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Land freely given for transmigration?

Jakarta Post - January 28, 1997

Jakarta – Three tribal chiefs in Fakfak regency, Irian Jaya have given 390,000 hectares to the Ministry of Transmigration and the Irian Jaya transmigration office for a resettlement site. "No compensation has been offered in return," said the head of the Irian Jaya transmigration office, N. Hutapea, in the provincial capital of Jayapura yesterday.

"They gave up their land because they want to see more resettlers in their areas. They believe they can boost development activities in their region with the help of resettlers," Hutapea was quoted by Antara as saying. He said the area offered was isolated and the chiefs hoped to free it from isolation with the help of the resettlers.

Hutapea said Chief Arguni gave up 200,00 hectares of land, while Chief Buruai and Chief Komoro provided 100,000 and 90,000 hectares respectively. "As a sign of goodwill on the part of the government, we provided some funds to Chief Arguni. We also assisted him when he went on a-haj pilgrimage to the Holy Land last year," Hutapea said.

Hutapea said the Komoro tribe in the regency of West Mimika appeared pleased with the progress enjoyed by their brothers in East Mimika following the resettlement program there. Hutapea said the 390,000 hectare gift would enable the ministry to save funds, usually allotted to clearing land, for when it next planned to establish new resettlement sites.

Earlier this month, Minister of Transmigration Siswono Yudohusodo insisted the sparsely populated Irian Jaya needed more settlers from Java to speed up development. However, Emmy Hailld, chief of the Indonesian Forum for Environment, argued that the influx of resettlers would threaten the less educated Irian natives.

According to government statistics, at 421,981 square kilometers Irian Jaya is Indonesia's largest province but has a population of only 2 million.

Since 1964, a year after becoming part of Indonesia, the government has made Irian Jaya a major transmigration destination. This year it is earmarked to be the second main destination after Central Kalimantan. Siswono said through the program Irian Jaya now had 3,000 kms of new roads, 103 new bridges and other facilities. The government since 1964 has moved more than 246,000 people from Java to the island and will shift another 110,000 migrants by 1999.

Emmy argued that migrants already constituted 20 percent of Irian Jaya's population and the newcomers were politically and economically dominant. "If the government really wants to improve the Irianese people's well-being, it should improve the health, status and skills of the indigenous people first," she said. (swe)

[This report was posted by Tapol. The comment preceding the article was included in the original posting - JB]