The Moi Tribe Opposing Timber Corporate Giants

Since the end of 1982, there has been increasing state control and regulation in managing and utilizing Papua’s forest products, signified by the Decree of the Minister of Agriculture Number 820 Year 1982 regarding Designation of Forest Areas in Irian Jaya Level I Region Province covering an area of ​​almost 41 million hectares as Forest Areas. This decision is based upon the Law on Forestry Number 5 Year 1967, the Minister stipulated the (state) Forest Areas, after being worked on and mapped out on the table, with minimum consultation with the residents, dividing their functions and designations, erecting Prohibition Signs and/or concession monuments in the field.

Despite the amendment to the Forestry Law (1999) and revisions to certain articles (2012), which accepted and recognized the existence of customary forests, the state arranged for requirements which had not fully promoted and restored the rights of indigenous peoples that occurred during the New Order regime. The development regime at that time issued a unilateral policy of taking over and utilizing customary land and forests, turning it into (state) political forests and establishing them as (state) forest areas, and endeavors towards commercial commodities were carried out using legal politics, territorialization and even the use of state violence, which are still being repeated today, benefitting the corporations. Unfair.

Moses Kilangin of the Amungme Tribe, talks about the ‘customary’ prohibition poles of the Amungme Tribe which are considered taboo by the Amungme people in the Wa Valley. However, the Freeport mining company, capitalizing on a Contract of Work and military apparatuses with a security approach, operates a mining business by displacing and destroying Nemangkawi, which is considered a sacred mountain. In 2004, the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Megawati Soekarnoputri, issued a decree supporting this mining company to operate in forest areas that should have been protected. The plenary session of the People’s Legislative Assembly of the Republic of Indonesia (2004) also approved it by amending Law 41/1999 to protect the mining business in the forests. Today, the Job Creation Law has become a lubricant for business highways and profit multiplication.

The business of extracting natural wealth, reaping and multiplying profits involves Strong People (Hasiman, 2019), namely business-political elites with close access to rulers and strategic policy makers. The oligarchs are directly involved in controlling the business, they exert influence and are able to change the direction of policies using power and money for the benefit of financiers and corporations. They have extensive business and political networks from local, national to global levels. Plato had described about an oligarchic regime, led by a handful of wealthy elites, who are more concerned with wealth, making money, with a dishonest attitude (Asshiddiqie,2022).

They have impunity and privileges that are protected by state authorities to pave the way for generating profits by filthy schemes, such as bribing and giving incentives to expand and obtain business licenses, including protection and settlement free from legal entanglement. Mas Pujo (2022) makes the parable of strong people as giants to explain the existence of rulers and unfair power relations in the plantation industry production system, the marginalization of people and the exploitation of laborers, as well as environmental degradation.

Ruler of Papuan Forests

Since 1988 up to the issuance of Presidential Instruction on Moratorium on the clearing of natural forest and peatland products (2011), it is acknowledged that the government had issued business permits for logging forest products (HPH) in Papua and West Papua Provinces (before the division into new autonomous regions) to 86 companies with a total area of ​​up to 11,170,416 hectares. Perhaps the largest logging permits compared to other areas outside Papua. Currently, several of the dozens of companies have stopped operating, some of which have changed ownership and/or been acquired by new owners.

The large concession area resulted from the practice of arbitrariness in law without considering the sense of justice and the people’s interests, perceived socio-economic discrimination, and using the arguments of development expansion and poverty alleviation, which is driven and influenced by the interests of accelerating and expanding capital accumulation in Papua. In 1999, the government issued Government Regulation Number 6 Year 1999 regarding Forest Concession and Collection of Forest Products in Production Forests, Article 8 paragraph (1) stipulates the provisions on the maximum area of ​​Forest Concession Rights (HPH), (a) for one province each right holder is a maximum of 100,000 (one hundred thousand) hectares; (b) for all of Indonesia each right holder shall be a maximum of 400,000 (four hundred thousand) hectares; (c) specifically for Irian Jaya Province, each right holder shall be a maximum of 200,000 (two hundred thousand) hectares. The provisions on the maximum area of ​​Forest Concession Rights as referred to in this paragraph shall apply to one company and its group.

