The legacy of passing husbands

Memento mori: Magdalena Sitorus, Widyawati and Suciwati pose with Magdalena’s book Semua Ada Waktunya (All in good time).

When human rights defender Munir Said Thalib was murdered on a plane en route to Amsterdam in 2004, late former secretary-general of the National Commission on Human Rights Asmara Nababan investigated the killing and urged president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to release the report his team made to be used at trial.

Six years later, Asmara died in Guangzhou, China, from lung cancer. The mastermind behind Munir’s killing remains unknown.

Women’s rights activist Magdalena Sitorus, Asmara’s widow, share her connection with Munir’s widow, Suciwati, through Munir’s death. They have also been sharing their experience of grief from losing loved ones in a book by Magdalena.

In an attempt to make sense of her grief, Magdalena interviewed Suciwati and four other women: Widyawati, the widow of former actor and lawmaker Sophan Sophiaan; Shinta Nuriyah Wahid, the widow of former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid; Damayanti Noor, the widow of singer Chrisye; and Saparinah Sadli, the widow of late professor Sadli.

Magdalena published a book Semua Ada Waktunya (All in Good Time) last year based on her journal and the interviews with the five women.

She said she was worried about her psychological state after Asmara’s death and writing became her refuge. “I’ve always wrote in my journal, it’s a long-time habit,” she said at a talk at the @america cultural center in June.

“I write as if I’m telling a story to him [Asmara], I tell him what happened in my days. I would write ‘Do you still remember so and so? I met him today…’ Just as if I were talking to him,” she said. “Perhaps, my healing process is like that.”

Magdalena, Suciwati and Widyawati sat in front of an audience to talk about their experience in facing the loss of their husbands. “It’s not easy to talk about something that’s unpleasant. But if by this I can share my experience, motivate people and make them aware that there are unpleasant things and that we should improve them in the future, I don’t mind,” Suciwati said.

Suciwati has relentlessly fought for the murderers of her husband to be found and tried. In December, in advance of Munir’s birthday, Suciwati launched a new campaign calling on the public to sign a petition asking President Yudhoyono to bring Munir’s killers to justice.

Former Garuda Indonesia pilot Polycarpus Budihari Prijanto has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the death of Munir. Polycarpus has appealed the verdict.

Suciwati, who lost Munir while their children were still very young, said she faced some challenges in explaining the assassination of Munir to their children. She said that several years ago, her children would say that they would not want to become activists. “’I’ll be murdered like my dad’,” Suciwati recounted her son as saying.

“I tell them that what their father did was amazing, how he humanized people and fought for humanity. Those are the things that we should remember,” she said. “It’s not easy when they ask why their father was murdered or when they are angry with Polycarpus. In these situations I present them choices: ‘Will you choose to be like Polycarpus or will you choose to be like your father? What your father has done is meaningful, remembered, the values that he brought should be continued’,” she said.

Now, when family friends ask her son Sultan Alief Allende about his aspirations, he answers that he wants to be a film director to promote human rights through film, Suciwati said.

Suci now lives in Malang with her children and is working on a museum to celebrate his life and values. Suci said that advocacy work is tough, due to the corrupt system in Indonesia.

“We can see the state of law enforcement in Indonesia, how the officers are like, how the top ranking officials are like. When we talk about the law we can be heart broken,” she said.

Widyawati shared the similar feelings after losing Sophan Sophiaan, who died at 64 in a motorcycle accident while participating in a motorcade across Java in celebration of the National Awakening Day centennial.

“I never thought or expected to talk here about my husband who has passed a way. It does hurt. And like mbak Suci, I still have a question mark until now,” she said.

Widyawati said that the years of being spoiled by Sophan’s love left her unprepared in living independently. “I just didn’t know what to do,” she said. Luckily, her family guided her in the minutiae of paperwork, taxes, bills and such.

Magdalena said that she faced undulating emotions while writing her book. “It has been a roller coaster. Even when I came home from [interviewing] Widyawati, I could only stare at my computer screen. I could not write down what I got from them because it’s heavy. But behind that, it’s a healing process.”

Magdalena’s book also touches the stereotype placed on widows and how society perceives women. “I live in a society that doesn’t appreciate women or have a negative view on women,” she said.

Magdalena gave an example of a male friend who was also a Batak who stopped keeping touch after her husband died. “He said he’s protecting me because I no longer have a husband and it was not good for me to speak to him. I wonder who is he protecting? Is he protecting himself or protecting me?”

Suciwati said that a Muslim cleric told her to stop her public activity and to stay at home and pray and take care of her children.

“I wonder whether he knows that I work or how would he know if I prayed or not.”

