By Zely Ariane for Yayasan Pusaka
Sima village, Nabire – During a discussion on Monday 9th May community representatives were asked if they agreed with PT Nabire Baru’s statement that police mobile brigade (Brimob) were stationed on the company’s premises because the community had requested their presence. They instantly replied that they didn’t.
“How could we have asked for them? How could bringing in Brimob to work as security guards be anything to do with us? We have never asked Brimob to come here. Actually their presence makes us feel nervous, not safe”, said Karel Maniba during the discussion.
The communities were protesting the presence of Brimob guards who protect the company’s operations fully armed, causing anxiety within the community. Brimob were seen on the ground when the Manawari sago grove was first cleared on 12th April 2016.
That day Enos Abujani was the first to notice two excavators clearing the sago grove and immediately went to tell his neighbours. Armed Brimob guards were there, watching over the land clearing.
Around 550 square metres were cleared on the 12th April 2016, including 15 stands of sago palms. “I felt my stomach churning as I watched them work. It was as if they were destroying the contents of my stomach”, said Gunawan Inggeruhi who joined three other community members in protesting the land clearance the following day. [The sago palm is the staple food of lowland Papuans].
The community challenged the land clearance four times. On the 16th April, as the company still hadn’t stopped work, they went both morning and afternoon to complain.
“It’s just that sago grove that we are asking they don’t clear. Because that is our livelihood. If I pound the sago inside the trunk, I can get 100,000 Rupiah, I can buy the things I need, such as salt, MSG, soap. If the grove is cleared I feel I have lost out, I feel sorrow, as if I have been stripped naked”, said Mama Yakomina Manuburi, holding back her anger.
Some community members have already been to ask members of the District Legislative Council (DPRD) to help, or have sent complains about this problem to the Nabire police chief. A representative of DPRD Commission I has been to visit the area. However, neither the council or the police chief have shown any clear will to stop the sago groves being cleared.
The Yerisiam Gua community collect signatures to save the Sago Groves
The Yerisiam Gua indigenous group have collected 110 signatures supporting their opposition to the clearance of the sacred Manawari sago groves around Sima village, in Yaur sub-district by PT Nabire Baru.
The signatures were collected on Monday 9th and Tuesday 10th May, as a response to a letter from the company which stated that opposition within the Yerisiam community was only coming from a handful of people and had been provoked by certain individuals.
“This company is pretty smart at deception, everything it says in the letter is incorrect. There are currently quite a lot of people who know about the company’s lies and oppose its presence here”, said Yance Maniburi irritatedly when the letter of response was read out in the discussion between representatives of the Yerisiam Gua indigenous group on Tuesday.
Nabire Baru’s parent company Goodhope Holdings were responding to a protest letter from the Yerisiam Gua community concerning the company’s presence and the work being carried out. The company did not give a specific response concerning its current clearance of sacred sago groves.
In the letter addressed to Forest Peoples Programme and dated 29th April 2016, Aditia Insani from Goodhope said that PT Nabire Baru had settled all issues of community rights, was in possession of all the required permits and had corporate social responsibility programmes in place.
He also stated that Brimob were stationed in the company’s area because local people had requested protection from the threat of armed groups.
“Brimob forces are not involved in acts of violence”, Aditia said in the letter.
On the 19th April, the Yerisiam Gua commuity sent a letter protesting about PT Nabire Baru to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, via Yayasan Pusaka. The complaint was in connection with the expansion of the company’s work area to include the sacred Manawari sago grove and the presence of Brimob guards which was causing anxiety within the community.
According to Y.L. Franky, Director of Yayasan Pusaka who forwarded the Yerisiam Gua people’s request, four issues form the basis for the community’s position.
Firstly, PT Nabire Baru has from the outset attempted to win the support of a small group of community members to release community lands, without a general meeting or the agreement of the wider Yerisiam community which holds the land rights.
Secondly The Yerisiam indigenous community have repeatedly complained and spoken of the problems of this land expropriation, their suffering and losses and the violent practices used by Brimob security guards in their approach to these problems, but the government and company have ignored and failed to respect the community’s complaints or opinions about these matters.
Thirdly, the company has cleared ecologically important natural forest resulting in deforestation, and as a result the community have lost a source of income, and there has been recent serious flooding inundating Sima village where the Yerisiam people live.
Fourthly, the company’s attempts to clear the sacred Jarae and Manawari sago groves, contravening an agreement made with the community in February 2016 which opposed a smallholder scheme in the sago area.
The company had promised not to disturb the sago groves. “Previously they said that they would leave the sago groves as an enclave owned by the Yerisiam people”, said Agus Henawi. “But it seems as if their objective is to finish us off”.
The Yerisiam Gua community have stressed that the promises PT Nabire Baru made since it commenced its investment have still not been fulfilled.
“Right at the beginning they promised to build a school, a church and houses but not one of these promises has been met yet”, said Mrs Yance Rumbiak.
She feels that since the company arrived the people have been made to suspect each other, causing divisions within families, setting people against one another and making village life uncomfortable. (*)
English Translation by AwasMIFEE