In brief... DTE 63 - November 2004

Down to Earth No 63  November 2004

Munir poisoned

In November it was revealed that leading Indonesian human rights defender, Munir, who died in September whilst on a flight from Indonesia to the Netherlands, was poisoned with arsenic. Indonesian and international colleagues have expressed shock at the news that Munir was murdered. Munir - an outspoken critic of the military, was co-founder of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and the Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial). (Tapol 11/Nov/04)


West Papua military raids

At least three people have been killed and as many as 20,000 displaced after military raids in Puncak Jaya, West Papua, according to Radio Australia. Indonesian special forces, Kopassus, are reported to have fired from helicopters and destroyed crops, forcing people to flee to the mountains, where they have insufficient food. Papuan human rights NGO, Elsham, believes the attack, on October 17th, was in retaliation for the killing of a group of road workers. Indonesian daily Kompas reported that five were killed, including a priest. Kompas said members of Indonesia's new Regional Representative Council from Papua were calling on President Yudhoyono to stop such operations and to provide emergency relief to the refugees. There is speculation that Kopassus may be trying to pressure the president into giving up his plan to implement special autonomy in Papua, which may hamper the military's business activities, including illegal logging.

A former police chief and five subordinates are expected to be tried for involvement in illegal logging in Papua. However, in November, the Jakarta Post reported that the suspects had not yet been arrested and the former police chief was working at police headquarters in Jakarta.

Indonesia's constitutional court announced in November that a 1999 law dividing Papua into three provinces violated the constitution. Nevertheless, the court recognised the existence of West Irian Jaya province - an effective division of the territory which NGOs predict will lead to increased military and police numbers and a bigger bureaucracy staffed by non-Papuans.

In September, Jakarta imposed a ban on foreign journalists wanting to travel to Papua, Aceh and other trouble spots. (Radio Australia 8/Nov/04; Kompas 21/Oct/04; Jakarta Post 10&12/Nov/04 )


NGOs set targets

The Coalition for Land Reform and Natural Resources Management has listed its key demands for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's new government:

  1. a minimum1-year moratorium on new laws related to land and natural resources management and a review of existing sectoral laws;
  2. a 1-year moratorium on new resource exploitation licences and review of existing projects, especially in the extractive sector such as mining, pulp/paper and plantations;
  3. an independent conflict resolution body to settle disputes or conflicts over land and natural resources. A draft framework for the establishment of a National Commission for Land and Resource Conflict Resolution has already been proposed by Indonesia's national human rights commission and NGOs;
  4. law enforcement against Newmont;
  5. a ban on military involvement in business related to natural resources and withdrawal of military units from guarding resource projects such as mines. 

(Memo, Koalisi Untuk Pembaruan Agraria dan Pengelolaan Sumberdaya Alam, 4/Oct/04. The 13-member Coalition includes indigenous peoples organisation, AMAN plus environmental NGOs, WALHI and SKEPHI.)


President promises clamp-down on illegal logging

President Yudhoyono instructed central and local government heads "not to tolerate illegal loggers and smugglers" and said law enforcers should take firm action against illegal loggers and their backers. The president issued the instruction after viewing evidence of forest destruction in Central Kalimantan's Tanjung Puting National Park by helicopter. Before his election in September this year, Yudhoyono made no specific pledges on the environment. (Jakarta Post 12/Nov/04)


Hasan-style profits?

Newly-appointed forestry minister Malam Sambat Kaban says he wants to contribute to state coffers by revitalising the forestry industry. "The question is, why can't we do the same thing as Bob Hasan?"he asked. During the Suharto era, Hasan presided over the wholesale destruction of millions of hectares of forests and the impoverishment of forest-dependent communities. Hasan served a six year jail sentence for corruption, but has never been held to account for human rights abuses and forest destruction carried out by his companies. Kaban said his ministry would earn more than the US$9bn contributed to the state budget by Hasan.

Kaban, who is secretary general of the Crescent Star party (PBB) has no background in forestry. Longgena Ginting, director of WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) said Kaban's appointment was mere horse-trading, with Susilo rewarding Kaban's political support with the "gold-mine" forestry ministry. (Jakarta Post 25/Oct/04)


Merapi Park campaign

Local organisations have protested against a May 2004 forestry ministry decree turning Mount Merapi in Yogyakarta province, central Java, into a national park. They argue that the decision disadvantages local people who have managed the slopes of the volcano sustainably for generations. The campaigners say the decree goes against the ministry's own legislation which sets out the process of gazetting a national park and contravenes Law No 22/1999 on regional autonomy because it ignores the authority of regional governments in the area. Writing in the Jakarta Post, Mimin Dwi Hartono of Wana Manhira Foundation, warns that Mt Merapi National park will go the way of other parks in Indonesia, which have followed a western conservation model ill-suited to Indonesia, have failed to fulfil conservation objectives and have instead meant "more damage to nature and the impoverishment of local communities." (Jakarta Post 18/Sep/04, see also DTE 55.)