In the 2014 presidential elections, the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN) threw its support behind then presidential candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
Jokowi emerged victorious against rival Prabowo Subianto after making several campaign promises under his nine key development programs, called Nawacita, including those related to the wellbeing of indigenous peoples.
However, nearly four years into his term and a year before the 2019 presidential elections, the president still had much to do regarding the protection of millions of indigenous peoples across the archipelago, according to hundreds of indigenous leaders.
“AMAN will evaluate the commitment of Jokowi and Jusuf Kalla’s administration to the indigenous community. Nawacita promises are up in the sky. It’s very disappointing,” AMAN’s secretary-general Rukka Sombolinggi said in her speech on Saturday in Koha Village, Minahasa regency, North Sulawesi.
Around 200 indigenous people representing their regions gathered in the village for a four-day meeting held from March 14 to 17 that was also held to commemorate AMAN’s 19th anniversary and Indigenous Peoples Awakening Day.
During the meeting, which focused on determining which candidate to support in the 2019 presidential elections, the leaders pointed out the unmet promises of Jokowi’s administration. One example was the lack of progress made in the long-awaited Indigenous People’s Rights Protection bill.
The law would grant greater acknowledgment to indigenous communities that up to present still face criminalization and discrimination regarding the management of their customary lands, much of which has been taken over through permits issued by local administrations to companies for commercial land concessions.
AMAN realizes that its political stance during the upcoming elections, including the regional and legislative elections, would be important in determining the community’s future.
“We need to choose leaders that have good track records and offer programs that benefit the interests of the indigenous community,” the group said in its recommendation.
AMAN, which represents around 17 million indigenous people from more than 2,300 communities across the country, has not yet declared whether it would stand behind Jokowi once more.
“It is important to discuss our political stance because it will determine the future of indigenous peoples,” Rukka said.
Another issue raised during the meeting was the fact that around three million indigenous people across the country may not be able to participate in the 2018 regional elections and 2019 legislative and presidential elections because they do not posses e-ID cards. Those without identification cards live in conservation areas that do not belong to any administrative areas or live in rural areas that do not have proper access to such information.
The group acknowledged that some progress had been made by the current administration, such as the granting of land certificates to several indigenous communities, however, the figure was still small. Rukka said the government had only granted certificates for 20,000 hectares (ha) out of 9.3 million ha of customary forests that belonged to indigenous communities.
On the last day of the AMAN national meeting, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said in her speech that the President had signed a presidential letter (Surpres) permitting the House of Representatives (DPR) to begin deliberations with related ministries on the bill.
Jokowi has assigned her ministry as well as the Home Ministry and Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry to study and discuss the bill with the lawmakers. The bill had been included again in the 2018 National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) at the House after being delayed multiple times since it was first proposed in 2012.
Several crucial points needed to be included in the bill such as the recognition of the group, along with their territories and natural resources, Rukka said, adding that their rights must also be recognized. The most crucial part, she said, was the establishment of a special institution for indigenous people.
“Its establishment is very important as many problems stem from the issues facing indigenous people being handled by different ministries,” she added.
Gemma Holliani Cahya