Case study: East and West Kalimantan

Down to Earth No. 46, August 2000

In the run-up to the January 2001 starting date for decentralisation, there are already many signs that regional autonomy will be used for very different purposes. Local governments are using decentralisation to impose taxes on businesses operating in their areas. NGOs and community groups are making demands that conflict directly with the limits set on autonomy in the laws. There is a sense that regional autonomy will take widely divergent paths in different regions. There is also a real possibility that Jakarta will totally lose control of this process.

Among the regions preparing for regional autonomy, East Kalimantan has been one of the most successful in actively preparing for regional autonomy and in publicising its activities. The main motivating force has come from the local NGO and student movements which have prompted the development and debate of a wide range of ideas on what regional autonomy means and how it should be implemented in East Kalimantan.

The emphasis is on securing revenues and using them for the benefit of local communities; sustainable resource management; strengthening local democracy; effective conflict resolution of disputes over resources; and developing a strong, accountable and transparent local legislative body (DPRD).

East Kalimantan has fast-dwindling stands of natural forests, large areas of plantation land, plus large coal, gold, oil and gas and other mineral reserves. The province has seen numerous resource conflicts, the most recent being the long-running dispute between Dayak land-owners and the Kelian gold mine operators, Rio Tinto, and a pollution and land dispute with the US-based oil company Unocal
(see DTE 38, 43 and 45).

Local governments have acted (and still do act) in the interests of the foreign investors, but pressure from civil society has some chance of bringing about improvements.

In East Kalimantan, initiatives on regional autonomy include critiques of regional autonomy legislation, open discussions on its implications, consultations with communities, input into local government regulation drafting and contributions to the national debate on regional autonomy.

Civil society or NGO groups active in the regional autonomy preparations in East Kalimantan include the Alliance of Natural Resources Policy Observers (APKSA). This grouping of NGOs, indigenous people, academics and donor community staff, issued a critique of the May 2000 regulations on regional autonomy when it was at its draft stage early this year. The critique highlighted the poor level of consultation and, among other recommendations, called for the regulations to be delayed to make time for full consultation.

East Kalimantan NGOs and indigenous groups have contributed to the drafting or redrafting of local legislation in Kutai district. Members of the NGOs Plasma, SHK Kaltim, Putijaji, the Maja'un Adat Community Youth and the German aid agency GTZ's forest management project in East Kalimantan met with members of the district assembly and government in February to initiate NGO input into the drafting process.*

Also in February, a workshop on "the decentralisation of natural resources management in East Kalimantan - energising community initiatives" came up with a list of action points including the following:

  • all sides must put pressure on local policy-makers (eg urge the local assembly to put pressure on the Governor to collect reforestation fees from companies and hand them over to people living in the logged area);
  • form a Dewan Adat (Indigenous Council) and strengthen customary institutions;
  • increase co-operation between networks (Jatam, APKSA) and stakeholders;
  • disseminate information about natural resource management policies to the public;
  • call for local elections to be organised immediately;
  • urge the local government to take over reforestation and reclamation funds;
  • uphold the supremacy of the law as the basis of legal justice for all stakeholders in natural resource management;
  • form a team consisting of government, indigenous/local people, NGOs, investors, businesspeople and experts to:
  • formulate strategy to settle conflict between companies and local or indigenous communities which can be accepted by all sides;
  • draw up a "model forest concession" for the benefit of the community;

(Workshop minutes, Samarinda 23-23 February 2000)


Community Forestry Communication Forum (FKKM).

A press release issued by this NGO grouping in February 2000 opens by asserting that laws 22 and 25 1999 "must be regarded by the local government in East Kalimantan as much more "people's right" than a "hand-out" from central government." East Kalimantan's government and people should be pro-active in taking its rights and preparing local legislation and must decide whether it wants its autonomy to be based at district or provincial level.

The press release identifies the need for mechanisms to settle disputes over forest and land resources and calls for an open and democratic dialogue process between all sides - timber concessionaires, government, mining companies, plantation companies and communities. One of the most important tasks, says FKKM, is for the people and government in East Kalimantan to build an autonomous governance system that can prevent future disputes over land and forests.

The statement also calls for:

  • a staged reduction in timber exploitation and the development of non-timber forest products, a global oxygen business, recreation, education and limited timber production from natural forests as a means of averting more of the serious forest degradation now seen in the province;
  • political education on each person's rights and responsibilities towards forests and lands so that everyone knows that forest destruction which results in human tragedy is not permitted in East Kalimantan;
  • a dialogue between the Forestry and Plantation department and the people of East Kalimantan on the collection and use of levies from the timber industry;
  • all parties using forests, including timber concessionaires, to adopt the skilled technology and knowledge of local (indigenous) communities in all forest management activities. (Press Conference FKKM, Samarinda 10/Feb/00)


West Kalimantan

The approach used by NGOs and community groups in West Kalimantan to promote awareness of and discussion about local autonomy is somewhat different to the approach used in East Kalimantan. In East Kalimantan the process started with a large meeting involving people from all over Kalimantan (and beyond). Representatives of local communities were invited, and they played a very active part, but this was predominantly aimed at initiating a policy dialogue with the elite. In West Kalimantan, the focus was on spreading information and gathering opinions at grassroots level in two districts and feeding this into workshops with the local assembly members. In both provinces there are well-established, experienced NGOs with a good track record of work with local communities.

