Bid to protect indigenous Indonesians hit by ministry’s doubts over rights bill

first_imgCommunity Forests, Environment, Environmental Law, Environmental Policy, Environmental Politics, Forestry, Forests, Indigenous Communities, Indigenous Groups, Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Rights, Land Conflict, Rainforests, Tropical Forests Indonesia’s Home Affairs Ministry has shocked indigenous-rights advocates with its assessment that a bill currently before parliament on indigenous peoples is “not a necessity” and will only give rise to more problems.That stance goes against the long-held commitment of the administration of President Joko Widodo to recognize and protect the rights of the country’s myriad indigenous communities, including their rights to ancestral forests.The ministry, however, has played down the uproar, saying discussions on the bill are still in their early stages and other ministries and government agencies have yet to weigh in on the matter. JAKARTA — The Indonesian government looks poised to derail a long-awaited bill on the rights of the country’s indigenous groups, calling it “not a necessity” and saying it will only trigger new problems.The bill, a perennial priority for legislation for several years, is meant to be the follow-up to a landmark constitutional ruling in 2013 that rescinded state control over indigenous lands and gave it back to Indonesia’s indigenous peoples. Since then, various laws and regulations have been issued that touch on the issue of indigenous rights to some degree, but the central bill that would tie them all together remains locked in legislative limbo.And that state of uncertainty looks set to prevail, as a letter from the Home Affairs Ministry, dated April 11 and seen by Mongabay, sets out the ministry’s objections to the current draft of the indigenous rights bill.It argues, among other points, that the bill is not needed, citing the 16 other laws and regulations that address indigenous issues, such as the 2014 Villages Law.The ministry also says the bill will create problems in the future, such as putting unnecessary pressure on the state budget, triggering new conflicts, and reviving indigenous beliefs that are not regulated by the state. (Indonesia, though nominally secular, grants official recognition to just six faiths, not including the myriad indigenous or animist faiths practiced by groups across the country.)“Therefore, the passing of the bill on indigenous peoples is not yet a concrete necessity, and there are concerns that it will create new problems related to indigenous people,” reads the letter signed by Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo.The ministry indicated in the letter that it had drawn up the “problem inventory” in collaboration with six other ministries and government agencies.The letter was sent in response to the government’s solicitation for feedback on the indigenous rights bill, and thus represents the views of just one set of several stakeholders. However, it paints a bleak outlook for the bill’s progress, given that the objecting party — the Home Affairs Ministry — is the principal government liaison to the parliamentary commission in charge of legislating the bill.A member of the Forest Tobelo indigenous group in North Maluku, Indonesia. Photo by Muhammad Ector Prasetyo/Flickr.Urgency of the billWhile indigenous rights are guaranteed under Indonesia’s constitution, the country has never passed legislation that addresses the issue directly, leaving indigenous communities with little to no legal protections.Proponents of the bill say it’s important to have these protections enshrined in law for communities that have existed since long before the Indonesian republic was conceived. That’s why when Joko “Jokowi” Widodo ran for president in 2014 as a man of the people not beholden to the long-ruling Jakarta elite, many indigenous communities pinned their hopes on him. The Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), the main advocacy group for these communities, made Jokowi the first presidential candidate it had ever endorsed by backing his bid that year.Since then, however, progress on the bill has been slow. In 2016, a draft found its way into parliament’s docket of priority legislation, known as Prolegnas, but never made it to passage. The entire process to get it prioritized had to be repeated in 2017, because bills are not carried over from one year to the next. During a meeting with AMAN in March of that year, Jokowi stated his support for the bill.AMAN and the groups it represents hope the passage of the bill (it’s in the priority docket again this year) will give indigenous communities the legal standing to address the major issues facing them, including the confirmation of basic land rights and a voice in local government.“The point [of the bill] is to first acknowledge, and then to respect, to protect and to empower indigenous people,” Arif Wibowo, the deputy chairman of parliament’s legislative committee, said late last year.One of the most pressing demands from indigenous groups is for recognition of their land rights, something which has been denied them for decades by the government in favor of large plantation and mining companies. The government is obligated to relinquish control over state forest areas that fall within indigenous lands, per the 2013 Constitutional Court ruling. But to date, the government has recognized just 18 communities’ rights to their ancestral forests, covering a combined area of 164 square kilometers (63 square miles).This is far short of the 19,000 square kilometers (7,340 square miles) of land, home to 607 indigenous communities, that AMAN calculates must be rezoned as ancestral forests.Activists blame red tape for the glacial pace of progress, noting that only local governments can grant recognition of customary forests to indigenous communities through local bylaws. For a local administration to issue such a bylaw, it has to ensure that the indigenous people have been living in the area for a long time and that the customary land truly exists, among other things.Activists say they hope that the national bill, once passed, can address these bureaucratic hurdles hindering the recognition of customary land rights.The Dayak indigenous tribe of Kambiyain village in South Kalimantan province, Indonesia, is holding an ‘aruh’ ritual to celebrate the success of their harvest. Photo by Indra Nugraha for Mongabay Indonesia.