- Indonesia’s human rights commission published on Wednesday the results of its national inquiry into land conflicts affecting indigenous peoples.
- As part of inquiry, the commission held eight hearings across the country at which dozens of indigenous communities were invited to testify.
- Now, the commission wants the government to recognize indigenous peoples’ rights, set up a task force to address their plight, and more.
It must be one of the most extensive compendiums of suffering and struggle ever produced in Indonesia – the result of a national inquiry into land conflicts affecting indigenous peoples, published in four books on Wednesday by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).
The centerpiece is a roughly 1,000-page-long study of 40 cases which were examined over the course of eight hearings Komnas HAM staged throughout 2014.
They represent a sample of the thousands of disputes in the resource-rich archipelago pitting communities against companies, the state or each other.
Many of the cases have seen violence inflicted on locals by soldiers and police, who tend to side with industry in times of agrarian trouble, the commissioners found. Still, a staggering number of mines and agribusinesses are operating illegally, without the proper permits, the inquiry confirmed. The victims are all too often indigenous communities whose rights are yet to be recognized in law.
Abdon Nababan, secretary general of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), which assisted in the inquiry, called once again on the government to form a task force on indigenous rights, a demand Komnas HAM echoed.
“We will continue to insist that the president fulfills his commitment,” he said at the launch event, speaking before a crowd that included Teten Masduki, President Joko Widodo’s chief of staff.
In his own address, Masduki praised the inquiry, and asked for patience as the president searches for the best way to address indigenous peoples’ plight.
“We have to be careful about forming new agencies,” he explained, citing the drawbacks of overlapping institutions. “But that doesn’t mean that if a proposed agency is really important it can’t be formed.”
Masduki had to leave after that, which meant he missed speeches by Mama Do, a woman from the Aru Islands who has been outspoken in her community’s fight against the Menara Group’s sugarcane plans; and Masrani, a Dayak Benuaq man from Muara Tae, where locals are battling a pair of oil palm firms accused of land grabbing.
“I have a message for the KPK,” Masrani said, referring to the Corruption Eradication Commission, whose commissioner attended the launch. “Don’t just go after the ‘big rats’ in the capital. Please, go after the ‘small rats’ in the regions, too.”
Komnas HAM highlighted five “root problems”: the law’s failure to address indigenous rights; a lack of understanding of indigenous peoples’ ways of being and relating to the forest; excessive focus on economic growth; “patriarchy in the body of the state”; and the absence of effective institutions for resolving agrarian conflicts fairly.
The inquiry was done as a follow-up to a landmark 2013 Constitutional Court ruling that took indigenous peoples’ customary lands out of state forests. It also falls under a wider KPK-backed initiative, called the NKB, to clean up management of Indonesia’s land and natural resources.