Two prominent West Kalimantan indigenous peoples organisations, IDRD (Institute for Dayakology Research & Development) and LBBT (Lembaga Bela Banua Talino) were among sixteen NGOs from different parts of Indonesia which rejected the 1999 regional autonomy legislation. In a Statement of Opinion of Regional Autonomy the NGO group said the bills were not sensitive to the economic, political and cultural interests of people in the regions; they failed to address the issue of property rights, failed to promote just and sustainable resource management and didn't adhere to the principle that local law should take precedence. The Statement said the legislation was drafted in an undemocratic way, without public participation. It also made the point that the Habibie parliament which would pass the bills, had no legitimacy. (Suara Pembaruan 3/Mar/99)

West Kalimantan indigenous peoples organisations, led by IDRD, have also been involved in the federalism debate. A draft constitution for a federal system was submitted to the Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR) session in Jakarta, October 1999. There has been no response.

The West Kalimantan NGOs are also adopting new approaches to further the interests of indigenous communities. These involve using existing legislation and government structures to gain recognition of customary land rights. They are well aware that these are seriously flawed, but are determined to use any means available to them. Activities have included:

  • drafting new local regulations;
  • running workshops on aspects of local autonomy and democracy involving NGOs, indigenous community representatives and local assemblies.
  • carrying out community mapping projects as a key part of the process of reclaiming land rights;
  • producing books on Dayak culture for primary/lower secondary children and getting these approved by the local education department so they are included in the 'local content' component of the school curriculum.

LBBT, SHK West Kalimantan and other local groups under the Pancur Kasih NGO umbrella are working together to ensure that local assemblies understand the implications of the regional autonomy legislation. They have focused on two districts in West Kalimantan (Sanggau and Bengkayang) and two areas of local regulations: village governance and natural resource management. A joint team of 15 people spent 3 months in the field spreading information about Law 22 and 25 at village level in each district. The many years of community work in the villages stood the NGOs in good stead here. In all cases communities chose to go back to their pre-1979 village systems.#

This information from the field is being fed into plans for new local regulations under Law 22 with the intention that indigenous people's rights and their traditional natural resource management systems are formally recognised.

SHK and other local NGOs plan to hold workshop/workshops in one district - Bengkayang (14-24 July 2000) on 'Formulating local agendas' - how local people can strengthen their own institutions and protect their forests. After this there will be another workshop to look at what local regulations are needed, 'critical education' about democracy, rights and responsibilities and drawing up local budgets. The aim is to promote policies changing the standard Javanese village identity imposed by the 1979 Act and protecting indigenous peoples' natural resource management systems. So far. progress on village identity/governance has been much better than on natural resource management.

This follows a similar programme in another district (Sanggau) in early 2000. A workshop was held for all the DPRD members of Sanggau and resulted in the drafting of several local regulations. At the start of this process, DPRD members did not know how to read a local budget, let alone draw one up. So people skilled in interpreting budget sheets were brought in from Pancur Kasih and Jakarta to review the 1998/9 local budget. This proved to be a very illuminating process, revealing that in Sanggau 65% of available funding for the local administration had gone on 'overheads' (including operating costs, transport, paper) leaving only 35% for 'development'.

There is a strong emphasis in West Kalimantan on re-establishing customary institutions or decision-making structures as the key to "restoring indigenous peoples' sovereignty" and improving villages' bargaining position with the local government. Ideas about how this can be done in ways that avoid customary leaders becoming more beholden to the government than they are to the community are being explored.

The information on West and East Kalimantan has been drawn from discussions with NGOs during a recent DTE staff field trip to the provinces.

* Minutes of this meeting, 4/Feb/00, were circulated widely by email.
# An Indonesian language book on this 'Tim Otonomi' work is coming out soon.


Regional autonomy seminar

In July 1999 a two-day seminar was held in Samarinda, the East Kalimantan provincial capital, in order to increase awareness of the potential impacts (positive and negative) of the recently passed autonomy legislation and to provide input for future developments relating to autonomy in the province. It was attended by around 250 people from local government staff, academics, companies, donor agencies, community groups and NGOs. Participants came from the three other provinces in Kalimantan plus Jakarta and Bogor on Java.