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Feature | Tue, July 02 2013
— Photos By JP/Nurhayati

A transgendered person goes on ‘umrah’


During the Islamic fasting month of Ramadhan last year, Maryani, a transgendered woman living inYogyakarta, had a revelation. She would go on umrah, the minor haj pilgrimage, to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

The 53-year-old went to a travel agent in Yogyakarta, her hometown, who specializes in arranging trips for Muslim pilgrims. The agent rejected her application. As a prominent transgendered woman, Maryani does not hide her gender identity from her friends and neighbors. Nor did she with the agent.

“They say that some of the other congregants who were going to take the trip as well were scared and uncomfortable that a waria would be in the group,” Maryani, who is popularly as bu Mar or mbak Marshe, said on the telephone.

Maryani described herself as a waria, a portmanteau of the Indonesian words for woman (wanita) and man (pria) that is often used to describe transgendered women.

However, finally, Maryani’s dream to make the pilgrimage came true. She flew to Mecca on April 26 and returned May 5, and performed all the pillars of the umrah, covered from head to toe as a woman.

Status: Maryani, as a waria, was granted an identification card listing her gender as a woman, enabling her to make the minor pilgrimage as a woman.

Status: Maryani, as a waria, was granted an identification card listing her gender as a woman, enabling her to make the minor pilgrimage as a woman.

“In the holy land, they don’t differentiate between a waria, a real man or a real woman. There was no problem. I wore a mukena and went to Haram mosque and to Mecca and Medina,” she said, referring to women’s Islamic garb.

Maryani has received local and international media attention since 2008, when she transformed her home in a small alley in Notoyudan hamlet in Yogyakarta into a place for transgendered women to study Islam.

Rully, the program manager for the Yogyakarta Transgendered Women’s Organization (Kebaya), said that Maryani’s trip to Saudi Arabia had important meaning for members of Kebaya.

“There has been a stigma that transgendered people are identical with people who have no morals,” Rully said. “Maryani’s pilgrimage shows that there are waria who are religious and who have good spirituality.”

Maryani’s pilgrimage to Mecca as a transgendered woman was made possible when Anis Kurniyawati, the owner of the Yogyakarta office of the Arminareka Perdana travel agency, offered her a spot on a pilgrimage tour that she was arranging..

Anis said that Arminareka Perdana was a travel agency that aimed to help relatively low-income people perform the haj or umrah rituals by encouraging the customers to become part-time sales person for the agency.

Those who book a pilgrimage with Arminareka make a down payment of Rp 3.5 million (US$353.5) for the Rp 20 million cost of the tour. Anis said that potential pilgrim could pay for their tours in installments, or receive a commission for each person that they brought to the agency that could be applied to the total cost of their trip.

After finding a willing travel agent to sponsor her pilgrimage, Maryani dodged another problem. Her identification card now lists her gender as female, as does her passport.

“I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a waria. I didn’t ask for female status on my ID card,” she said.

The solution to this potential problem was simple: The village head in Yogyakarta where Maryani lives offered to issue a card identifying her as a woman, which the head felt was more appropriate. That opened the door for Maryani to get a passport listing her gender as female as well.
All in the family: Maryani poses with her granddaughter.

All in the family: Maryani poses with her daughter.

The flexibility of Maryani’s village chief allowed her to perform religious rites as a woman. However, other transgendered woman have not been as lucky as Maryani, and have had to identify themselves as men to perform the pilgrimage —as men.

“I was given a female ID card and I’m grateful for that. But I don’t claim that I’m a woman. If there’s a status of female, male or transgendered person, I would chose transgendered,” she said. “Can Indonesia accept that?”

Raised Catholic by adopted parents, Maryani converted to Islam as an adult, and said that religion could be helpful in leading a person to a better life.

“It can help waria think for the long term and help them make better decisions.”

She explained that being in touch with their spirituality helped transgendered women to make good life decisions, saying that many transgendered women live from one day to the next as sex workers.

Countries such as the United States, Britain and Australia recognize three gender options with “X” as a choice for intersex people.

While Indonesia has yet to recognize other gender identities than female and male, the acceptance of transgendered people has increased.

Last year, a transgendered woman, Yuli Rettoblaut, became a candidate for the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM).

Maryani said that she hoped her experience in carrying out the umrah can open the door for other transgendered women who would like to practice the rites.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Feature | Fri, July 05 2013
— Photos courtesy of Maryani and Hartoyo/OurVoice

Up river in North Kalimantan


Our speedboat glides so fast it bounces off the water on the Makassar Strait. The clouds roll above us and drops of light rain touch our skin.

We are on our way to Sekatak, a remote area in the newly anointed capital of North Kalimantan. For curious travelers, the key to a thrilling trip is to go where not many people (i.e., tourists) have gone before. I was sure that traveling to remote areas of Kalimantan, the second-largest island in the world, would undoubtedly bring on the thrills. But, I got more than what I asked for when my travel partner disclosed her secret expertise of driving a speedboat.

