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Merauke Bupati Orders Mayora and Astra to Stop Work

Merauke Bupati Orders Mayora and Astra to Stop Work Awaiting Further Discussions

After up to 100 local people occupied PT Mayora’s office in Merauke last week, FORMASI SSUMAWOMA managed to get an audience with Merauke Regency Leader (Bupati) Romanus Mbaraka to discuss their opposition to PT Mayora and PT Astra. During the two-hour discussion they heard some encouraging words from the Bupati, who agreed to sign an order prohibiting PT Mayora and PT Astra from conducting further activities in the area until further discussions can take place.

The Bupati also appeared to hint that a new approach to plantation companies might be on the table by referring to an upcoming meeting in another part of Merauke, Salor. Elected shortly after MIFEE was officially launched, Bupati Mbaraka has often spoken about the need to protect the rights of villagers when companies move in. However this is not always seen in practice, as officials from his government are always present to witness land release settlements, where a maximum of 30,000 Rupiah ($30) per hectare is paid. Therefore it remains to be seen whether his words are a meaningful show of support for villagers, or a means to placate the growing indigenous movement against MIFEE while companies search for new strategies.

Tabloid Jubi journalist Ans.K was present in the meeting and filed three reports for the tabloidjubi.com website. Here are a selection of the comments he recorded from what seems like an interesting meeting:

“I will issue a declaration so that those two companies cannot carry out any more activities before [further talks]. Because there is still a follow-up meeting planned, which will be held between customary landowners and other stakeholders in Salor. I hope this information will be passed on to all the villages”, the Bupati said.

The Bupati also gave some more reflections on the conflict between companies and the Marind people: “I am still looking for the best approach – whether location permits should only be given after there is a prior agreement with the local people, or whether the location permit should be given beforehand. Up to now the permits have been given before the investors have reached agreement with the local people. People also need to understand that issuing a location permit does not mean that an investment is a finished deal and will go ahead.”

“After the location permit is issued”, he continued, “investors present their plans to the people. That means that it is up to the people whether they accept it or not. If the people accept the plan as the rightful customary landowners, then the company will proceed with the environmental impact assessment, mapping the area, negotiating buying rights to the land and other administrative tasks”.

He said that in principle, the government went along with whatever the people wanted. However, they needed to anticipate the possibility that different stakeholders would give conflicting permissions. “We have to be serious about this. If a community opposes a company’s presence, they should let me know, and we can step in to mediate”, he requested.

Bupati Mbaraka added that the people had to be careful. Don’t let anyone in the community start playing Judas. By this he meant where some people agree to plans and others oppose them. People need to be very careful about this so that horizontal conflict doesn’t emerge. “I want to make clear once again that if a community rejects an investor, the government will continue to back them up”, he said.

Catholic Priest Pius Manu reflected on MIFEE as a national program, and said that academic studies were needed as the national government would not accept decisions based on local customary law alone. “People in Jakarta”, he said, “think that the state owns the land from Sabang [tip of Sumatra in Aceh] to Merauke. I think if we could use some scholarly arguments, the central government would be sure to understand.”

Pastor Pius explained that everyone should stop and think about people’s security. Don’t let Indonesia love the Land of Papua more than the people that live there. Millions of people will be brought from outside Papua to work in the companies, but that is killing indigenous Papuans who are already in a minority. They have to remember that Papuans are also Indonesian citizens”

ENDS

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