Save our people and forests, say Papuans

Down to Earth No.78, August 2008

Papuans are calling on the Indonesian government to stop issuing licences for companies logging and developing plantations in Papua's forests until indigenous rights are protected.

The battle over Papua's natural resources was stepped up in June, when a coalition of 20 Papuan civil society organisations demanded a halt to forest exploitation licences until draft regulations on indigenous rights to manage natural resources have been passed.

The church, community, indigenous organisations and NGOs issued their demand at a meeting in Jakarta. A press release issued internationally by UK-based EIA, the Papua NGO Forum (Foker) and Bogor-based Telapak, highlighted the threats faced by Papua's forests: large scale pulpwood, oil palm and other biofuel crop plantations; legal and illegal logging; and a licence to cut down trees 1km either side of a 1,650km long 'Trans Papua' road.1

"Our forests have been exploited for decades", said Malamoi indigenous leader Jhohanis Gifelem, "but Papuans have not benefited. In the Malamoi area, there are at least two oil palm plantations as well as logging. Now the natural forests, which have provided a source of livelihood for generations, are prone to floods and landslides instead. Local people want the government to withdraw licences for the logging and plantations and are asking for support to manage the forests sustainably instead. 2

The executive director of Indonesia's forest concessionaires association (APHI), Nanang Rofandi Ahmad, said that HPH and HTI concession holders in Papua had contributed a lot to local people. "We give compensation for each cubic metre cut" he said.

But last year Papuan government advisor Agus Sumule reported that despite high earning from the forestry sector, forest areas in Papua have the highest per capita poverty rates in Indonesia. Although forestry is Papua's second biggest revenue earner (5.24% of total export values, or 59.42% of export values without the Freeport mine), almost 70% of households inside forest areas are estimated to be poor, compared to 55% outside.3

Nanang added that companies would seek legal protection from the government against any policy to cancel their licences, if this hurt company interests.4

Sawit Watch, the Indonesia NGO network working on oil palm issues, puts oil palm expansion plans for Papua (both provinces) at 3 million hectares. Around 9 million ha of forests are allocated for conversion to plantations and other uses. Only about 18 million hectares of forests are estimated to remain intact on around 40 million hectares of land officially designated as forest. Greenpeace and EIA-Telapak have both issued substantial reports highlighting the break-neck speed of forest destruction there.5


Delayed Perdasus

Draft regional government regulations on indigenous rights and resources management were submitted to the Papuan parliament in Jayapura two years ago, but still haven't been passed. According to Septer Manufandu, Executive Secretary of Foker, this has caused a "legal grey area" used by investors and others working with the Papuan elite, to exploit the forests.

The EIA/Foker/Telapak press release explains that Perdasi (provincial regional regulations) will be used to deal with the technicalities of implementing community-based forest management in Papua. However, these can't be issued until the draft Perdasus (special regional regulation) on Papuan's rights to manage their natural resources is passed.

Perdasus derive from Papua's Special Autonomy law of 2001. There are currently 21 draft Perdasus and Perdasi listed on the Papua government's website.6 These include draft regulations on the protection of Papuan intellectual property rights, mining, sustainable forestry, indigenous Papuans' collective and individual rights over land, environmental conservation, indigenous Papuans and natural resources use, as well as indigenous Papuan forest management.

However, according to Papua's Special Autonomy law, Perdasus and Perdasi are both subject to 'repressive supervision' by the central government in Jakarta. The law's explanatory notes say that the government can invalidate Perdasus and Perdasi if they are contradictory to higher ranking legislation or to the general interest of the people of Papua.7


Oil Palm, cacao & sago companies in Papua
CompanyLocationConcession (ha)Actual (ha)
Oil palm:
PT Tunas Sawah ErmaBoven Digoel14.5008,700
PT Sumber Indah Perkasa*Jayapura6,51010,189
PT Sinar Kencana Inti Perkasa*Jayapura15,64410,189
PTPN IIKeeroem57,00010,700
PT Bumi Irian PerkasaKeeroem2,0001,400
PT Merauke Sawit JayaMerauke35,297200
PT Puragi AgroindoS. Sorong40,000Preparing site
PT Harvest RayaNabire22,400Preparing site
PT Sinar Kencana Inti Perkasa*Jayapura5,000Preparing site
PT Gaharu Prima LestariSarmi30,000Preparing site
PT Rimba Matoa LestarJayapura29,000Preparing site
PT Pusaka Agro LestariMimika39,000Preparing site
PT Tandan Sawita PapuaKeerom26,300Preparing site
PT Sawit Nusa TimurMerauke30,000Plantation Operation Permit process
PT Turni Papua Perkasa JayaKeerom5,500500
PT Korina JayaJayapura400-
PT ANJ Agri PapuaS. Sorong50,000Preparing site
PT Nusa EthanolasiaBintuni50,000Preparing site


*Sinar Mas Group companies (Source: Bisnis Indonesia 3/Jun/08, quoting Agriculture Department figures).

1 Press release in Indonesian at and in English at
2 Kompas 24/Jun/08
3 Recognition of customary rights in Papua, presentation by Agus Sumule at Peace and Sustainability Session, hosted by the Institute for Environmental Security, the Hague 14-15/Mar/2007.
4 Tempo Interaktif 30/Jun/08
5 See DTE 75DTE 69 & DTE 65 for more background. 
6 See
7 The Special Autonomy law can be viewed in both Indonesian and English at See also conference paper by Theo Van Den Broek, 2003, which translated the relevant notes at Watch Indonesia website: