APSN Banner

Call to save Papua's forests through 'All Eyes on Papua' campaign

Suara Papua - June 3, 2024

Reiner Brabar, Sorong – Customary forests that have been a source of livelihood for the Awyu tribe in Boven Digoel regency, South Papua, and the Moi Tribe in Sorong regency, West Papua, are threatened with disappearing due to the clearing of land for palm oil plantations.

Social media over the last few days has been enlivened with the uploading of a poster reading "All Eyes on Papua". This phrase is a reflection that the land of Papua is currently not okay at all.

The "All Eyes On Papua" campaign has been increasingly in the public spotlight and gained momentum after environmental crusaders from the Awyu and Moi tribes together Papuan students and a number of community organisations held solidarity actions accompanied by traditional rituals and prayers in front of the Supreme Court building in Jakarta on Monday May 27.

Hendrikus Woro, an environmental crusader from the Awyu tribe, said that through these peaceful actions the indigenous people of the Awyu and Moi tribes hope that the Supreme Court will hand down a legal ruling that will protect their customary forest.

"We came here after travelling a distance that was long, complicated and expensive from the land of Papua to the capital city to ask the Supreme Court to restore our rights that have been expropriated by revoking the palm oil company's permit that we are currently fighting against", said Woro on Monday June 3.

Woro sued the Papua provincial government for issuing an environmental feasibility permit for the company PT Indo Asiana Lestari (PT IAL). The PT IAL environmental permit covers an area of 36,094 hectares, or more than half the area of Greater Jakarta, and is in the traditional forest of the Woro clan, which is part of the Awyu tribe.

His lawsuit however failed in the first- and second-level courts. Now, his appeal to the Supreme Court is his remaining hope to defend the customary forests that have been his ancestral heritage and supported the Woro clan for generations.

In addition to the Supreme Court appeal against PT IAL, a number of Awyu indigenous communities have also submitted an appeal with the Supreme Court against a lawsuit by PT Kartika Cipta Pratama (PT KCP) and PT Megakarya Jaya Raya (PT MJR), two palm oil companies that are expanding into Boven Digoel regency.

PT KCP and PT MJR, which previously lost at the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN), filed an appeal and won in the Jakarta State Administrative High Court (PTTUN).

"We have been tormented for quite a long time by plans for palm oil in our traditional area. We want to raise our children through natural products. Palm oil will destroy our forests. So, we reject it", said Rikarda Maa, a traditional Awyu woman.

Meanwhile the Moi Sigin, a Moi sub-tribe in Sorong district, Southwest Papua, is fighting against PT Sorong Agro Sawitindo (PT SAS) which will clear 18,160 hectares of Moi Sigin customary forest for oil palm plantations. PT SAS previously held a 40 thousand hectare concession in Sorong district. In 2022, the central government revoked PT SAS's forest area release permit followed by the revocation of its business permit. PT SAS refused to accept this decision and sued the government at the Jakarta PTUN.

Representatives of the Moi Sigin indigenous community have also fought back by submitting themselves as intervention defendants at the Jakarta PTUN in December 2023. After the judge rejected the lawsuit in early January, the Moi Sigin indigenous community filed an appeal with the Supreme Court on May 3, 2024.

"I urge the Supreme Court to provide legal justice for us indigenous peoples. Customary forests are where we hunt and gather sago. The forest is a pharmacy for us. Our needs are all in the forest. The existence of PT SAS is very detrimental to us indigenous peoples. If our customary forests are lost, where else will we go?", said Fiktor Klafiu, a representative of the Moi Sigin indigenous community who is the intervention defendant.

The Coalition to Save Papuan Customary Forests, which is made up of the Nusantara Traditional Community Defense Association (PPMAN), the People's Earth Heritage Foundation (Pusaka), Greenpeace Indonesia, the Papua Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Papua), the Papua Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi Papua), the Walhi National Executive (Eknas Walhi), the Indonesian Public Interest Lawyer Network (Pilnet Indonesia), the Institute for Public Research and Advocacy (Elsam), Satya Bumi and the Association for Community and Ecology-Based Law Reform (Perkumpulan HuMa), is inviting the public to continue to voice its support for the Awyu and Moi tribes.

The presence of the PT IAL and PT SAS oil palm companies will damage the forest which is a source of livelihood, food, water, medicines, culture and knowledge for the Awyu and Moi indigenous peoples. The forest is also a habitat for Papua endemic flora and fauna, as well as a large carbon reserve. It is feared that the PT IAL and PT SAS operations have triggered deforestation that will release 25 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, worsening the impact of the climate crisis in the country.

"We ask the Supreme Court to carefully examine the Awyu and Moi tribes' lawsuit, see the interests of environmental protection and the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as issuing a successful ruling for the Awyu and Moi tribes. The panel of judges needs to prioritise the aspects of environmental and climate justice, the impact of which will not only be felt by the Awyu and Moi tribes, but other Indonesian people as well", said Tigor Hutapea, a member of the Awyu and Moi tribal legal team from Pusaka.

The Awyu and Moi tribes have gone through a complicated process in order to defend their customary forest. Although the previous ruling handed down by the court was not as hoped, they have not stopped pursuing legal recourse.

"The struggle of the Awyu and Moi tribes is an honorable effort for the sake of customary forests, for the life of their children and grandchildren today and in the future, and indirectly for all of us. We invite the public to support the struggle of the Awyu and Moi tribes and speak out to save Papua's forests which are a fortress as we confront the climate crisis", said Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Sekar Banjaran Aji.

The indigenous people of the Awyu and Moi tribes still need public support for their petition. Click on this link to sign the petition: https://www.change.org/p/hutan-seluas-separuh-jakarta-akan-hilang-mahkamah-agung-cabut-izin-sawit-pt-ial.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Seruan Selamatkan Hutan Papua Melalui Kampanye 'All Eyes on Papua'".]

Source: https://suarapapua.com/2024/06/03/seruan-selamatkan-hutan-papua-melalui-kampanye-all-eyes-on-papua