- Instead of attending the fifth congress of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago last week in Sumatra as planned, Jokowi invited representatives of the organization to meet in Jakarta on Wednesday.
- He told them he would push parliament to pass a law on indigenous rights and said he would form a task force to support the movement.
- The administration is planning to recognize the rights of 18 more communities to the forests they call home, an area spanning a total of 590,000 hectares, the president said.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo addressed a contingent of indigenous leaders in Jakarta on Wednesday, reassuring them of his commitment to their civil rights movement in a Muslim-majority archipelago nation of 250 million people.
The meeting came a few days after the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) staged its fifth congress in North Sumatra. Jokowi, as he is popularly known, had been scheduled to attend the event but backed out at the last minute to inaugurate a border post in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo island. So he invited them to the Presidential Palace instead.
Flanked by Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar and Presidential Chief of Staff Teten Masduki, Jokowi said he would strive to accelerate the passage by parliament of a long-awaited bill on indigenous rights.
He also said he would instruct the Ministry of Home Affairs to push district heads around the country to recognize the indigenous groups in their jurisdictions, a prerequisite before the government can acknowledge these communities’ customary land rights.
Last December, Jokowi recognized the rights of nine communities to the forests they call home, presumably giving them control over an area spanning a total of around 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres). On Wednesday he said was preparing 18 more orders covering a total of 590,000 hectares.
Jokowi has promised to rezone 12.7 million hectares of land under the various “social forestry” schemes; AMAN has mapped more than 8 million hectares out of what it says is a total of around 40 million hectares that belongs to the nation’s indigenous groups.
“I’m sure that if this land is given to indigenous peoples, it will be better protected and better maintained — I’ve seen it myself,” Jokowi said in his remarks, earning a round of applause.
The president also reiterated his commitment to form a task force on indigenous rights, which AMAN leaders had hoped he would announce at their congress. The task force is seen as key to coordinating the administration’s often unwieldy efforts toward indigenous rights.
“Even though the government’s intentions are good, the results are not necessarily good,” said Rukka Sombolinggi, who was selected as AMAN’s next secretary general last week. “That’s why the task force is crucial for us.”
Banner image: Indonesian President Jokowi addresses indigenous leaders at a meeting in Jakarta on Mar. 22. Photo courtesy of the Presidential Press Bureau