Major victory for Indigenous rights
- December 19, 2021
- Posted by: admin
- Category: Latest News
In a historic judgement, the Jayapura Administrative Court in West Papua Province of Indonesia ruled in favour of a district head who had revoked permits allowing more than a dozen palm oil companies to operate in Indigenous Forest areas and turn them into plantations. The head of Sorong district, Johny Kamuru was sued by three companies anmely, PT. Inti Kebun Lestari, PT Papua Lestari Abadi, and PT Sorong Agro Sawitindo for cancelling the permit to property stretched over 90,031 hectares (222,471 acres) for plantaions. The cancellation was recommended by the provincial government in February 2021, which suggested the lands be returned to their Indigenous owners for sustainable management. Indigenous communities in the region have been fighting to get their land rights recognized and defend their territories from palm oil companies.
Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of palm oil, bringing in $5.7bn or 11 percent of the country’s annual exports. In 2020, Indonesia exported nearly 37.3 million tonnes of palm oil, commanding 55 percent of the global palm oil market, according to the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAKI). Palm oil exports rose by 32 percent in July 2021 compared with the previous month to reach $2.8bn, according to the association. As of August, a total of approximately 680,000 hectares (1.68 million acres) of concessions were reportedly evaluated from 24 companies. Indigenous Moi men and women protest on International Indigenous Peoples Day August 9, 2020, in front of the Sorong district government office, calling for the cancellation of palm oil permits over their ancestral lands. Consequently, 330,000 hectares (815,448 acres) across districts such as Sorong, South Sorong, Bintuni Bay, Fakfak, South Manokwari and Wondama Bay have been revoked.
The head of Sorong district, Johny Kamuru was sued by three companies anmely, PT. Inti Kebun Lestari, PT Papua Lestari Abadi, and PT Sorong Agro Sawitindo for cancelling the permit to property stretched over 90,031 hectares (222,471 acres) for plantations. The cancellation was recommended by the provincial government in February 2021, which suggested the lands be returned to their Indigenous owners for sustainable management. Indigenous communities in the region have been fighting to get their land rights recognized and defend their territories from palm oil companies. Indigenous peoples’ organisations, the Sorong regency government and national NGOs have all taken a stand to rescue these Indigenous Forest lands from conversion for palm oil production.
In the beginning of 2021, the voice against the new palm oil projects grew louder. “Our friends in Java can cultivate rice. But we in Papua, we depend on our forests,” Moi chief Paulus Safisa said in October, as per Mongabay. “For the Moi Indigenous people, forests are like their birth mother who breastfeeds them every day. Or like their backbone. If it’s broken, we can’t walk and live. It’s the same as death.” In the end, the outcome of the protest was cancellation of permits of three companies after years of struggle by Indigenous communities in the region to get their land rights recognized and defend their territories from palm oil companies. However, all the three companies sued against the cancellation in Jayapura Administrative Court to reverse the decision. The valuable forested land claimed by the three companies covers 90,031 hectares, an area larger than New York City. Greenpeace Indonesia’s Papua Forests Campaigner Nico Wamafma said “Considering the influence of power and money in the justice system, and the importance of this case for Indigenous rights in West Papua, a coalition of NGOs has requested the national Judicial Commission to monitor proceedings.
Pusaka Foundation’s Tigor Hutapea said “In our submission, we asked the court to appreciate the wider implications of this case. This is not a commercial dispute about permits. It is about the public interest in protecting Indigenous land rights, biodiversity and environmental sustainability in Papua.” AMAN’s Fecky Mobalen added: “In the amicus curiae brief we called on the court to respect publicly stated Indigenous opposition and provide justice in recognition that permits were issued without their consent.”
In a landmark judgement, the upheld the cancellation of permits bringing huge relief to the indigenous people. West Papua activists celebrate legal win over palm oil firms as the court ruling saves indigenous people ancestral lands spanning tens of thousands of hectares from palm oil exploitation. Moi advocates reportedly celebrated in front of the local district office following the ruling. Ambrosisus Klagilit, advocacy coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) in Sorong, told Al Jazeera that the decision “assures our future and our lands.” Wirya Supriyadi, advocacy coordinator of the Papua office of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), described the ruling as “a positive breakthrough” and a “victory” for the Moi peoples. The court verdict is a major victory for Indigenous rights and environmental preservation.