Kamis, 28 Februari 2013

Indigennous Rights and the Harapan Rainforest Project: A Letter to PT REKI From the Bathin Sembilan Oof Simpang Macan Luar

By Chris Lang, 26th February 2013
Harapan Rainforest Project’s website states that, “The partnership between management of Harapan Rainforest and Bathin Sembilan Tribe who lives in the forest is going well from beginning.” But a recent letter from some of the Bathin Sembilan communities suggests that things may not be going as well as Harapan would like us to believe.
On 12 December 2012, a meeting took place between about 50 Bathin Sembilan indigenous people of Simpang Macan Luar and Burung Indonesia, one of the NGOs involved in the Harapan Rainforest Project. The Bathin Sembilan are indigenous peoples whose home is the forests that are now the Harapan Rainforest Project. The notes of the meeting (available here in Indonesian, pdf file 33.7 kB) explain that the Bathin Sembilan people feel that PT REKI, the company running the Harapan Rainforest Project, is limiting the rights of indigenous peoples. The process of free, prior and informed consent certainly appears to be limited:
The management often comes already with a letter and asks for a signature as a statement of community consent.
The Bathin Sembilan moved to a “Partner Zone” under the Harapan Project, but during the meeting with Burung Indonesia they commented that there is “no life” in the Partner Zone, “because there is no long-term economic development”.
Four NGOs who are supporting the Bathin Sembilan were at the meeting (Cappa, Setara, Perkumpulan Hijau, and Agra). They explained that there are communication problems with PT REKI and that PT REKI has used the media to worsen relationships with NGOs.
During the meeting, the Harapan Management “apologised for the things that are not acceptable” and said that they are, “willing to fix things together with the communities and the NGOs”.
REDD-Monitor looks forward to posting the response from PT REKI to this letter. The original letter is available here in Bahasa Indonesia (pdf file 423.3 kB) and a German translation isavailable here (pdf file 96.8 kB).
Jambi, 11 February 2013
Effendy Sumardja
Director General of PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (PT REKI)
Dear Sir,
Through this letter we pray that you are in good health and are successful in carrying out your daily activities.
We, the members of the tribe Batin Sembilan, located in Simpang Macan Luar, would like to inform you that on 12 December 2012, a meeting took place between the Batin Sembilan in Simpang Macan Luar and representatives of PT REKI, organised by Mr. Manggara of Burung Indonesia. During the meeting, both parties presented their view of the problems they faced. In addition, some agreements were made, which we attach to this letter in writing. We would like to ask again with our letter to the implementation of these agreements, as follows:
1.   About the agreement which reads: “PT REKI must complete compensation of residents for the poisoned oil palms and the shrubs planted by PT REKI staff.” Until now there was no follow-up the implementation of this agreement, we would like to ask when this agreement will be implemented? Is this agreement still valid? Or, is there anything else outside of this agreement?
2.   We would also like to enquire about the progress of negotiations between the Batin Sembilan tribe of Simpang Macan Luar and PT REKI. To quote one point the agreement dated 12 December 2012: “The next meeting will take place in early January to allow time for residents to be able to consolidate their position before the meeting.” Is this agreement still valid and will it be implemented? Or, is there something else beyond this agreement?
3.   We learned, from an unofficial source, that PT REKI not has implemented the agreement further, because we, the Batin Sembilan Simpang Macan Luar with our supporting NGOs on 28 December 2012 carried out an exploration of the living area of the Batin Sembilan Simpang Macan Luar. According to PT REKI this activity is a violation of the agreement and a “fraudulent” act by Batin Sembilan Simpang Macan Luar and supporting NGOs, and therefore the implementation of the agreement was discontinued.
We would like to explain that we carried out this exploration work to re-determine the living area of the Batin Sembilan Simpang Macan Luar that we left about 6 years ago. We left our living area and thus our land and our fields, because of the shrinking of our living area and we were forbidden to create new fields and build houses. We therefore conducted this investigation to facilitate the identification as a common activity with PT REKI.
Through this letter, we also hope that:
1.   There is no more intimidation in various forms against the Batin Sembilan tribe of Simpang Macan Luar, because we are critical of the PT REKI project. We believe that different points of view should not be faced with mutual threats, and we hope that PT REKI has a strong commitment to respect indigenous peoples in the implementation of donor policies in the Harapan Rainforest Project.
2.   We hope that PT REKI as a company, and as operator of the project to restore ecosystems, that was initiated by large companies, will provide a good example. We also hope PT REKI can give us good explanations that are easy for us to understand, and is open to a resolution of the conflict in which we currently find ourselves.
3.   We asked for a communication of things that are important not to be done informally, and it is left to us to “interpret” PT REKI’s actions, as this will leave room for misunderstanding.
Thank you for your attention and cooperation.
Yours faithfully,
On behalf of the tribe Batin Sembilan Simpang Macan Luar

PHOTO Credit: Dieter Hoffmann, RSPB Head of International Country Programmes.

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