A sign in the Indonesian village of Wambi in Papua province’s Merauke district says locals reject the presence of any company. Merauke is the site of a planned food and energy megaproject that was shelved during the Yudhoyono presidency but has been revived by the Jokowi administration. Photo: Agapitus Batbual
A coalition of Indonesian civil society groups that attended the first intergovernmental working group on a proposed UN binding treaty on business and human rights raised concerns about alleged abuses surrounding a controversial food and energy megaproject planned for the Papuan district of Merauke.
The coalition, Indonesia Focal Point, is among those pushing for a legally binding instrument to address human rights violations arising from the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises. The treaty would hold accountable for abuses not just the businesses themselves but also the countries where the businesses are based or operate.
Civil society groups assemble in Geneva during the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights’ five-day session thsi week. Photo: Walhi
Wensislaus Fatubun, one of the civil society representatives from Papua, said the Indonesian government must take responsibility for what happens in the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), which was shelved during the administration of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono but which current President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration intends to resurrect.
“The Indonesian government must protect the rights of indigenous Papuans who have been victimized by the corporate food estate project,” Wensislaus said in a statement earlier this week.
In Merauke, he explained, there had been many cases of human rights abuses involving corporations linked to MIFEE, such as forced evictions of local communities, destruction of sites important to indigenous peoples, torture and other forms of violence, environmental destruction and labor discrimination.
“Since April there has been an increase in arrests and intimidation by the security forces, directly affecting at least 531 people,” said Wensislaus, who criticized the government for helping corporate interests appropriate indigenous lands.
The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights’ five-day meeting in Geneva ends today.
Indonesia was one of the 20 member states on the 47-member UN Human Rights Council to support the resolution mandating the working group. The others were Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Ivory Coast, Namibia, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam.
Fourteen countries voted against the resolution; they were Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, South Korea, Romania, Macedonia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Thirteen countries abstained: Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Gabon, Kuwait, Maldives, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone and the United Arab Emirates.
Produced in English by Philip Jacobson.
- Sapariah Saturi and Agapitus Batbual. “Organisasi Masyarakat Sipil Bawa Kasus Mifee ke Sidang HAM PBB.” Mongabay-Indonesia. 10 July 2015.