Jayapura, Jubi – A number of Catholics in Papua, calling themselves "One Voice of Catholic Laypeople in Papua", declared a vote of no confidence in all the bishops in Papua and in the Bishop Council of Indonesia (KWI).
"We want [the bishops in Papua] to leave KWI. We want new bishops in Papua and they all have to be indigenous Papuans," said the One Voice coordinator, Melvin Waine, as quoted in the release made available to Jubi in Jayapura, Papua province, on Monday.
The group asked Merauke Archbishop Petrus C. Mandagi to cancel the agreement he allegedly made with PT Korindo, through its subsidiary PT Tunas Sawa Erma (TSE), because they accused the agreement of violating the rights of Papuans to earn a living in southern part of Papua province.
Earlier this month, Merauke Archdiocese accepted Rp 2.4 billion from TSE to do corporate social responsibility, in which the company gave the money to help the archdiocese renovate their seminary and also to fulfill the daily needs of the priests.
Petrus said on Jan. 5 as quoted by Suara Merauke, a news site run by Merauke municipality administration, that he was happy to have the cooperation with the company. He said the supported corporate investment in Merauke but they would also criticize and give suggestions to the companies so they would pay attention to Papua's sustainability.
The CSR created a controversy because the palm plantation company made headlines last year when a police officer allegedly beaten a farmer, Marius Betera, to death in the company's territory in Boven Digoel regency, which is part of the Merauke Archdiocese. The palm plantation has also been the subject of investigative journalism project by geckoproject.org.
Earlier, Jubi interviewed an indigenous community member who has been vocal in defending customary land, Elisabeth Ndiwaen, who pressured the archdiocese to cancel the CSR with TSE. "They cooperate with a palm plantation company that has clearly taken up customary forests only for investors' interests," said Ndiwaen on Jan. 9.
"Archbishop Merauke, Mgr. Petrus Canisius Mandagi, MSC, don't you know what the Marind people have experienced in facing the palm plantation companies that have damaged the forests here," she said. Marind is an indigenous community in Indonesia's Papua province who have lost their forests to the plantations.
The One Voice group claims to represent Catholics in Merauke Archdiocese and four other dioceses (Agats, Jayapura, Timika, and Manokwari-Sorong).
"Today, we sit together, representing Catholics in Papua Land, who share the same problems, complaints and life concerns. This time we want to speak up about our problems that caused by several things, including those caused by actions, perspective, statements, concerns, agenda, and the political standpoint of our clergymen," said Melvin Waine in the 98-page release.
"We sit here bearing sorrow, concerns, and a long experience, since Catholic Church pioneered [their works] here from Skroe shore in Fak Fak, West Papua in 1894," he went on.
An environmental activist, Agustinus Mahuze, earlier said that the CSR would compromise Catholic Church standpoint on palm oil investment in the region.
"I'm sure Catholic Church would be silent with the investment scheme that had damaged the Marind's forests," he said.
"Who is going to believe in Catholic Church if the Church in Merauke plays in the gray area concerning investment in Merauke. What would Catholic Church in Marind's kampung do? That's the fundamental question the diocese has to answer," he said.
A priest at Merauke Archdiocese, Anselmus Amo, MSC, who had supported farmer Marius Betera's family in their journey to justice, promised that the archdiocese would remain critical against any companies that destroyed the environment or hurt the indigenous communities. "That is the commitment of the Merauke Archbishop Mgr. Petrus Canisius Mandagi, MSC," he said.
Earlier on the International Human Righst Day in December last year, 147 Catholic priests in Papua called for an end to violence in the two provinces. They made 10 demands to various stakeholders including the central government, local administrations, Papua Governor Lukas Enembe, and the KWI.
"We, Catholic priests in Papua, wants to ask you this: Why are you Sirs, the leaders of the Catholic Church in Indonesia, never talk about the most prolonged conflict in Papua Land in a serious and holistic manner in your annual meeting," they said.