Sentani, Jubi – Secretary-General of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) Rukka Sombolinggi has called on all indigenous peoples in the archipelago to rise up and unite against all forms of violence and injustice in the country.
Sombolinggi stated this in her speech at the opening of the sixth Indigenous Peoples Congress of the Archipelago (KMAN VI) in Sentani, the capital of Jayapura Regency, on Monday, October 24, 2022.
The opening ceremony took place at Barnabas Youwe Stadium and was attended by thousands of indigenous people from various regions in Indonesia.
Sombolinggi said the indigenous peoples of the archipelago must continue to strengthen solidarity. According to her, indigenous peoples have proven their contribution to Indonesia.
She said 80 percent of the world's biodiversity is currently guarded by indigenous peoples. Now, when the world is experiencing a climate crisis, the answer lies in indigenous territories.
"The best investment at the moment, if the world wants to get out of the climate disaster, is in the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. Not investment in mining or palm oil," she said.
The KMAN VI event held in the Tabi Customary Territory talks about the struggle of indigenous peoples. According to Sombolinggi, indigenous peoples should not be complacent with what has been achieved because the road ahead is still long. "Our struggle is still long, and it all depends on us," she said.
She also said that Indonesia would be fine when the State was serious about taking care of indigenous peoples, including recognizing and protecting indigenous peoples through the Indigenous Peoples Bill.
"Now is time for the government to pass the Indigenous Peoples Bill. Otherwise, it will get rusty and the screws will come off," she said with an analogy.
Sombolinggi said that Indonesia still has many political problems that, according to her, must be addressed in KMAN VI. "We must ensure that violence against indigenous peoples stops immediately and does not happen again," Sombolinggi said.
"That way, the Indigenous Peoples Defense Association of the Archipelago (PPMAN) could be dissolved because there were no more seizures of customary territories," she said jokingly.
Sombolinggi explained that to date, according to AMAN's maps, customary territories total 20 million hectares. Almost all of these maps have been submitted to the government but the government has not yet given legal recognition.
In fact, said Sombolinggi, during the COVID-19 pandemic, indigenous territories were the safest and most comfortable areas. "In indigenous territories, we see that indigenous peoples who are orderly in quarantine are actually in the safest condition. We harvest, plant, and produce medicines," she said.
However, she also admitted there were indigenous people who were not as lucky during the pandemic because their customary territories had been wiped out by oil palm and mining companies.
In her speech, Sombolinggi also dismissed the notion that indigenous people were technologically illiterate. According to her, this assumption is not true. "That is not true, during the lockdown, we utilize technology as much as possible," she said. (*)