Not to worry for those whose friends are less than a secret speedboat driver. The new province of North Kalimantan has more than its share of excitement. It holds natural beauty untouched by mass tourism. Its large and meandering rivers evokes the charm of the Mekong Delta of Indochina when river trips there were not too much like a theme park. And unlike as in North Kalimantan’s southern counterpart, its forests have yet to be transformed into swaths of palm oil plantations, its hills have yet been run down and the land is yet to be covered by pits made by mining companies.

High gear: A speedboat bounces off the water on the Makassar Strait.

High gear: A speedboat bounces off the water on the Makassar Strait.

My travel partner and I found our little speedboat in Tarakan, an island-city in North Kalimantan, the stepping-off point from Balikpapan in East Kalimantan. We fly out of the mainland Kalimantan to Tarakan to reenter through its water ways. Airlines Lion Air and Sriwijaya Air are some of the carriers operating the Balikpapan-Tarakan route. Another route would be to take the small twin-otter planes operated by Susy Air, straight to Tanjung Selor in North Kalimantan from Balikpapan.

Tarakan holds a historical part in the World War II. In 1941, Japanese troops first entered what became Indonesia through Tarakan. Some relics such as cannons and bunkers have become a testament to the war.

We passed the war sights, however, and headed straight for Sekatak. From asking around, we found that chartered speedboats to Sekatak were moored at a pier in Beringin, a dense area where the houses are built on stilts and stand above the water. Under the houses, trash floats on the water, disgusting and strangely serene at the same time. There is another port in Tarakan, which is the official one and bigger than Beringin.

Boats head to Tanjung Selor, the capital of Bulungan regency and North Kalimantan’s center of administration, depart from Tengkayu port. This port also serves Bunyu Island, Nunukan regency, Malinau and other northern territories.

We chose Beringin as the chartered boats there can go straight to Sekatak via Sekatak river. It costs us Rp 100,000 (US$10) per person to take the two-hour ride to Sekatak. It’s a bit of a gamble with the speedboat’s reliability. Ours broke down in the middle of the Makassar Strait. We were lucky that another speedboat departed Beringin with us. So, after some unsuccessful meddling with the motor, we transferred to the other boat.

Standing by: Speedboats moor by stilt houses at Beringin pier, Tarakan, North Kalimantan. Chartered speedboats are available at the pier to take passengers to mainland Kalimantan from Tarakan island.

Standing by: Speedboats moor by stilt houses at Beringin pier, Tarakan, North Kalimantan. Chartered speedboats are available at the pier to take passengers to mainland Kalimantan from Tarakan island.

Kalimantan is home to hundreds of indigenous groups. In Sekatak, some seven indigenous groups – Punan, Kenyah, Tidung, Belusu and Bulungan live in that district, after they were relocated closer to the river by the Soeharto government in the 1970s to make way for timber company Intraca.

Traveling to the isloated communities, one can see the tension between business and local communities for control of resources.

We stayed in a lodging house by the river in Sekatak Buji as the only guests. The houses overlooking the river are made of wood planks. School children jump into the deep water from an iron bridge. You can rent a long boat and glide along the meandering Sekatak River. Interesting sights pop up, such as a little toy boat adorned with decorations. Our boat driver said that the boat was filled with offerings intended for a white crocodile. He said that there must be a family around the area who holds the traditional belief that they are descendants of the creature.

From Sekatak to Tanjung Selor, we took overland route using an unofficial taxi. We sat for four hours for the bumpy ride. A lack of infrastructure made the 120-kilometer journey bumpy. But the sight of the forest, with the tall Mengaris tree made the journey worth it.

Tall and proud: Mengaris trees stand tall in the forest between Sekatak and Tanjung Selor.

Tall and proud: Mengaris trees stand tall in the forest between Sekatak and Tanjung Selor.

We left at noon and arrived before sunset in Tanjung Selor. The town that is intended to be North Kalimantan’s capital is a hilly laid-back town with low-rise buildings and large parks. A statue of the Lemlai Suri Princess or more popularly known as the broken egg princess stands in the intersection of Sengkawit and Jelarai Selor.

The story of the broken egg princess tells the legend of the Bulungan sultanate that reigned between the 18th and 20th centuries. A childless Kayan tribal leader found an egg and a bamboo and brought home the two. The egg and bamboo turned into a baby girl and a baby boy, who would start the Bulungan Kingdom, the legend goes.

The Kayan River passes through the town, adding a relaxing vibe to Tanjung Selor. As with many rivers in Kalimantan, the Kayan River is a wide river with strong current, which makes it good for white water rafting. For those interested in rafting in North Kalimantan, a number of trekking companies provide white-water rafting trips along the Kayan River.

