Indigenous communities set to mark out their territory

Indigenous communities will be erecting placards in their customary forests, stating that they do not belong to the state, following the Constitutional Court ruling that annulled state ownership of the areas.

During a consolidation workshop in Jakarta last month following the court ruling on customary forests, members from the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) and other NGOs working on land reform and the
environment agreed that indigenous communities should put up signs as a first step toward reclaiming their land.

The activists agreed that the move, which was cheekily dubbed “plangisasi”, a made-up word that sounds like the word “rainbow” in Indonesian (pelangi) by combining plang (placard) and sasi (process), would only be carried out if all the communities agreed and if they were supported by NGOs in their areas.

Nur Amalia, from the Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice (APIK) who was present at the meeting, said that other civil society organizations agreed that support was a precondition for putting up the placards, so as to avoid conflict.

Some customary leaders, however, are reluctant to put placards up out of fear of triggering conflict in their area. Yohanes, 35, a village leader in Sekatak district, Bulungan regency, East Kalimantan, said he had heard about the placard suggestion but added that each village had their own considerations.

In Yohanes’ village, areas of customary forest belonging to the Punan, Kenyah, Tidung, Belusu and Bulungan tribes were handed out as concessions during the Soeharto era to Intraca Wood Manufacturing, a timber producer owned by Hartati Murdaya.

Yohannes said he did not want to create conflict in his area. More than 30 people from his village have been criminalized for taking wood out of the forest.

Meanwhile, Masrani, a former village leader of Muara Tae in Jempang, West Kutai, said they had erected placards even before the Constitutional Court ruling.

Masrani said he welcomed the court ruling but that the implementation of the ruling faced many obstacles.

The Indonesian Community Mapping Network (JKPP) has mapped 3.9 million hectares of customary land, of which 3.1 million lie within forest areas. According to AMAN’s secretary-general, Abdon Nababan, there were an estimated 40 million hectares of customary forest in Indonesia.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Mon, June 24 2013

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