Coalition of 30 CSOs and Civil Society Watching over Indigenous People Draft Bill

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Asmat people wear their traditional costume and hold Asmat traditional wooden handcraft and music equipment. Image: Shutterstock/Sergey Uryadnikov

Indonesia has just commemorated its 75th Independence Day. Ideally, with its grownup epoch, the state should have provided full assurance to every nation’s liberty. It includes the rights of indigenous people as the undividable parts of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. 

However, the fact shows the 75th anniversary of freedom has fallen short of giving independence for the indigenous people’s rights. Whereas, the Article 18B paragraph 2 of the 1945 Constitution clearly stipulates that the state of Indonesia acknowledges and respects the indigenous people and their traditional rights. In addition, Article 28i paragraph 3 of the Constitution mandates that cultural identity and rights of traditional community shall have respect along with progression of era and civilization.

Paradoxically, both articles fail to curb the ongoing confiscation of indigenous people’s rights, customary land exploitation, major corporation violation against indigenous people, and criminalization of indigenous peoples. Consequently, the indigenous people should every so often suffer from detriment with material loss, loss of natural resources management rights, extinction of customary land, culture and spiritual values. 

For instance, the forests in Merauke and Boven Digoel, Papua, that have been changed to palm oil estate in 2019 has displaced the sources of local food ranging from sago village, wild hunt areas, sacred spots for the local people. Or the recent case of Kinipan happens to people in Lamandau, Central Kalimantan, in which a local indigenous figure was seized due to his struggle for his customary land. 

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Those cases are just trivial instances of the numerous similar cases happen to the indigenous peoples that remain unrevealed to public. Responding to the rampant injustice suffered by indigenous people, coalition of 30 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and civil societies watches over the process and urges the government to promptly deliberate the Indigenous People Draft Bill from its undefined state since 2009-2014. EcoNusa Foundation in this respect is part of the coalition to call for the draft bill deliberation. 

“Actually the calls from CSO and civil society coalitions which watch over the Indigenous Law Drat Bill concern with the legal identity (of the indigenous people) to gain public recognition and be deliberated by the state,” said Dewi Rizki, the Indonesian Partnership’s Sustainable Governance Strategic Program Director,  on the Indigenous People Draft Bill Talkshow #SahkanRUUMasyarakatAdat virtually held on 9 September 2020. This event was to gain response, feedback and agreement from public on the Indigenous People Draft Bill. 

As to Dewi, recognition here does not simply a matter of objective acknowledgment and regulation but also subjective recognition. For the reason, there are six rights of the indigenous people with special concern on the Indigenous People Draft Bill. Those deal with rights for customary area, right for spiritual culture, right for indigenous women, right for children and youngster, right for environment and right for free prior and informed consent. 

AMAN Secretary General Rukka Sombolinggi said that the Indigenous People Draft Bill should serve as a bridge connecting the indigenous people and the state and thus the indigenous people becomes the complete element of Indonesia and the state’s presence for their protection. 

“Hence, there will be no more forcible development. There will be no more conservation areas with abundant food, but the customary community suffers from hunger. The paradigm of economic development handed over to investor is no longer feasible due to the absence of indigenous people’s account. Whereas, the indigenous people has given significant contribution, let alone during the pandemic,” said Rukka.

The existing Indigenous People Draft Bill is deemed far from what is expected. The draft bill has failed to respond to the challenges related to the customary communities. 

“It requires additional clause on restitution and rehabilitation on the recovery of the past violent abuse of rights. This could be done by a presidential regulation or government regulation. It is then implemented by a permanent institution,” added Rukka. 

The draft bill is considered having some articles that might harm and make indigenous community in difficulty. For instance, an article on evaluation of indigenous community which opposes the spirit of the 1945 Constitution. Indigenous people has existed long before the state presence. It also deals with the long and winding process of designation of indigenous people.

Besides, the challenges come up with sectoral ego among the government institutions, the absence of synchronized and coordination among ministries dealing with the Indigenous People Draft Bill designation. As a result, the designation of indigenous people to be a customary village becomes a problem.

Aferi Syamsidar Fudail, the acting chief of Home Affairs Ministry’s Village Government Directorate General, said the challenge comes from the slow response of the local government in reporting their customary territories to the central government. On the other hand, Home Affairs Minister Regulation (Permendagri) No. 52/2014 on the Guidelines of Indigenous People Protection and Recognition has been issued. 

“We open space to the local government to identify areas with village code and indigenous community characteristics. So, when the location of customary areas has been designated, they will have authority to manage and administer their territories. This is deemed a respect, protection and realization of the rights of indigenous people by the state,” said Aferi.

Abdon Nababan, the Deputy of AMAN National Board, said that Permendagri No. 52/2014 is the result of ministries and institutions agreement facilitated by the Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare. It is intended to minimize the costly cost and complicated process of local politics. This could be done by Regent Decree or Governor Decree to designate the existence of indigenous people and customary areas. The deal should have been followed by all parties including the MoEF. 

The Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry and National Land Agency, Social Affairs Ministry, Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Cultural Affairs, Education and Culture Ministry, Maritime and Fisheries Ministry through their representatives in the event here provided their supports for the call for Indigenous People Draft Bill deliberation. 

On the press release of CSO Coalition, it says that the House of Representatives should have prioritized the Indigenous People Draft Bill for recognition and protection of indigenous community and their constitutional rights. The draft bill proposed by the CSO Coalition here could not only help the House’s legislation process but also build democracy for a better legislation.

“Suspending the deliberation of Indigenous People Draft Bill implies the failure of the state to protect the indigenous community,” said Laode M. Syarif, the Partnership’s Executive Director for Governance Revival. 

CSO and Civil Society Coalition for Indigenous People Draft Bill consists of 30 organizations, namely AMAN, BRWA, Debtwatch Indonesia, Epistema, Forum Masyarakat Adat Pesisir dan pulau-pulau kecil, HuMa, ICEL, JKPP, Kalyanamitra, KIARA, Kemitraan, Koalisi Perempuan Indonesia, Konsorsium Pembaruan Agraria, Lakpesdam, Yayasan Madani Berkelanjutan, Lokataru, merDesa Institute, PEREMPUAN AMAN, Protection International Indonesia (YPII), Perhimpunan Pembela Masyarakat Adat Nusantara, RMI, Sawit Watch, Satu Nama, Walhi, Yayasan Jurnal Perempuan, YLBHI, BPAN, Kaoem Telapak, KP-KKC Persekutuan Gereja-Gereja di Indonesia (PGI), and Yayasan EcoNusa.

Reviewer: Cindy J. Simangunsong 

Editor: Leo Wahyudi S

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