This policy of controlling multiple forest concessions is in line with the expectations of the timber tycoons. They also extract and procure the contents of timber forest products from forest conversion permits in the development of plantation business.

Based on FWI’s study (2022), entitled Papua’s Forest and Its Rulers, it was reported that there are 6 (six) company groups that possess large-scale concession land in Papua, namely Kayu Lapis Indonesia (KLI) Group with an area of ​​632,000 hectares; Raja Garuda Mas (RGM) Group with an area of ​​549,000 hectares; Sinar Wijaya Group with an area of ​​547,000 hectares; Alamindo Group with an area of ​​750,150 hectares; Korindo Group with an area of ​​417,000 hectares, and Masindo Group with an area of ​​406,000 hectares. The owners of these companies also control and own companies and investments in various commodity businesses and advanced processing industries, such as oil palm plantations and palm oil, property business, livestock and meat industry, and investments in large-scale land development (food estate).

The wealthy businessman Sukanto Tanoto, the concession holder that controls RGM Group, owns businesses in timber, oil palm plantation, palm oil, margarine and biodiesel, spread across various regions, including in Jayapura, Papua.

Another group, Alamindo Lestari Sejahtera Group, owns and controls three timber companies and industries in Papua, namely PT Rimbakayu Arthamas in Teluk Bintuni, PT Prabu Alaska in Fakfak, Kaimana and Boven Digoel, and a wood processing industry, PT Karas Industri Papua in Karas, Fakfak. The owner of the companies is still related to businessmen Kim Johanes Mulia and Juan Mulya. Kim Johanes Mulia, a crony of Suharto, owns several businesses and was once convicted of a financial scandal.

Alamindo Lestari Sejahtera (ALS) Group is claiming and developing a food estate project under the name of Bangun Bumi Papua project for livestock industry and corn plantation in Kebar and Fakfak, through its subsidiary PT Nuansa Lestari Sejahtera (NLS), a controversial project which is rejected by the Mpur tribe in Kebar, Tambrauw Regency.

ALS Group of companies is also planning to develop a carbon business through its subsidiary PT Rimbakayu Arthamas and in partnership with 9 (nine) companies holding Forest Utilization Business Permits (PBPH) for carbon sequestration in seven districts in Asmat, Mappi, Boven Digoel, Sarmi, Mamberamo Raya, Waropen and Kaimana, with a total area of ​​1,573,705 hectares, through PT Kayu Bumi Papua (199,950 ha); PT Kayu Bumi Persada (198,950 ha); PT Alam Dhiva Sukses (180,740 ha); PT Kayu Indah Perkasa (191,798 ha); PT Hutan Lestari Sejahtera (197,498 ha); PT Karya Hutan Lestari (195,116 ha); PT Wana Bumi Perkasa (136,737 ha); PT Hutan Hijau Perkasa (175,076 ha); PT Perkasa Bumi Hijau (97,840 ha).

Currently, the ruler of the Papuan forests, Alamindo Lestari Sejahtera Group, is expanding the business of timber forest products exploitation in the customary area of the Moi Tribe through a company called PT Hutan Hijau Papua Barat, the company profile of which mentions Adi Gunawan as shareholder and also commissioner, and the other shareholder is Tony Salim.

The Company’s Legality

In the chronological order of the company legality of PT Hutan Hijau Papua Barat (HHPB), it is acknowledged from the information on the plan and investment approval that the timber forest products extractive business has been carried out since May 2022. The Acting Head of the Investment and One Stop Integrated Service Office (DPMPTSP) of West Papua Province, Yan Piet Moso (currently serving as Regent of Sorong), issued a PBPH Technical Consideration Letter to PT HHPB.

