By. M. Ridha Saleh

Senior Researcher of the Walhi Institute

The area of forested land throughout Indonesia’s mainland in 2019 is 94.1 million ha or 50.1% of the total land area, while 40 percent of the remaining primary forest in Indonesia is in Papua (Papua and West Papua).

Papua’s forest is the only Indonesian forest that has the highest level of biodiversity in the world, with 20,000 plant species, 602 bird species, 125 mammals, and 223 reptiles. Forests are also the main source of livelihood for many local indigenous peoples.

The National Forestry Plan (RKN) 2011-2030 of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, through Permen No: P.41 / MENLHK / SETJEN / KUM.1 / 7/2019, states, the number of Villages in the forest area is 1,394, on the edge and around the forest as much 4,070, while outside the forest as many as 2,075.

The RKN also emphasized that 118,963 families of indigenous Papuans were still categorized as collectors of forest products and 137,672 households were included in the forestry business category.

From these data, it illustrates how the life of indigenous peoples in Papua from generation to generation is interdependent on forest ecosystems. For the indigenous Papuan people, land and forest are mothers who must be devoted as well as ancestral heritage that must be preserved.

As a mother and ancestral heritage, the forest must not only be preserved and maintained as a source of livelihood, more than that, in the local knowledge of the Papuan indigenous people, the forest is a living ecosystem that characterizes the nation’s culture.

In the ecosystem of life, forests are placed as subjects believed to have essential values complementing dignity and being the existence of the rights of indigenous peoples. Therefore, the forest is believed to have handed over the protection and rights of its defenders to the indigenous people to be protected, maintained, and fought for its security, preservation, and sustainability for the present life and future generations.

That is why the subsistence economy in people’s lives is in and around when managing and utilizing forests is limited by traditions and customary laws because forests are believed to be a cultural identity.

Ecological Barbarians

The Indonesian government has been reminded that the level of forest cover loss in Papua reached its peak in 2015. Even a few days ago, 10 NGOs that were members of the Indonesian Monitoring Coalition again released a report on deforestation in Indonesia, where Papua is the focus of attention because the level of deforestation there is suspected to be getting worse. and worrying.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry does not deny this, but the Ministry of Environment and Forestry strongly denies accusations from several parties regarding the license sale which was said to have occurred in the era of President Joko Widodo and Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya.

This is because during the 1984-2020 period there were plantation permits through the release of forest areas covering an area of 7.3 million hectares, of which 746 permits covering an area of 6.7 million hectares, or more than 91% were granted before President Jokowi took office in late October 2014.

For the Papuan indigenous people, it is not a matter of the number and number of permits issued by the government to corporations, permits are considered a form of negation and exclusion of the right to life, even having consequences on many things such as inequality, violence, conflict, criminalization to stigmatization, moreover the licensing process is generally recognized. conducted without adequate and transparent consultation with indigenous peoples.

Deforestation in Papua is not caused by a single factor, in the minds of many parties, especially the government, deforestation is more caused or associated as illegal acts by timber barons and forest encroachers, not all of that is true if you refer to the data submitted by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, then deforestation in Indonesia has since In the past until now it has been more caused by legal actions, carried out in a structured or systematic manner through a licensing mechanism.

Thus, deforestation means changing forest areas into non-forested land permanently, indirectly, deforestation changes its original function for environmental conservation and forest ecosystems into other activities, generally for plantations and mining.

Apart from causing ecological disasters, deforestation also triggers conflicts and human rights violations. That is why deforestation is categorized as a form of ecological savagery because it is the main destructive action of ecological salvation, preserving the environment and the integrity of God’s creation.

If placed in the context of indigenous Papuans, deforestation can be categorized as an act of cultural destruction (culture genocide), because forests for the Papuan people apart from being a cultural identity and space for life, forests also store the sharing of historical and social values.

The destruction of culture as meant in this paper is an act of destruction carried out systematically against the source of life and culture of certain indigenous groups which results in the loss of their source of livelihood in which the social and cultural sources of livelihood become part of their cultural identity.

Ecocide in Papua

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry should not turn a blind eye to just assessing that deforestation in Papua is more due to the large number of permits issued before his reign.

As the Ministry of Environment and Forestry continues to monitor the movement of deforestation in Papua, both through satellite-based monitoring and field observations at a certain level, the 1.26 million hectares of natural forest that are still scattered in the Forest Area Release area which is designated for oil palm plantations. (deforestation report 2021)

However, all of that must be put in a complete framework in seeing deforestation in Papua, because the practice of ecocide crime is a very serious practice in Papua. The main characteristic of this crime is actus reus (action) of destruction and expropriation of the environment and natural resources followed by physical and mental violence which is carried out systematically and widely and lasts a long time.

Research reports and media reports show that there are many historical facts that the exploitation of natural resources in Papua has always been followed by actions that degrade human dignity.

Papua must be understood from a more specific approach because the cultural ecosystem and political-ecological background of Papua are different from other parts of Indonesia. Papua is a territory of Indonesia which as long as its integration has political wounds and ecological grief.

Political wounds due to many policies, namely the environment and natural resources, are implemented outside of the principles that recognize and protect civil and political rights, as well as ecological grief due to the neglect of economic, social, and cultural rights.

Natural resource management that respects the rights of indigenous peoples and upholds cultural values can be a part of efforts to improve the socio-political relations between the Papuan indigenous peoples and the authorities.

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