PAMA PUJA - the new Indigenous Peoples Organisation on Java

Down to Earth No 59  November 2003

By Idham Kurniawan* In March this year, a new regional organisation for Indigenous Peoples on Java was established - Paguyuban Masyarakat Adat Pulau Java, or PAMA PUJA.

When we talk about Indigenous Peoples, many people immediately think of people who live in remote areas on islands outside Java, such as Kalimantan and Papua. They think that on Java, there are no longer peoples who live according to traditional values and who hold on firmly to theiradat (customary) way of life. In fact, there are many communities on Java who still lead their lives according to adat values and continue to stay outside the mainstream of modernisation.

Masyarakat Adat (indigenous peoples) living on Java, have been living under cultural and political oppression since the Dutch colonial era. The fact that they endured this for so long, and the repressive measures that were taken against them by the colonial government (and also during President Suharto's 'New Order' regime) changed the way they resisted the injustices they experienced. The resistance movement that was then created to struggle for their rights was one that was non-confrontational, did not draw attention to itself and operated in a clandestine way.

It is evident that independence, declared by the Indonesian nation in 1945, did not liberate Indigenous Peoples on Java. These communities suffered even more repression and injustice. For example, the lands they possessed were taken by the state to be turned into production forests, for timber such as teak and pine, or to become National Parks. This meant they increasingly sank into poverty, since their access to the resources that provided them with a livelihood (land and forests) was restricted.

To give one example, the indigenous people of Kampung Dukuh, in Garut district, had to 'consent' to their ancestral lands being turned into a teak plantation by Perum Perhutani [the state-owned forestry company] in 1971. But the people really needed the land for farming, growing crops and gathering forest products to provide for their daily needs. When access to this land was cut off, they became completely impoverished because they were no longer capable of supporting themselves.

The same thing happened in Kampung Naga in Tasikmalaya district, where the community had to 'consent' to the release of the ancestral lands they had allocated as a protected forest, for pine forest plantations controlled by Perhutani. It was not only the customary protected area they had to 'consent' to releasing, but also their peaceful way of life. Because of the unique nature of their architecture and way of life, in the 1980s, the government decided - without the permission of the people of Kampung Naga - that their village would become a tourist destination for foreign visitors who wanted to witness the natural beauty and culture of Indonesia.

With the reforms following the downfall of Suharto in 1998, the struggles of indigenous peoples to claim their rights started to surface. But indigenous peoples on Java didn't get the response or results that they wanted, because their concerns were drowned in the clamour of other groups demanding their rights. Because of this, it was felt that indigenous peoples on Java should join forces to struggle for their rights - by forming the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Java (Paguyuban Masyarakat Adat Pulau Jawa - PAMA PUJA) at the end of March 2003 - whilst still basing their movement on their customary values. This realisation came out of a relatively long awareness-raising process, through discussions and meetings between indigenous peoples on Java, facilitated by supporters of the indigenous movement.

PAMA PUJA is founded on the principle that it is a non-confrontational and anti-violence movement which holds courtesy in high regard as a means of maintaining harmonious relations and which does not seek too much public attention - which, it is feared, could disturb a community's peaceful way of life. All of this stems from the values of the adat belief systems of the indigenous communities grouped in PAMA PUJA.

The main issues taken up by PAMA PUJA, as an umbrella movement for the struggles of indigenous peoples on Java, are the recognition and reclaiming of ancestral land; the right to follow and practise local beliefs; and the right to live according to adat traditions. This main agenda is based on the problems faced by the indigenous communities on Java who are members of PAMA PUJA. The recognition and reclaiming of ancestral lands, for example, is the main challenge faced by indigenous communities on Java, such as the people of Kasepuhan Banten Kidul (consisting of 10 large communities), Kampung Dukuh, Kampung Naga, the Baduy, Tengger and Kampung Kuta. Meanwhile, several other indigenous peoples, like those of Cigugur and Samin, are more focussed on the struggle for the recognition of their right to follow and practise their own beliefs.

