Views of the 1999 Congress

Down to Earth Special Issue, October 1999

As over 200 participants of the first Indigenous People's Congress in Indonesia prepared to leave Jakarta, they were asked to express their thoughts on the event. The response was overwhelmingly positive, despite certain reservations. These are some of their opinions.

"I feel honoured to have taken part in the Congress. "
Agustina K. Atanau, West Sumba

"I am so glad this meeting was held and that it went well, because it showed the solidarity between indigenous peoples who confront similar problems – namely demanding the restoration of our rights."
Bajo Tandrialo, Kajang community, South Sulawesi

"It was a great success because there was a sense of togetherness amongst the participants and everyone was able to express his/her views."
Raden Husain, Gorontalo, N. Sulawesi

"Through this Congress, we indigenous peoples who have been invisible have been able to present our demands to a wider audience."
Elys Sutan Unggal, Gunung Batni Baru, Central Lampung

"I am extremely pleased that the organisers made it possible for us to speak to ministers and political parties."
Naftali Lette, NTT

"The Congress is a step in the right direction towards demanding justice from a government which has so far ignored the interests of indigenous peoples."
Sugito, Permata Intan, Central Kalimantan

"Gatherings like this help all indigenous peoples to unite and to look further than the interests of their own ethnic groups and maintaining their ancestral laws."
Apoin, Aceh

"This event will help us to protect our land rights as indigenous peoples."
La Bari, Muna, S.E.Sulawesi

"The Congress broadened our horizons so that we feel able to take action against aid or projects which are introduced into indigenous communities without any discussion or our consent."
Petrus Kato, Nunmato, NTT

"All delegates should explain the results of this Congress to their communities on their return."
Obed Sau, Kupang, West Timor

"More young people should attend future Congresses in order to strengthen our customary law and culture."
J.P Rahail, Kai Besar, S.E. Moluccas

"It was well organised, but we needed much more time to discuss our problems, because all the participants came with their own grievences about companies in their particular areas."
Ideng Putri, Sepan Nikai, East Kalimantan

"This was the only worthwhile meeting I have ever been to…However, it is not the place to accuse officials or companies. It should be a vehicle to improve the system which has disenfranchised indigenous peoples."
Beni Sarifudin, Ankang Kanan, West Kalimantan

"Good, but the venue was too luxurious."
M.Swarna Dwiva, Sungai Agai, West Sumatra

"It's been hard to adapt to our new surroundings…..We were disappointed that the ministers for social affairs and forestry did not attend."
B.Meratai, Jambi

"I was glad I took part, but we need more help in order to achieve our aims and hope for more direction from the facilitators."
Johan Hasibuan, Sosa, North Sumatra.

"Bravo for the whole event!"
Zulkarnain Soleman, Ternate, Moluccas

Source: Profil Peserta Kongres Masyarakat Adat Nusantara, Jakarta 15-22 March 1999