When a dense forest turns into an oil palm plantation
Alfasera I – IV located in Muting sub-district, Merauke Regency once was a dense forest. Today it’s a big oil palm plantation.
Along the way to the office and lodgment for employees of PT Agriprima Cipta Persada (ACP), people will solely find oil palm trees along the road, whereas the forest which was a source of livelihood for indigenous Papuans was entirely gone.
PT. ACP who’s responsible for this had promised aids to the nine clans in Muting sub-district before cutting down their forest and turning it the oil palm plantation since 2013. However, it’s only a promise that causes people’s disappointment.
A landowner Pius Mbanang Ndiken who is also a security guard of PT. ACP Muting told Jubi on Monday (22/10/2018) that the company promised many things to the nine clans in Muting sub-district so that they agreed to give their forest for the plantation.
“Our forest has cleared out for the oil palm plantation, and some places that used to be sacred and protected from generation to generation also expelled,” he said.
Moreover, he said the company and local community have made several agreements including the company will build houses for landowners, provide five units of chainsaws but they only get two.
The company also promised to provide financial support for the education for the children from the nine clans to high schools and universities in Kalimantan. Meanwhile, establishing a cooperative and providing business funds for the nine family clans are other promises.
“We thought the company has cheated and lied against indigenous Papuans who have sacrificed their forest for the benefits of investors,” he said.
Furthermore, he said due to the deforestation, all animals have disappeared and moved to the swamp area in recent years.
When asked about the land used for the oil palm plantation, he said the company told it’s only 7,000 hectares, whereas there are almost 20,000 hectares of forest cleared out.
“If you think I told you a lie, I will take you around to look more closely at how many thousands of hectares of forest were cleared out to benefit the investors,” he said.
He also complains that the company only employed indigenous Papuans for manual works instead of in the office. “We brought our children who graduated from high school to work in the office, but they told us to wait and be patient,” he said.
Another landowner Filemon Basik-Basik also expressed his disappointment towards the company. “They only gave us their promises. They deceived us and used us to destroy our forest for the oil palm plantation and investors. They made a fool on us. We feel harmful by dishonest investors,” he further said.
The company said only 8,500 hectares of land opened
By contrast, the Public Relations Officer of PT ACP Eddy Mulya Setiadi said the company only opened about 8,500 hectares of land since they cultivated the oil palm trees from 2013 to 2015.
Today the number of the company’s employees is 1500 people in which 50 per cent are indigenous Papuans including the landowners from the nine clans, whereas the rest are non-Papuans from Java, Makassar and East Nusa Tenggara.
When asked about the company’s plan of land clearing, he admitted it detained due to the environmental issue raised by some NGOs. It causes some rejections from the local community including the Mahuze clan. The land that supposed to open is around 10,000 hectares.
He then added that it’s already three years of planting, and the oil palm will ready to harvest in the fourth year and sell to PT. BIA. “In January 2019, machines and other equipment will be transported for harvesting and producing the oil palm in Muting,” he said. (*)