Alleged Tort By PT Merauke Rayon Jaya, An Industrial Forest Plantation Company In Boven Digoel Regency

Press Release of Yayasan Pusaka Bentala Rakyat

Jakarta, 18 April 2024

The Wambon Kenemopte indigenous people in Subur and Aiwat Villages, Subur District, Boven Digoel Regency, (now) South Papua Province, is currently facing land and forest clearing and destruction by an Industrial Forest Plantation (HTI) permit holder, PT Merauke Rayon Jaya (MRJ), which have been occurring since early April 2024.

Yayasan Pusaka Bentala Rakyat (PUSAKA) received reports from the affected indigenous people that PT MRJ has been clearing customary land and forests by violating the customary law, namely the opening and clearing of forests without deliberations and permission according to the local customary law. PT MRJ has also yet to submit to the community, documents on business permits for the utilization of plantation forest products from the state and the requirements such as environmental feasibility, business work plan, environmental impact analysis (AMDAL) and so on.

The Acting Head of Investment and One-Stop Service Office of South Papua Province, the Secretary of Environment, Forestry and Land Service Office of South Papua Province, and the Head of Environment Division of DLHKP of South Papua Province, also confirmed that they had not issued permits and recommendations as well as other business requirements, with regard to the presence and operational plans of the industrial forest plantation company, PT MRJ.

The aforementioned requirements and permits are based upon Government Regulation of the Republic of Indonesia Number 27 of 2012 regarding Environmental Permits; Government Regulation of the Republic of Indonesia Number 22 of 2021 regarding Implementation of Environmental Protection and Management; Regulation of the Minister of Environment and Forestry Number P.28 of 2018 regarding Procedures for Granting, Expanding Work Areas and Extending Business Permits for Utilizing Timber Forest Products in Natural Forests, Business Permits for Utilizing Ecosystem Restoration Timber Forest Products or Business Permits for Utilizing Timber Forest Products in Industrial Forest Plantations on Production Forests, and the amendments thereto as per Regulation of the Minister of Environment and Forestry Number P.19/MENLHK/SETJEN/KUM.1/4/2019; and Regulation of the Minister of Environment and Forestry Number P.62/MENLHK/SETJEN/KUM.1/10/ 2019 regarding Development of Industrial Forest Plantations.

“PT MRJ does not respect the human rights of the Wambon Kenemopte Indigenous People, the company is suspected of violating the law, namely by operating to open and clear forests, and utilizing timber forest products not in accordance with state regulations and without the permission of the indigenous people,” said Tigor G Hutapea, Pusaka’s advocacy staff.

The Wambon Kenemopte indigenous people in Subur District have repeatedly stated and expressed their rejection to PT MRJ’s operational plan directly to the company’s operator (2021) and conveyed through a statement of permit revocation to the government of Boven Digoel Regency, the Forestry Service Office and the Capital Investment and One Stop Service Office (DPMPTSP) of Papua Province, the DPMPTSP of South Papua Province and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (2023). However, no response or concrete measures have been taken.

The business operations of the pulp industrial forest plantation company, PT MRJ, have raised concerns and threats to the sustainability of the lives of indigenous people, as a result of the loss of natural forests and replacement of native plants, loss of sources of the people’s livelihood, food and economic income, the people’s limited rights and access to ventures, degradation of the natural forest environment and peat areas, as well as river waters and swamps in customary areas. These constitute a violation of the rights and disregard of the existence of the local people.

The Wambon Kenemopte indigenous people are reacting to the illegal actions, forest destruction and construction of the company’s camps in the people’s customary areas, by warning local workers to stop the forest destruction activities and the construction of the company’s log ponds. The people will impose customary sanctions if the company’s activities continue to destroy customary forests.

A study by PUSAKA (2022) revealed that the customary forest area which became the concession area of ​​ PT MRJ is dominated by primary natural forest areas of up to ​​131,314 hectares, and there are also peatlands of up to ​​2,020 hectares, with high conservation value (NKT) of category 2.2, namely natural areas which contain two or more ecosystems. This vast landscape has the capacity to maintain ecological processes and dynamics. There are also category 3 NKT areas, with rare and endangered ecosystems.

Pusaka views and calls the national and regional governments to consistently and vehemently implement the principles of sustainable development and uphold the principles of Human Rights in each inclusive development plan and project, which is in accordance with the 1945 Constitution and Law Number 21 of 2001 regarding Special Autonomy of Papua Province which has been amended by Law Number 02 of 2021, Chapter X on Economy Articles 38 – 42. In the context of inclusive economy as well as promoting and empowering the rights of the Papuan Indigenous People, the state must respect and protect the socioeconomic rights, livelihood, social capital knowledge and the living resources of the Papuan indigenous people.

“We appeal to the government officials of Boven Digoel regency and South Papua Province, and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, to immediately take disciplinary action, by suspending and evaluating the presence and activities of PT Merauke Rayon Jaya, due to alleged violations of the law which have occurred and resulted in unrest in the community”, Tigor G Hutapea said.

Thank You

Contact Persons:

Tigor G Hutapea: +62 812-8729-6684

Natalia Yewen: +62 813-1753-7503

Brief info on the presence of PT Merauke Rayon Jaya (MRJ):

PT MRJ is a subsidiary of Texmaco Group which is owned by Marimutu Sinivasan. PT MRJ was initially known as PT Maharani Rayon Jaya and obtained its first Pulp Industrial Forest Plantation (HTI) permit from the Minister of Forestry in 1998, with a concession area of ​​206,800 hectares in Irian Jaya Province.

In 2014, the Minister of Environment and Forestry revoked PT MRJ’s company permit, and the company challenged the decision up to Judicial Review by the Supreme Court, which granted annulment of the permit revocation (2017).

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