In carrying out its work, PAMA PUJA works closely with local NGOs which support indigenous groups in Java. These include YP2AS in Bandung; Telapak and RMI in Bogor; and LBH in Surabaya. Using non-confrontational and anti-violence approaches, PAMA PUJA and these NGOs facilitate activities which bring together indigenous communities with the government and appropriate agencies to carry out lobbying and negotiations, plus critical legal education and raising awareness of their rights. Although there have not yet been many successes in this facilitating process, communities grouped in PAMA PUJA and the NGOs that support them will continue to work towards the sovereignty of indigenous peoples.

*Idham Kurniawan works with indigenous peoples in Java, through the Bandung-based NGO, YP2AS. He recently participated in a two-month capacity-building visit to the UK, hosted by Down to Earth.

For more information about PAMA PUJA contact:, or



PAMA-PUJA - The Alliance of Indigenous Peoples on Java Island - was established in March 2003. It has 18 members:

1. Kesatuan Masyarakat Adat Banten Kidul (an alliance of groups 2-9, below)
2. Cipta Gelar (Sukabumi district)
3. Sirna Resmi (Sukabumi)
4. URUG (Rangkas)
5. Karang (Rangkas)
6. Citorek (Lebak)
7. Ciusul (Lebak)
8. Cisungsang (Lebak)
9. Guradog (Lebak)
10. Kampung Pulo (Garut)
11. Kampung Dukuh (Garut)
12. Kampung Naga (Tasikmalaya)
13. Cigugur (Kuningan)
14. Panjalu (Ciamis)
15. Kampung Kuta (Ciamis)
16. Masyarakat Adat Samin (Pati, Blora, Kudus, Central Java)
17. Masyarakat Adat Tengger (Pegunungan Tengger / Bromo, East Java)
18. Masyarakat Adat Osing (Banyuwangi).


Indigenous resource management in Kampung Dukuh

Kampung Dukuh, in Cikelet subdistrict, Garut, has a population of around 240 people. The community's customary lands, including farmland and forests, covers an area of around 5,000 hectares on the southern coast of West Java, lying between the Cipasarangan and Cimangke rivers.

There are several villages in this area, besides Kampung Dukuh, where families related to the Kampung Dukuh community live. These villages do not adhere to the local adat systems as strictly as Kampung Dukuh itself.

There is no electricity and there are no phone lines in the whole area. The only road (from the coast to Kampung Dukuh) is the access road to Perhutani's teak plantation.

Before Perhutani started planting teak in 1971, the area was a patchwork of natural forests and fields for rice and other crops. The Kampung Dukuh community are subsistence farmers, growing rice, maize, sesame, chili (planted at the same time but harvested at different times) followed by cassava, then peanuts. Formerly, they collected forests products like medicinal plants, honey, gingers, and timber for house building. Before their forests were taken over, the community cleared some areas of forest for fields under a long-term rotation system. Other parts of the forest were protected. Today, just 5 hectares of this protected forest remains in Kampung Dukuh.

At least 200 hectares of the area has been turned into a rubber plantation by a privately owned company.

Perhutani's teak plantations were initially planted under the tumpang sari system, where local people provide the labour to plant the teak seedlings and in return are permitted to grow crops between the rows of seedlings until the trees grow bigger (usually around three or four years).

The Kampung Dukuh villagers were not given any compensation when their customary lands were taken over from 1971 onwards, so suffered a serious loss of livelihood as a result. After the collapse of the Suharto regime in 1998, people from outside the area, later joined by some local villagers, started cutting teak from the Perhutani areas. Perhutani's forest guards were either unable or unwilling to stop them. Kampung Dukuh villagers took the opportunity to reclaim their ancestral land and started planting crops on the cleared plantation land. Now Perhutani wants to start replanting the land with teak and is trying to get villagers involved in the old tumpang sari system again - but now renamed PHBM*. However, many villagers are resisting this, and want their full adat rights to the area recognised instead. YP2AS, the Bandung-based NGO supporting the villagers, is assisting the Kampung Dukuh community in using decentralisation as a tool for reclaiming these rights.

*PHBM - a government-approved system of community forest management which allows local people limited access to "state forest land". For more information see DTE's Special Report: Forests, People and Rights, June 2002.