If you don’t have the chance to raft, the river is as enjoyable to see as to ride on. As the sun sets in Tanjung Selor, we sat on the concrete nook along the Kayan River. The dusk-time ray illuminates the trees on the other side of the river, while the water glimmer with a golden hue. My travel partner and I agreed, in a land of mighty rivers, devouring the last light by the river is most appropriate to end the day.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Bulungan | Feature | Tue, June 25 2013
— Photos by JP/Prodita Sabarini

Recognition of indigenous peoples stuck in red tape

Native colors: Indigenous people’s rights activists wear traditional clothing while rallying at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, Central Jakarta, in this photo taken on March 17. The activists demanded rights to customary land and its resources for indigenous communities. JP/Nurhayati

On May 16, the Constitutional Court issued a ruling favoring the country’s indigenous peoples. It stated that customary forests were not state owned as earlier recognized, but belonged to local indigenous people. It was a historic ruling, which raises questions as to the fate of businesses that have already been issued permits in such state forests, and the consequent impact on the many land conflicts across the country. The Jakarta Post’s Prodita Sabarini looks at how the ruling will affect the people living in these areas.

The village of Muara Tae in Jempang, West Kutai, an East Kalimantan regency heavily dependent on mining and palm oil, is home to an indigenous tribe, the Dayak Benuaq.

For years, their customary land has been converted into open pit coal mines and palm oil plantations. Muara Tae’s young leader, 28-year-old Masrani, wants sued West Kutai Regent Ismael Thomas last August for drawing up a new village border to protect the last plots of their customary forests, .

The border led to them losing their forest to the next village, whose residents had agreed to let their land go for plantations. The court ruled in favor of the regent and Masrani appealed.

In April this year, Masrani lost his job as village leader. Under a decree, Thomas ended Masrani’s tenure.

For Indonesia, home to more than 1,000 ethnic groups, the world’s largest thermal coal exporter and one of the top palm oil producers, conflicts such as this one in Muara Tae — where various interests collide — have been a common feature of business involving large tracts of land. Many concessions for mining and plantations are allocated on customary land belonging to indigenous peoples.

Meanwhile, government conservation programs relating to protected forests also involve areas considered customary forests by indigenous peoples, making these forests inaccessible to those whose livelihoods have depended on them for generations.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) documented 48 conflicts between businesses, government and indigenous communities in 2011, affecting 947 families in an area of 690,558 hectares.

Erasmus Cahyadi from the organization’s legal and advocacy division said that almost all the conflicts were due to the government’s failure to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples over their customary land, especially customary forests.

AMAN’s documentation between October 2012 and March 2013 shows that some 224 indigenous people were criminalized for taking wood from forests turned into conservation or business areas.

The recent landmark ruling by the Constitutional Court on the 1999 Forestry Law signaled the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples over their customary forests. According to the May 16 ruling, customary forests are not state forests, but “forests located in the areas of custom-based communities”.

But AMAN and other civil society groups understand that resolving conflicts and fighting for restitution remains a long battle amid a complicated land policy.

Prior to the ruling, as customary forests were treated as state forests, the Forestry Ministry granted concessions to businesses on customary land. “Many indigenous peoples were shocked by the enactment of the Forestry Law,”
Erasmus said.

Following the Constitutional Court ruling, some 20 regional coordinators from AMAN were in Jakarta to discuss follow-up strategies with civil society organizations including the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi),  the Indonesian Community Mapping Network (JKPP), as well as organizations specializing in land reform. Together, they organized a workshop to consolidate their strategies to push the government to implement the court’s ruling.

Margaretha Seting Beraan, AMAN’s East Kalimantan coordinator, was at the May 29 workshop. A high concentration of indigenous people and widespread mining and plantation activities makes her area prone to conflicts. “Many people called me, saying ‘the court has ruled in our favor, so now we can have our land back?’ but I had to say, ‘hang on, let’s not get ahead of ourselves’,” Margaretha said.

The court’s ruling on customary forests is unlikely to have much effect on  Muara Tae, for example. Margaretha said Muara Tae’s disputed forest was not part of the approximately 130 million hectares of the country’s designated forests, which are under the authority of the Forestry Ministry based on the court-reviewed Forestry Law. Muara Tae’s forest is instead under the authority of the West Kutai regent and is labeled, Other Usage Area (APL).

Further, despite a challenge by AMAN, the Constitutional Court ruling retained intact Article 67 of the law, stating that the recognition of customary forests was to be carried out by regional governments through bylaws. This means that for the indigenous people of Muara Tae to be recognized, the regency administration must issue a bylaw.

Contacted by phone in his village, Masrani said that whatever the status given to their customary forest “for us a forest is a condition. It’s not a territory that’s appointed by the government. The forest is protected by the people. It doesn’t come from the government”.

Ade Cholik Mutaqin, advocacy and campaigns officer with the JKPP, said the problem with customary land recognition was that several authorities governed the status of their land, but there was very little coordination between them.

The Forestry Ministry is regulated by the Forestry Law to oversee customary land within forest boundaries, while the land outside those forest boundaries is within the control of the National Land Agency (BPN) as regulated by the Agrarian Law. Further, these two institutions only recognize customary land that has been recognized through
regional bylaws.

