UN body questions Indonesia on Papua, land-grabbing and human rights

A Joint Press Release by Franciscans International, the International Coalition for Papua, VIVAT International, Watch Indonesia!, and the West Papua Netzwerk.

 

(Geneva, May 1st, 2014) On April 30 and May 1st, 2014, the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva assessed the level of implementation of these rights in Indonesia. The review process covered access to health care and education, the problem of land-grabbing, and the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples. In the discussion the Committee showed particular concern to the situation in Papua.

 

 

After the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (English, Indonesian) came into force in 1966, Indonesia ratified the treaty in 2006. As a party to the covenant it is required to present its implementation report every five years. The Committee was now able to conduct its first review of Indonesia after Jakarta had submitted its initial report with years of delay.

 

The Committee asked Indonesia about the considerable poverty gap between the two Papuan and other Indonesian provinces. The Head of the Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B), Mr Bambang Darmono, as a member of the Indonesian delegation, explained the increase of the number of regencies as an indicator of success. He also referred to the reduction of the percentage of poor people in the Papuan provinces over the past number of years.

 

He did not explain that the influx of migrants has largly contributed to the change in numbers while indigenous Papuans continue to suffer from a high level of poverty and lack of access to education. Since the enactment of the Special Autonomy Law for Papua in 2001 the number of regencies has increased from 9 to the present number of 42, creating an inflated and highly corrupt public administration. Mr Amirrudin of the Indonesian delegation alleged that most of these regencies are governed by freely elected Papuans, sweeping the massive corruption in the allocation of posts in Papua under the carpet.

 

In regard to the allegation of land-grabbing in Papua for development projects, the delegation argued that indigenous Papuans have been consulted and given a special provision for benefit sharing. This included the development projects of the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), PT Sinar Mas in Jayapura, PTP II Kerong and PT SDIC in Manokwari.

 

The Committee asked the delegation how it conducts human rights impact studies before providing licenses for extractive industries. It questioned how the government ensures the application of the process of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) when corporations appropriate land from traditional communities. The Indonesian delegation explained that the FPIC principles have been incorporated in the existing laws, including the Special Autonomy Law for Papua. However, the delegation was not able to provide further explanations on the methodology and implementation of the FPIC principles.

 

The Committee took into account the Constitutional Court decision and its possible effect on the affected communities and FPIC mechanisms in the future. Mr Zudan Arif from the Ministry of Home Affairs emphazised that the decision is legally binding but did not explain why it was not implemented on the ground.

 

Regarding the recognition of Masyarakat Hukum Adat, the delegation of the government of Indonesia rejected the concept of indigenous as applicable to Indonesia. The delegation explained that due to the historically static demographic composition of ethnic groups they “consider all indonesians as indigenous”. They emphazised that Masyarakat Hukum Adat is not referring to a minority or marginalized group and that the special legal systems used by these communities are respected by the government of Indonesia.

 

To the question of the Committee that in many areas in Papua 50% of the teachers do not turn up for work, Bambang Darmono explained that 95 districts in 21 regencies have been classified as isolated. He went on to explain that local authorties had been asked to give more attention to those units. Four hundred teachers were sent to Papua in 2012 and another 900 in 2013, while at the same time fresh high school graduates shall address the lack of trained village teachers. Darmono did not present a strategy to ensure that employed teachers are actually turning up for work. He admitted that in areas like Puncak, teachers would often not be prepared to work under the present conditions. UP4B plans to provide access to 17.000 children in the 95 isolated districts by 2014. Cooperation with religious institutions shall be another strategy to provide education through boarding schools.

 

Indonesia also explained that it does not plan to ratify any of the international treaties that would allow indonesian nationals to launch individual complaints to UN mechanisms. It thereby referred to its national complaint mechanisms, which human rights groups had exposed to be inadequate.

 

The Committee will issue its concluding observations and recommendations around May 23rd on the OHCHR website. The government of Indonesia is expected to implement the recommendations of the international Committee to protect the human rights of its citizens.

 

A full summary of the session from the UNOG