An Indonesian language book, Menjadi Tuan di Tanah Sendiri (Taking control over your own land) based on the seminar, was published in January this year. The following summary of the seminar and subsequent follow-up meeting are drawn from this book.*


Summary of seminar output: Background

The local autonomy acts (no. 22/99 and 25/99) raise the following questions:

  • Do these laws provide a strong basis for a new paradigm of the relationship between government and the people?
  • What is the extent of the legal power which central government is giving the regions in these laws?
  • What are the basic principles that must be considered when discussing decentralisation?
  • How prepared is local government in terms of its own policies, structures programmes, human resources, etc?
  • In the context of natural resources management, what policies are needed to revitalise customary institutions and practises to support sustainable, community-based, and environmentally sound resource management?
  • Decentralisation should not be regarded as an end in itself but as a means of promoting equitable resource management.


Points arising:

  • If there is to be genuine community involvement as mandated in Law no. 22/99, there must to be access to information. Communities must have the right to know about government policy plans, the policy- making process and important decisions which affect their futures. Mechanisms must be formulated to enable supervision of and objections to government decisions.
  • The regional autonomy law must incorporate the regions' desire for greater independence with respect to natural resources management.
  • All policies must to be genuinely based on the principles of public accountability. The public has the right to question the government directly or via Local Assemblies.
  • There is concern that natural resources will be over-exploited for debt repayment.
  • The management of marine and coastal resources need to be considered.



There is a need to develop awareness about natural resources and environmental management through dialogue with the broader community, including candidates for Local Assemblies.

The regions must play more active role in interpreting the new local autonomy laws. The central government should only determine policies at the national level; all other decisions are should be left to the regions.

There needs to be recognition and protection of indigenous peoples rights, which have always been neglected in the past.


Summary of Follow-up Meeting - Process:

The representation of the stakeholders was not balanced. Indigenous peoples representative, supported by NGOs, were quite articulate and tended to dominate the proceedings. Company representatives felt pressurised and tended to keep quiet. Also there was an imbalance between central and local government. No central government natural resources staff attended, so it was not possible to have an exchange of views between local and central government officials.

The seminar did not have as big an impact as hoped for, partly because important public figures such as the Minister for Regional Autonomy, the East Kalimantan governor and leading opposition politician, Faisal Basri, could not attend; and partly due to lack of media exposure.

The order of presentations was not well thought out in advance, so it was hard to see the connection between them. Some participants were confused about the direction of the seminar.



The limited time available and the large amount of material presented meant that discussions were often superficial and incomplete. Also some presenters' analyses of the new regional autonomy legislation lacked insight, which often led to unfocused discussion. There was a lack of specific information on decentralising the management of the primary natural resources, e.g. forest, mines, marine resources.

The presentations by the East Kalimantan government and two political parties (PDI-P and Golkar) showed that they had not got to grips with Laws no 22/99 and 25/99. This was a cause for concern amongst some participants who feared that local governments and political parties were not prepared for regional autonomy. Also there were concerns that the local political parties were still waiting for instructions from their head offices just like in the Suharto era.

Indigenous peoples' demands for the recognition of their customary rights to manage natural resources are always raised at meeting, seminars etc and need more careful attention. The depletion of resources due to past inequitable exploitation is generating the potential for conflict and national disintegration. These points could be used as ammunition by the East Kalimantan local government to strengthen its bargaining position in negotiations with central government.


Future Plans

This seminar has been the first step in increasing awareness about new regional autonomy legislation, although the process and content were not perfect. More practical, intensive discussions are needed, e.g. the workshop on natural resources management or establishing a dialogue forum between stakeholders. A workshop would be best preceded by roundtable discussions to prepare people. In order to have the greatest impact,. the workshop or dialogue forum should cover the whole of Kalimantan.

This would be followed up with a policy dialogue with decision makers, so that the outputs are incorporated into government policy. Channels at central government level include the National Planning Board (Bappenas), political parties and members of Consultative Assembly (MPR), plus the communication forum on community forestry (FKKM).

In the policy dialogue it is important to pay attention to operating regulations including State Budget Guidelines (GBHN) and regulations qualifying the new legislation. In particular, policies which promote rapid economic growth can result in over-exploitation of natural resources in order to increase government revenue. We must fight for the incorporation of sustainable resource management within state budget guidelines.

Local groups must work with local political parties so that they more genuinely represent local, rather than central, concerns. Empowerment of political parties is vital because political parties should be one of the agents which act as a control on the functioning of local government. If political parties are weak, these allow local 'warlords' to operate with impunity.

In the broader context, decentralisation must be linked to the repayment of national debt. Exploitation of natural resources must be balanced conservation. Therefore, the concept of debt relief for conservation funding deserves support. Local governments need to find alternatives to fund environmental conservation through local regulation on environmental taxes, for example.

An accurate database is essential for natural resource management which is equitable, democratic, and sustainable. Maps of natural resources, disputed areas and structural plans, are needed for conflict resolution.

This seminar must be followed up with an intensive program of publication through the mass media and NGO materials. This is important to generate a critical mass which is able to exert effective social control.

* Sulaiman Sembiring, Niel Makinuddin, Phantom, Edy Marbyanto and Sugeng Raharjo eds: Menjadi Tuan di Tanah Sendiri, WWF, NRMP, APKSA and Pemda Propinsi Kaltim [East Kalimantan provincial government], Jan 2000.