Despite the provision of customary forest recognition by regional governments in the Forestry Law, no administration has issued a bylaw on customary forests.

However, West Sumatra has released a bylaw on the indigenous Nagari people. Other regional administrations that have released bylaws on indigenous communities are Central Kalimantan province, Lebak in Banten and North Luwu in South Sulawesi.

AMAN secretary-general Abdon Nababan has called for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to establish a mechanism for indigenous peoples to register their communities and to map out their customary areas.

However, Forestry Ministry secretary-general Hadi Daryanto said that the government had yet to release official documentation on customary forests. The JKPP has mapped 3.9 million hectares of customary land, of which 3.1 million hectares is within forest areas.

According to Abdon, there is an estimated 40 million hectares of customary forests across the country.

Hadi said it was the ministry’s task to draft a government regulation to force local administrations to acknowledge customary forests in bylaws.

Nirarta Samadi, the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) deputy who chairs a task force on forest monitoring, said the Constitutional Court ruling provided a new opportunity for regional administrations to recognize indigeneous peoples.

“Now we have an opportunity for a new process,” he said, referring to the court ruling. “It now feels right to use the avenue of bylaws; a political decision is indeed needed to create a positive atmosphere,” he said.

The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Mon, June 24 2013

Restitution of customary forests: Not so fast

Bald patch: An aerial view of a coal mine in the middle of a Samarinda forest in East Kalimantan. Antara

The government is signaling the possible restitution of customary forests to indigenous communities after the Constitutional Court annulled the government’s ownership of customary forests.

Restitution, which Forestry Ministry secretary-general Hadi Dar-yanto said would be carried out by revoking business permits of companies operating in customary forests and by the reclamation of damaged areas, can start once regional administrations legally recognize customary forests on their territory.

Hadi said that businesses would be driven out of customary forests, which would then be “saved”.

“Even if there’s a concession for an HTI [industrial forest permits] or HPH [production forest concessions], as long as there’s a bylaw, then the companies will have to leave,” he said.

“The key lies with the regents. As long as there is no bylaw, there can be no [restitution],” he added.

There is one problem with the government’s intention to rescue customary forests: as yet, no regional administration has issued a customary forest bylaw.

Moreover, only a few administrations have enacted bylaws on indigenous communities. Out of more than 30 provinces, only Central Kalimantan and West Sumatra have issued bylaws on indigenous communities living in those provinces. Meanwhile, from around 400 regencies and cities, only four regencies — Lebak in Banten; Malinau in North Kalimantan; North Luwu in South Sulawesi; and Tana Toraja in Central Sulawesi — have passed bylaws on indigenous communities in their areas.

Hadi said the Forestry Ministry was working on a draft regulation to force local administrations to acknowledge customary forests in bylaws.

But he acknowledged that implementation still depended on local administrations. “If it’s election time, will they be willing to manage issues such as this? And we have 400 regencies and municipalities, that’s the challenge,” he said.

“If the regent is accommodating, the process will be fast. Let’s just be positive,” he said.

Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki) executive director Fadhil Hasan said he had yet to be informed of the plan to revoke business permits following the Constitutional Court ruling. He said that Gapki members adhered to government’s regulations on concessions.

Following the court ruling on customary forests, the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) and civil society organizations signed a declaration on May 27 welcoming the ruling.

Along with the civil society organizations and individuals, including a commissioner from the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), Sandra Moniaga, AMAN called for the government to resolve conflicts relating to customary forests and natural resources on customary land. They also demanded an amnesty for indigenous peoples who have been criminalized for entering protected forest areas.

Abdon Nababan, AMAN’s secretary-general, also called for the central government to coordinate a mechanism for indigenous people to register their communities and map out their customary areas. At the moment, there is no official government data about the number of communities and their territories.

“President [Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] should take a step toward collecting data on indigenous peoples, their customary land, and mapping out customary forests,” Abdon said.

Abdon doubted the financial feasibility of relying on bylaws for the recognition of customary forests. “There can be dozens of customary forests in a single regency. In that case, would a regency introduce dozens of bylaws? The cost to issue just one regency bylaw is around Rp 400 million [US$40,302] to Rp 700 million. If, for instance, there are 10 identified customary forests, it would cost between Rp 4 billion and Rp 10 billion to recognize all the customary forests in one regency,” Abdon said.

Komnas HAM commissioner Sandra Moniaga said the President should release a decree “to prevent confusion among communities”.

Currently, with no official identification of indigenous communities and their territories, indigenous peoples’ rights have only been nominally recognized. “The government should recognize indigenous communities in various other pieces of legislation,” she said.

Currently, lawmakers are deliberating a bill on the rights of indigenous peoples.

AMAN claims Indonesia has around 40 million hectares of customary forest. So far a civil society-led mapping of indigenous land by the Indonesian Community Mapping Network (JKPP) has documented 3.9 million hectares of indigenous land, of which 3.1 million hectares are forest areas, JKPP coordinator Kasmita Widodo said.

The network has submitted its preliminary mapping of 2.4 million hectares of customary forests to the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4), which is working on an integrated map of Indonesia.

— JP/Prodita Sabarini

The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Mon, June 24 2013

NGO maps out indigenous community territories


Rahmat Sulaiman, information and documentation manager with the Community Mapping Network (JKPP), sat facing his laptop at his office in Bogor. He clicked his mouse, and a map of Indonesia appeared on his screen.

Another click and small red-lined areas emerged on Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Papua and Java. He clicked again and an overlay of mining concession areas covered the red-lined areas.

A final click brought another overlay showing oil palm plantation concessions. The red-lines marked the territory of mapped indigenous communities in Indonesia.

The map, which shows how business concessions overlap with customary land belonging to indigenous communities, can be accessed at

A group of NGOs — the JKPP; the community and ecological-based Society for Legal Reform (HuMa); Sawit Watch; the Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA); the Consortium in Support of a Community Forest System (KpSHK); and the Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM) — established the website to document and track land conflicts in Indonesia.

As of now, around 222 reports of land conflicts have been documented on the Geodata website. JKPP advocacy and campaigns officer Ade Cholik Mutaqin said the reports were compiled from data from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and other NGOs. Most of the conflicts are between indigenous communities and businesses and/or government.

The resource-rich Kalimantan contributed the highest number of land conflicts. According to data from Walhi’s East Kalimantan branch, following the enactment of the Masterplan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development (MP3EI) in 2011, some 135 communities became involved in conflict with businesses. Most of the land conflicts, according to Walhi, involved palm oil plantations, followed by logging and mining firms.

Maps of indigenous communities are provided by the JKPP, which as of now has mapped 3.9 million hectares of customary land. Ade said the JKPP used a participatory method of mapping, in which the whole community held a consultation to agree to have their area mapped out. Information of the borders of customary lands were passed on mainly through storytelling from one generation to another, Ade said.

Given the absence of a national mechanism to identify and map out territory belonging to indigenous communities, AMAN, the JKPP and several other NGOs have set up the Ancestral Domain Registration Agency (BRWA) to allow indigenous communities to register their ancestral domains.

Ade said the idea behind the BRWA was to provide a map of customary land. “We wanted to be prepared for the court ruling. If it [the Constitutional Court] ruled that customary forests belonged to indigenous peoples, we wanted to be able to show where those customary forests were located,” he said.

— JP/Prodita Sabarini


The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Mon, June 24 2013

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

Govt to revoke concessions in customary forests

The government has said it will revoke business permits it has given to companies operating in customary forests after the Constitutional Court annulled its ownership of customary forests.

Forestry Ministry’s secretary general, Hadi Daryanto, said on Monday that the government would rescind all plantation and mining concessions that have been granted to businesses in customary forests that have been legally recognized by the local administrations.

“We’ll get them [businesses] out. Even if there’s a concession for HTI [industrial forest permits] or HPH [production forest concessions] as long as there’s a bylaw then the businesses will have to leave,” Hadi said.

However, as of now, no regional administration has issued a bylaw on customary forests.

The court last week decided to scrap the word “state” from Article 1 of the 1999 Forestry Law, which says “customary forests are state forests located in the areas of custom-based communities”.

The court also ruled that the government had to recognize indigenous communities’ ownership of customary forests, saying that “indigenous peoples have the right to own and exploit their customary forests to meet their daily need.”

The ruling has been seen as a victory for the indigenous people, who have long had their rights to make a living by making productive use of their forests denied by the state.

Indigenous People’s Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) secretary general Abdon Nababan said that relying on regional administrations to issue a bylaw on customary forests without a directive from the central government will risk reducing the court’s ruling to that of a paper tiger.

He doubted that it was financially feasible to have customary forests recognized through a bylaw.

“There can be dozens of customary forests in one regency. Will this regency have dozens of bylaws on customary forests? The cost to stipulate one bylaw in a regency is between Rp 400 million (US$40,850) to 700 million. If there are around 10 identified customary forests, it would cost between Rp 4 billion to Rp 10 billion to recognize customary forests in one regency,” Abdon said.

“And it’s proven that for 14 years since the passing of the Forestry Law, not one customary forest has been recognized,” he said.

Abdon said the president should release a decree for a registration mechanism of indigenous people communities and customary forests to start the restitution process of indigenous peoples’ forests.

Currently there is no official government data on the number of existing indigenous communities and the size and territory of their customary land and forests.

A civil society led mapping of indigenous land by The Participative Mapping Working Network (JKPP) has documented 3.9 million hectares of indigenous land, of which 3.1 million hectares are forest areas, JKPP coordinator Kasmita Widodo said.

JKPP has submitted their preliminary mapping of 2.4 million hectares of customary forests to the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4), currently working on an integrated map of Indonesia.

Nirarta Samadi, the UKP4 Deputy and Chair of the REDD+ Task Force Working Group on Forest Monitoring, said that the reason there have not yet been any bylaws recognizing customary forests was due to the previous status of customary forests as state forest. “Now we have an opportunity for a new process,” he said referring to the MK ruling. “It feels right now to use the avenue of bylaws and a political decision is indeed needed to create a positive atmosphere,” he said.

Hadi said that it was the ministry’s task to draft a government regulation to force local administrations to acknowledge customary forests in bylaws.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | | Wed, May 29 2013, 9:17 AM

Religious minorities unite for freedom

Iron: Pondok Gede sub-precinct head Comr. Dedy Tabrani speaks to an Ahmadi behind the locked gate of the Al Misbah Mosque in Bekasi on April 5. (Antara/Widodo S. Jusuf)
Iron: Pondok Gede sub-precinct head Comr. Dedy Tabrani speaks to an Ahmadi behind the locked gate of the Al Misbah Mosque in Bekasi on April 5. (Antara/Widodo S. Jusuf)

Next to a sealed Ahmadi mosque in Bekasi is a plot of land with leafy trees and damp earth. To get in one has to squeeze through a gap between a tall iron gate and the wall of a residence on the other side.

From this bit of land, Ahmadiyah members send food over the gate to the 19 Ahmadis staying inside the mosque, which was sealed in early April by Bekasi public order officers.

When the officers put up the corrugated iron fence to seal the Al Misbah Mosque, about 40 people were inside, including women and children. The women and children have since been taken out.

The remaining 19 stayed behind, giving away their freedom for an indefinite time as a symbol, an
act of protest, toward the Bekasi municipality and the central government for meddling with their freedom to worship.

The lot became a gathering place on Saturday night for Sobat KBB, a solidarity group of victims of religious intolerance and violence, a collective of minority groups — Christians, Shia Muslims, Ahmadis and those of other beliefs — that have experienced discrimination and persecution. Sobat translates as friend in English.

The national coordinator of Sobat KBB is Palti Panjaitan, the Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church pastor whose church in Bekasi was also sealed by the Bekasi city administration.

Palti said about 10 people came to the gathering. Liberal Islam activist Mohammad Guntur Romli, who in a pluralism rally that turned violent in 2008 had his nose and cheekbone fractured by blows from members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), and Nong Darol Mahmada were among the attendees.

Over grilled fish, the group shared their thoughts about the state of religious minorities in Indonesia.

Rahmat Rahmadijaya, an Ahmadiyah cleric who remains inside the shuttered mosque, joined the discussion through a small opening in the mosque’s black iron door.

Ahmadiyah spokesperson Firdaus Mubarik said they wanted to bring Palti into their campaign because they saw the creative ways the Filadelfia church had promoted their cause, such as holding mass in front of the presidential palace.

Firdaus said the Ahmadis collaborated with Filadelfia for the Saturday night gathering — aimed at becoming a regular meeting — to continue to voice their cause.

“We don’t want the people remaining in the mosque to be forgotten,” he said.

Palti, meanwhile, said they might make the gathering more regular, not only in the lot next to Al Misbah but in other places where religious minorities are persecuted.

The group was established in February after a workshop by the Setara Institute, a human rights organization that monitors religious freedom across the country, and is also open to agnostics and atheists, the priest said.

“Sobat KBB is open to any victims [of persecution] including atheists. We fight for all victims who have been victimized or discriminated against in the name of religion, either those who adhere to religion or those who do not. We will fight hand in hand, to support each other,” Palti said.

Local and international organizations have criticized Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration for the increasing religious intolerance and violence in the country, even as he recently received the World Statesman Award from the US-based Appeal of Conscience Foundation. The award has been deemed a publicity stunt by rights groups who say the president does not deserve the award because of his track record in dealing with religious minorities.

Setara has documented 264 cases of violent attacks against religious minorities, up from 244 cases in 211 and 216 cases in 2010. Meanwhile, non-believers are criminalized, as in the case of atheist Alexander Aa, who broadcast his thoughts about the non-existence of God and was put behind bars in 2012.

“We want to enlighten people that religion should not be used to judge other religions or beliefs,” Palti said of Sobat KBB.
Struggling: Nineteen Ahmadis are staying inside the Al Misbah Mosque in Bekasi, which was sealed by Bekasi public order officers in April. (JP/Prodita Sabarini)Struggling: Nineteen Ahmadis are staying inside the Al Misbah Mosque in Bekasi, which was sealed by Bekasi public order officers in April. (JP/Prodita Sabarini)
In the case of Ahmadiyah, a 2008 joint ministerial decree banned the sect from proselytizing and the decree became the base for the regional government to ban Ahmadiyah outright. The West Java administration banned Ahmadiyah activities in 2011, the same year the Bekasi mayoralty announced its ban.

