood.

Meanwhile, Father Dani Sanusi, an Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) official, said the clearing of forests in Papua to make way for plantations attracted workers from other islands and caused the marginalization of native Papuans.

“This doesn’t just concern their rights to their ancestral land but also many other aspects, such as social and cultural ones,” Dani said. “This is happening not only in Papua, but also Kalimantan.”

Another advocate for indigenous people’s rights, Father Vitus Modesto Hari from the Archdiocese of Samarinda, said “big investments” were destroying the provinces by cutting down trees for commercial use.

“There are even villages that host three to four companies whose mining or palm oil concessions encroach on the natives’ tribal land and deprive them of their social and economic rights,” the priest said.

Vitus urged the rights commission to investigate land acquisition cases on both islands. He also called upon the state to legally recognize the tribes’ ownership of ancestral lands.

Viktor Higaang, a representative of the Dayak Kayaan Mendalam tribe in Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan, told the Jakarta Globe that his tribe and three others had been protesting logging activities there since 2006.

He said a 24,920-hectare logging concession operated by Toras Benua Sukses was encroaching on a protected area.

With permission from the Ministry of Forestry, the company set up shop within the Bukit Panggihan–Bukit Lambu Anak conservation park, bordering the Betung Kerihun National Park, where several Dayak tribes live.

Yoseph Adi Prasetyo, a Komnas commissioner, said land disputes of this kind would inevitably swing in favor of concession holders because the natives’ land rights claims were considered “nonexistent” by the state.

He also blamed the National Land Agency (BPN) for issuing overlapping land certificates.

He said the rights commission planned to request the BPN to clarify the issue.

Yoseph also said the $5-billion Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate program to build an agricultural estate spanning three Papua districts would pose problems for tribes since it would take up too much land, including ancestral domains.

He said another proposed project to build a Papua outer ring road would “make it easier to transport Papua’s rich natural resources out of the island,” robbing tribes of their livelihood.