On August 2, 2022, the company received a Letter from the Minister of Investment Head of BKPM Number: 02082211119201002, signed by Bahlil Lahadalia, regarding Commitment Approval to Business Forest Utilization Licensing in Production Forests in the name of PT HHPB in Sorong Regency and Sorong City, West Papua Province, which explained that based on the results of administrative and technical verification, the company had complied with the requirements, and for the granting of PBPH Commitment Approval for PT HHPB’s Production Forest, the company is required to complete the commitment fulfillment, among others, to prepare the minutes of the results of stipulation of geographical coordinates for the boundaries of the prospective work area within 20 working days, to prepare environmental documents and settle the PBPH contribution. This PBPH Commitment Approval will be annulled if the company fails to complete the fulfillment of the said commitments.

In January 2023, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Administration, Directorate of Prevention of Environmental Impacts of Businesses and Activities, issued a letter regarding Environmental Approval Instruction of PT HHPB, which requires the company to prepare an environmental impacts analysis (AMDAL).

PT HHPB’s logging concession is located between by the logging concessions of PT Mancaraya Agro Mandiri, located in Sayosa, Sayosa Timur, Klayili, Maudus, Wernak Districts, Sorong Regency; and Salkma District, South Sorong Regency, with a total area of ​​92,148 ha. We have checked the company’s address stated in the document, the company is domiciled at Jalan Sawo, Neighborhood Ward 001, Neighborhood Block 003, Malawili Sub-District, Aimas District, Sorong Regency, Southwest Papua Province, however, the office in question has not been found along Jalan Sawo and from the residents’ testimonies, they have never heard of the company’s name. The company’s credibility is doubtful.

Kofok Protection Forest

Earlier this week (17/7/2023) at the Drei Kinder Multipurpose Building, Sorong City, dozens of youths and members of the Moi tribe staged a protest to reject the plan of the government and a timber company, PT Hutan Hijau Papua Barat (HHPB), for Forest Utilization Business Permit (PBPH) in a forest area of ​​92,148 hectares.

In a statement read out in front of an official, namely the Head of Environment, Forestry and Land (LHKP) Service Office of Southwest Papua Province and the executives of PT HHPB, they stated among others the following: rejecting PT Hutan Hijau Papua Barat’s plan to operate on customary land and urging the local government and the Minister of Environment and Forestry to revoke the Forest Utilization Business Permit of PT Hutan Hijau Papua Barat for an area of ​​92,148 hectares located in customary territory.

Yordan Malamuk, a leading figure of the Moi Salkma Tribe Indigenous Youth, stated the following reason for the refusal “The company’s operations will destroy and eliminate forests, leading to loss of livelihoods and food sources, and occurrence of global warming. The community has also experienced the evidence that the presence of HPH companies and oil palm plantations destroys forests and does not provide welfare,” said Yordan, a native of Sayosa Timur, Sorong District.

The unequal relation of production and distribution is witnessed in the logging business in Papua. Company workers ranging from tree loggers to administrative officers who work in extreme environments in the forest with economic pressure, are forced to receive inadequate wages, discrimination and poor social security. This is also the case in the compensation received by the Tuan Dusun, owner of the customary forest, who is being paid Rp. 1 million per cubic meter of merbau wood, compared to the risk of loss of environmental services, forest destruction and the threat of ecological disasters. Meanwhile, timber entrepreneurs enjoy multiple profits from the commercial timber business.

The position of opposing corporations and exploitation of natural resources in the midst of unfavorable social patterns and poor business governance will prevent poverty and injustice, and save the earth from the effects of climate change. This stance is embedded in the discussions and actions by the people of the Moi Tribe.

They peacefully left the activity of public consultation room for the preparation of the Environmental Impact Analysis (AMDAL) for Forest Utilization Business Permit (PBPH) of PT Hutan Hijau Papua Barat (HHPB), which was organized by the company and the government of Southwest Papua Province, without any consensus. There has been no response and reporting on the position of the regional government and the company regarding such position.

Based on a quick analysis of the company’s concession map, most of the forest areas targeted by PT HHPB’s timber business are within customary forest areas, including the forbidden forest area and are protected by the indigenous people called Kofok, in Inei valley.

Ank, Jul 2023

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