In Brief... DTE 56 - February 2003

Down to Earth No 56  February 2003

NGO to sue Singapore over sand imports

The Institute of Indonesian Forestry Studies, an organisation based in Riau province, is planning to charge Singapore with destroying the marine environment and mangrove forests as well as causing the disappearance of an island in Karimun subdistrict. The Institute's director, Andreas Herykahurifan, said the Riau administration must also bear responsibility because it had issued licences to sand-dredging companies. Since sand dredging started in 1979, coral reefs have been destroyed and fishing has suffered. So far around 500 million cubic metres of sand have been exported for land reclamation projects in Singapore.

In a related report, the Belgian government is pressing Jakarta to release 3 Belgian vessels impounded in July last year and charged with stealing sand from Indonesian territory. The charges were dismissed in October.

In 2001, Bisnis Indonesia reported that, Dutch, Japanese and German companies had been contracted by Singapore to procure sand for reclamation projects. (Jakarta Post 18/Jan/03; Bisnis Indonesia 27/Jun/01 in DTE 51)


Transmigration slow to reform

Sweeping policy reforms in the transmigration programme were announced several years ago, but implementation of these changes has been extremely slow. In January 2003, minister of manpower and transmigration Jacob Nuwa Wea said his office was still completing changes necessary to adjust transmigration to Indonesia's decentralised system (regional autonomy took effect at the beginning of 2001). He said the ministry would become a 'facilitator' in the supply of manpower between regions according to supply and demand, instead of continuing its former role of deciding how many people are resettled and where they are sent.

The changes still do not appear to do anything to address to huge damage the programme has inflicted on indigenous communities whose lands were taken for transmigration sites. Responding to rejection of new transmigrants by some regional governments, including Papua, the minister talked about allotting more of the transmigration site land to local people. "If need, be," he said, "we'll grant 60 percent to the Papuans and 40 percent to the newcomers". This doesn't sound like anything new, but a continuation of the old translok scheme, which meant taking indigenous lands, then putting the displaced families on transmigration sites and expecting them to learn farming techniques from the transmigrants.

And still the transmigration programme grinds on: over the past two years, some 39,000 families (or 153,000 people) have been moved or given new jobs through transmigration. These figures are lower than during transmigration's peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s when almost 2.5 million people were resettled (1979-1984), but they are still substantial.


Transmigrant poverty in W.Kalimantan

The current figures are alarming when it is evident that transmigration shcemes are still failing. According to the Indonesian Advocacy Service for Justice and Peace (PADMA), 3,500 families participating in nucleus estate/smallholder transmigration schemes in West Kalimantan, arrived at the project locations to find that the promised houses, garden plots and 2-hectare oil palm plots had not been prepared. "The government's insensitive, inconsistent, arrogant and discriminative attitude in law enforcement has caused...a high mortality rate among infants and pregnant women, infant malnutrition, a high dropout rate among school students and child labour," says the group. "The sale or exchange of children for rice is [a] clear indication of how the transmigrants have been left to live in absolute poverty."

Minister Nuwa Wea also said that the transmigration budget had been raised from US$ 57million in 2001 to US$67 million in 2002. It's a pity that some of these funds were not directed to help poverty-stricken transmigrants like those in West Kalimantan.

(Source: Jakarta Post 9/Nov/02; 2/Jan/03; DTE special report, Indonesia's transmigration programme: an update, DTE, July 2001)

Taratak gets rights award

Congratulations to Sumatra-based NGO, Taratak, for winning the Foundation for Human Rights in Asia's Asian Human Rights Award for 2002. The Japanese foundation praised Taratak for its work to assist victims of the Kotopanjang dam, built with Japanese development money. Over 20,000 people were forced to leave their homes or partially lost their property when the dam was completed in 1996. Representatives of the affected communities are seeking compensation from Japan for loss of livelihood - see DTE IFIs Update, 28, September 2002.(Deutsche Presse-Agentur 4/Dec/02)

ARuPA films

The Indonesian NGO, ARuPA, has produced three documentary films about community forest management, conflict and dispute resolution with state forestry company, Perhutani, in Menoreh, Wonosobo and Blora, Central Java.

A local government regulation in Wonosobo - now under threat from central government - paved the way for a new approach to forest management in Central Java see DTE 55 and our special report Forests, People and Rights).

ARuPA's film, Endless Negotiation, about the Blora case, was shortlisted for the Documentary Film at Jakarta Film Festival 2002 and it won Jury Special Prize.

For more details see: