THE small room on the second floor of theJember regent’s office building was crowded on November 20. Those people came from different parts of Indonesia, representing custom communities. As part ofthe 2019 Human Rights Festival, a discussion was held that morning about the recognition and protection of traditional communities, which were seen as lacking government attention.
Deputy Regent of Mentawai Archipelago, Kortanius Sabeleake, said in his region the conflict involving the traditional community had continued to occur, with the private sector as well as the government. “People growing crops in a production forest are regarded as causing disturbance. People collecting wood for house hold use are blamed for stealing,” he said.
Many times, as an expert staffer ofthe Jayapura regent and active in the Jayapura traditional community task force, Amos Soumilena said, the indigenous people are considered as an obstacle ofdevelopment. Those matters were disclosed during the discussion and at this side ofevent that traditional communities had often been subjected to pressures connected with their cultures, faiths and political rights.
“AMAN has 18-20 million members and around 1 million do not join general elections,” said deputy for political and legal affairs ofthe Alliance of Nusantara Traditional Communities (AMAN), Erasmus Cahyadi Eramus. “Some ofthem have no identity cards, while others are in forest areas, feeling scared due to conflicts.”
Secretary-General of AMAN, Rukka Sombolinggi, said that only 84 regions had formulated bylaws concerning traditional communities, such as the recognition ofthese communities, the rules on traditional zones, customary forests, customary institutions and courts as well as traditional villages. “But less than 20 of them implement the rules,” she said.
They earnestly hoped the House of Representatives would soon endorse the Custom Communities bill. Without the law, Discussion on indigenous community at the Human Rights Festival in Jember, East Java, November 20. many regions dare not issue their own regulations. Actually, there are central government regulations that can be used by regions as the basis for their policies. Among them are Home Affairs Minister Regulation No. 52/2014 on the Guideline for Recognition and Protection of Traditional Communities; the Environment and Forestry Minister Regulation No. 32/2015 on Forests Subject to Rights; and Land and Spatial Planning Minister Regulation No. 10/2016 on the Guidline ofCommunal Right ofthe Land of Customy Law Community and Community in Certain Areas.
The regency administrations of Mentawai Archipelago in West Sumatra and Jayapura in Papua have utilized the legal openings.
Kortanius Sabeleake related that in the past nearly the entire forest in Mentawai constituted a forest concession zone. “The state allocated it to companies, and public welfare was lacking,” said the former activist ofCinta Mandiri Mentawai Foundation which is engaged in resolving traditional community issues. A junior high school was set up in his region only in 1984 and a senior high school only in 1986.
Two years ago, however, the situation changed. The Mentawai Archipelago government finally issued a regional by law on the recognition and protection of its custom-based traditional community, followed by regent’s rule to implement it.
Jayapura regency moved earlier. In 2014, its regent announced two regulations, on the recognition and protection ofthe traditional community and on the formation of36 traditional villages. Last year, theJayapura regency administration set up a traditional community task force as a follow-up to its bylaw enacted in 2016.
“The people should participate in determining the development on their own land, forest and natural environment,” said Amos Soumilena. At the discussion, Rukka and Kortanius urged the ‘aces’ knowledgeable about traditional community affairs to run in the regional head and legislative elections.
“Where there are champions with visions to work for the people, undertakings will be easier to handle,” said Rukka.