‘Misguided’ assessmentGiven parliament and the president’s statements of support for the indigenous rights bill, the letter from the Home Affairs Ministry has come as a disappointment to activists.“[We’re] surprised because the minister previously conveyed his commitment to indigenous peoples during AMAN’s national meeting in Sorong [in 2015],” Rukka Sombilinggi, secretary-general of AMAN, told Mongabay.She called the Home Affairs Ministry’s stance misguided and a clear violation of Jokowi’s commitment.“The existing regulations on indigenous peoples overlap with each other and haven’t been able to answer the needs of indigenous peoples,” Rukka said. “Therefore, a law on indigenous people is the answer to the core problems that the government is facing in managing indigenous people. And more importantly, it will provide legal certainty for indigenous peoples, the government and businesses.”Muhammad Arman, AMAN’s policy advocacy, legal and human rights director, said government data showed clearly that land conflicts arising from a lack of legal recognition of indigenous communities and their lands were rampant across the country.He cited data from the Supreme Court, which showed that more than half of the 16,000 unresolved land disputes recorded since Indonesia declared independence in 1945 were related to customary land conflicts. Similarly, the National Commission on Human Rights has found massive human rights violations due to the lack of strong laws to protect indigenous people.“These findings should have been a reason for the government to speed up the passage of the bill,” Arman said in a press statement.President Joko Widodo on Oct. 25 handed over land certificate to a representative of an Indonesian indigenous group. That day, a total nine communities secured rights to their forests. Photo courtesy of Indonesia’s Cabinet Secretary.Still in the early stagesFor its part, the Home Affairs Ministry says its assessment of the need for the indigenous rights bill should be seen as just one facet of the overall debate, and not as the government’s final decision on the issue.“The minister and his personnel will still continue to support discussions related to indigenous peoples,” the ministry’s secretary-general, Hadi Prabowo, said at a press conference in Jakarta.Asked why the ministry deemed there was no urgency to pass the bill, officials declined to answer, saying instead that discussions around the bill — begun in 2016 — were still in the early stages.Nata Irawan, the ministry’s director-general for village administration, said key aspects of indigenous rights were already covered under the 2014 Villages Law.“And [the law] has even been followed up with a ministerial regulation in 2014,” he said at the press conference. “But if it’s still deemed to be lacking, then we’re ready to accept advice and opinions to further [discuss the bill]. What’s clear and what we have to understand together is that the Home Affairs Ministry supports President Jokowi’s policies.”Nata said there was the possibility of the government officially endorsing the bill despite the ministry’s current stance — if other ministries and government agencies deemed the bill to be important. This is because the Home Affairs Ministry is looking at the issue from an administrative point of view, while others like the Ministry of Environment and Forestry might look at the importance of the bill from the perspective of conserving ancestral forests, Nata said.He said further discussions on the bill were planned with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. “If we’re talking about whether the bill is needed or not, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights will be the one to decide,” he said.The Ministry of Environment and Forestry, meanwhile, said that if there was no consensus among government agencies on the importance of the bill, the matter would be discussed with the State Secretariat, which effectively serves as the president’s office for all matters related to ongoing legislation.Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said her office was looking at the bill from the perspective of ancestral land rights, as it was tasked with overseeing the government’s program to recognize customary forests. She acknowledged the difficulties faced by indigenous peoples in getting their land rights recognized, despite the government’s pledges of support.“In practice, the program has been going on with existing regulations. But our indigenous friends feel that it’s difficult because the process [at the level of] local governments and local regulations is slow,” Siti told reporters in Jakarta. Article published by Hans Nicholas Jong Banner image: Indigenous Indonesians of Mentawai district depend their lives on the resourceful forests. Photo by Vinolia Ahmad/Mongabay-Indonesia. Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredlast_img