Arjuna Pademme, Jayapura – Lawmaker of Papua Legislative Council John NR Gobai said that forest products and other natural resources in Papua were mostly controlled by investors, who have permits from the central government, instead of Indigenous People. To date, Indigenous Papuans are still marginalized in natural resource management.
"Indigenous People work on natural resources with simple tools and their activities were considered illegal," Gobai said during a webinar on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021.
According to Gobai, investors often prioritize profits over establishing equal relationships with Indigenous People and other stakeholders. Investors, Gobai said, also grabbed land belonging to Indigenous People, pitting Indigenous People against each other, which resulted in polarization in society.
"Investors also use security forces in land grabbing practices, which sometimes results in violence and human rights violations," he said.
Gobai said that natural resource management models that ignore the existence of Indigenous People often make them lose their customary forests, which are their source of livelihood. This is presumably due to the weak supervision by the government, says Gobay.
"Even in law enforcement, injustice occurs. People who are said to be managing natural resources illegally are criminalized. While on the other hand, companies that violate the rules are often exempted from punishment," he said.
The representative of the Indigenous People of Wembi Village in Manam District, Keerom Regency, Kosmas Boryam, said in the discussion that most of the customary forest in Wembi had been turned to oil palm plantations. However, the Indigenous People do not get any economic benefits from the plantations.
"Most of our forest has been converted into oil palm plantations. But do we enjoy the profit? Absolutely not," Boryam said.
Boryam believed that forest sustainability was very important for Indigenous People in Papua, including in Keerom Regency. "We Indigenous People hunt in the forest because our income is not enough to pay for our children's tuition. If we get prey, such as deer, we can sell it for school fees," he said.
However, as the customary forests are getting depleted, Boryam said he did not know how the next generation of Keerom Indigenous People would thrive in life. Currently, the Indigenous People of Wembi are trying to grow cassava, vegetables, vanilla, and cocoa on the remaining land to support their livelihood. "We only live from farming. We hope that the government will pay attention to us, the Indigenous People in the village," he said.