The Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) will reconsider its political stance in this year’s presidential election amid “uncertainties” surrounding the indigenous peoples bill.
Best-known for winning the historic 2012 Constitutional Court ruling that contributed to the recognition of customary forests, AMAN has declared through its 2018 year-end report that it will not back any candidate ahead of the 2019 presidential election in April.
According to AMAN secretary general Rukka Sombolinggi, the “legal uncertainties” regarding the bill had led it to take its stance, even after numerous meetings with government officials and legislators.
The legal uncertainties, she said, meant progress was “very sluggish”. Of the 9.3 million hectares of customary forests claimed by indigenous people, the government has only acknowledged 28,000 ha, up from the 20,000 ha in March last year.
“There is no strong reason for choosing Jokowi since six out of the nine development programs he has promised have not yet materialized. There is no reason to choose Prabowo either since he has never brought up indigenous people’s issues,” Rukka said, referring to incumbent Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his challenger Prabowo Subianto.
She hoped that both candidates would commit to empowering indigenous people without exploiting the issue for political advantage.
AMAN’s recent declaration contrasts with its endorsement of Jokowi in the 2014 presidential election, when he promised to include the bill in his nine key development programs, Nawacita.
The bill was first initiated under the administration of thenpresident Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, after receiving a draft proposal from AMAN amid the criminalization of indigenous people involved in land disputes.
The bill had been knocked back and forth between legislative bodies until last March, when Jokowi signed a presidential letter to begin a discourse among related ministries.
Lawmaker Arif Wibowo said legislators had already finished processing the bill and were waiting for further responses from the ministries.
“[It took time because] there were other bills that required discussion, such as the election bill [passed into law in 2017],” said Arif, who is also the deputy chairman of the House of Representatives’ Commission II overseeing domestic governance, regional autonomy, the state apparatus and agrarian affairs.
He expressed the hope that the bill’s deliberation would “possibly” be finished after the election and before the end of the current House term in eight months.
Meanwhile, Bambang Supriyanto, the director general of the Social Forestry and Environmental Partnership, dismissed claims that the government had been slow on the issue.
He maintained that the government had granted autonomy to 34 indigenous communities for customary forests, including 21 forests in Jambi and four forests in West Sumatra.
He added that around 369,000 ha would be processed by the end of 2019 on top of the current 28,000 ha.
“We don’t need to wait for the bill [to be passed into law] since we have already used other laws like the 1999 law on forestry […] The importance of this bill is to have a legal basis for indigenous people. The current point of discussion is how this bill will consolidate other related laws,” Bambang said.
Apart from the bill, the 2009 Environment Protection and Management Law and the 1999 Forestry Law stipulates similar rights for indigenous people to exploit forest areas as customary law communities that have inhabited their locations for generations.