MPR's Natural Resources Decree under threat

Down to Earth No 57  May 2003

The next Annual Meeting of Indonesia's Peoples' Consultative Assembly (MPR) - Indonesia's highest legislative body - will be held in August 2003. One important item on the agenda is to the evaluation of the outstanding MPR Decrees (TAP MPR), including Decree No. IX/MPR/2001 on Agrarian Renewal and Natural Resources. The session will decide which decrees will move forward through the legal process to become laws and which ones must be cancelled.

The possible revocation of the MPR's Decree No. IX/2001 on Agrarian Renewal and Natural Resources has led to mounting concern among civil society organisations (CSOs). Decree IX/2001, the original draft of which was prepared by Indonesian NGOs, provides a strategic legal opening for Indonesia's marginalized indigenous peoples, peasant farmers and the poor. It is regarded as a step towards bringing about fundamental changes in the management of natural resources in the country. It carries the potential to replace exploitative and oppressive old policies and practices with new principles and guidance for future implementation of agrarian renewal and natural resources management. (For more background on Decree No.IX/2001 see DTE 52).

Last year, the MPR passed another decree (No. VI/2002) which recommends the president to 'prepare legislation on natural resources management...and resolve agrarian and NRM conflict... according to Decree IX/MPR/2001'.

Despite the intended integration of land issues and natural resource management, the government has continued to deal with these two areas separately, by drafting separate sectoral bills.

The World Bank has said that decree IX/2001 would be likely to lead to chaos, not an improvement in natural resource management, due to Indonesia's weak regulatory capacity which has been aggravated by decentralisation.


Draft Natural Resource Management Law

Since December 2002, government planners have been carrying out a public consultation process across Indonesia (except Maluku and Papua) to gather public opinion on the draft Natural Resource Management (PSDA) bill. This process is seeking to identify problems relating to natural resources management at different administrative levels and related pieces of legislation that are part of the problem. The aim is also to identify short- and long-term action to solve natural resources management problems; and provide space for suggestions on the format, content and process of legislation needed to create natural resources management that is just, democratic and sustainable.

Despite its intention to be inclusive, the consultations have drawn criticism that they should be more transparent and more inclusive. Wider access to the process should have been given to indigenous communities, particularly as they are often the victims of natural resources mismanagement, says Muhammad Ibrahim, the director of Walhi Aceh following a public consultation meeting in Banda Aceh (Suara Pembaruan, 4 March 2003).

Ironically, while the first draft of the Natural Resources Management bill is awaiting further input, including from the public consultations, other pieces of legislation - including bills on plantations, water coastal and small island management and mining - have been prepared. These bills maintain the strict sectoral approach, that is contrary to the spirit of Decree No. IX/2001. They also lean towards reliance on market forces in dealing with natural resources management.

The fact that these sectoral bills are proceeding at all, shows the government's lack of interest in pursuing a more holistic approach (as instructed by Decree IX/2001) to ensure an equitable and sustainable use of Indonesia' natural resources.

Indonesia cannot afford to lose a piece of legislation, which offers prospects of positive change for natural resources management, at a time when the country's natural resources are being sold off and its people's rights are being marginalized.


Peasants farmers reject sectoral approach

Thousands of peasant farmers called for the resolution of land disputes in a protest organised on April 30th by Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (the Alliance of Agrarian Reform Movement or AGRA) in Jakarta. Their call reflects the many outstanding land conflicts across the archipelago.

In their statement, the peasant farmers groups rejected any legislation coming out of the sectoral bills, as these conflict with the mandate of MPR Decree No.IX/2001.

AGRA, which comprises civil society organisations including peasant farmers organisations from Java and Sumatra, is calling for:

  • progress on the MPR Decree No. IX/2001 towards the drafting of (a) an 'umbrella' law as a legal basis for the implementation of agrarian renewal and natural resources management; (b) a land-reform law; (c) a law on the resolution of conflicts over natural resources; and (d) several 'sectoral' laws which refer to the 'umbrella' law.
  • the setting up of an institution to put agrarian reform into practice;
  • the immediate termination of the drafting process of any sectoral bills concerning agrarian and natural resources management before there is a comprehensive review of the legislation;
  • the resolution of agrarian conflict and disputes immediately, an end to violence by the state apparatus and the bringing to justice of perpetrators;
  • an end to dependency on foreign loans and aid from International Financial Institutions which are responsible for the country's economic collapse.

Sources: Tempo Interaktif, 30/Apr/03; AGRA Statement: Stop Sabotase terhadap Pembaruan Agraria, 30/Apr/.03; email communication (Walhinews e-list): Cegah Penghapusan TAP MPR No.IX/2001, 10/Apr/03; The Application of FSC Principles 2 & 3 in Indonesia: Obstacles and Possibilities - see earlier for full reference)