From across the corrugated iron fence, Rahmat, 33, who has been living on the grounds of the mosque for a decade, said Islamic hardliners from the FPI started to intimidate and harass Ahmadis at Friday prayers after Bekasi mayor Rahmat Effendi announced the ban.

“They threatened us, roaring their motorcycle engines, disturbing our prayers,” he said.

Except for Rahmat and a resident living next to the mosque, the neighbors of the mosque are not Ahmadis.

Ahmadis from other parts of Bekasi come and pray there on Fridays. But a resident living nearby said people were nonplussed with them. “For us here, to each their own”.

Rahmat said the Bekasi administration’s sealing of the mosque was the latter’s idea to protect the Ahmadis from religious hardliners. “But they did it without consulting us first, there was no dialogue,” he said.

The mosque is now guarded by three police officers, who take shelter from boredom in the house in front of the mosque where they can watch television when nothing is happening. The police presence ensures no-one enters the mosque, either Ahmadis or hardliners. A number of times after the mosque was sealed hardliners have arrived, but were cordoned off by the police.

“We feel shackled, it’s tough being here,” Rahmat said. The young cleric is living separately from his wife and two children. The youngest was born in February.

His days are used to pray, he said. They also entertain themselves with badminton and ping pong.

Rahmat said they have sent letters of protest to the president and the mayor. The Ahmadis are also taking their case against the Bekasi administration to the administrative court.

Even though the government is not keeping the Ahmadis inside the mosque, Rahmat said he would stay locked inside until the government reopened it.

“Forever, we will stay here forever,” he said.

But, he doesn’t wish for that. Rahmat is instead hoping for divine intervention to help the embattled Ahmadis win their case.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Bekasi | Feature | Fri, May 24 2013, 2:48 PM

Female candidates rush to learn campaign strategies

Female candidates running for next year’s legislative election are feeling the pressure to learn the ropes of campaigning fast, while fighting the stigma that their presence in parties’ candidate lists are mere formalities.

All 12 parties contesting the 2014 general election have fulfilled the 30-percent-quota for female legislative candidates, according to the General Elections Commission (KPU). But as parties have complained about the difficulty in finding high quality female candidates to reach the quota, many still view female candidates as unworthy contenders, Democratic Party legislative candidate Umi Farida said.

Umi, 35, a former NGO worker whose work focuses on women, labor and minority rights, is a first time candidate for the House of Representatives, contesting in the Central Kalimantan electoral district (dapil).

Following the Constitutional Court ruling early this year that upheld the 30 percent quota requirement for women, party leaders, such as United Development Party chairman (PPP) and Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali complained about the difficulties in reaching the quota. Syarif from the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party also commented that while the party can guarantee quantity, it could not guarantee the quality of many first time female candidates.

Female candidates say that many of their male counterparts have more experience and are more confident in campaigning, while the women still need support in campaign strategies.

The Democratic Party, in collaboration with the University of Indonesia, supported its female candidates by holding a course for them, Umi said. She said the program introduced female candidates to strategies such as mapping out voters and issues specific to voter’s needs; as well as fund raising and campaign budgeting.

Binny Buchori, a Golkar candidate focusing on universal health care access, said her party also had training for female candidates. Golkar focuses on legislation processes and development issues such as the Millenium Development Goals. Binny will run in the East Java VII electoral district, covering Ponorogo, Pacitan, Trenggalek and Tulungagung.

Meanwhile, Tunggal Pawestri, an activist running for the Yogyakarta Council with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said female candidates had discussed the need for specific training that covered constituent outreach and voter targets.

“Male candidates may be more familiar with election strategies, but women need training,” she said. For example, they need to know how many votes are needed to win a seat based on the number of voters in an electoral district. For example in her electoral district in Kulonprogo, Tunggul would need at least 25,000 votes to secure a seat in the Yogyakarta Council.

Nihayatul Wafiroh, 33, from the National Awakening Party (PKB), who will run in East Java III — Situbondo, Bondowoso, Banyuwangi — said that some very qualified women had been assigned the numbers one to three on the candidate list. She was listed as number two, which matches the PKB’s number on the party list. Despite an open-proportional system, which means those who win the most votes will enter regardless of the rank, Nihayatul said the top numbers still had a psychological effect on voters.

“Many of the voters are still party-oriented and not figure-oriented, so they would choose the top numbers on the list,” she said.

Similarly, Tunggal is listed as number four on the list, the same as the PDI-P, which she hopes would help her campaign. Umi from the Democratic Party meanwhile is at the bottom of the list due to it being her first time.

An anonymous source running for the House, from one of the winning parties in the 2009 election, said that competition is rife between candidates from other parties and within the parties themselves. Back-door deals between candidates, in which underdog candidates are asked to donate their won votes, occur often.

“So women just fill the quota and are not considered ‘real contestants’ in the race, and other candidates will ask them to give their votes to them,” the source said.

— JP/Prodita Sabarini

The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Tue, May 14 2013, 11:32 AM