Sugar company Rajawali is destroying forest without permission in Malind district
Without the knowledge or consent of local landowners in Kampung Onggari, Malind district, Merauke, two subsidiaries of the Rajawali Group, PT Karya Bumi Papua and PT Cenderawasi Jaya Mandiri, are destroying ancestral forest, evicting areas of importance and swamps belonging to the people. It is believed that this has been occurring since the end of 2012.
Stephanus Gebze, a well-known figure and leader of one of the landowning clans in Kampung Onggari revealed that, “the Malind people of Kampung Onggari have never sat down and discussed this together, nor have we agreed to give permission or surrender our land to the Rajawali company”.
In 2010, the Rajawali company presented its project plans at the Malind district office, in Kampung Kaiburse, but community members from Onggari who were present stated their opposition to the company’s operations in Onggari, as they needed the forests and swamps to be able to support future generations of villagers. In 2011, Rajawali built a church in Onggari, but the people never agreed to give their forests and swamps over to the company. “We accepted the help to build the church as a contribution to us in Onggari. We cannot be coaxed into giving up our land just because a church was built for us”, said Paulinus Balagaize.
Several local people have already surveyed the site where clearing has taken place, known as Tiptidek, Kopti and Kandiput. They have found that their forests and swampland, known as Deg, Palee, Bob, have already been flattened. “These are the places we go hunting, fishing, collect wood and medicines. There are animal habitats and burial grounds of the Malind ancestors. The company has destroyed them all”, said Stephanus Mahuze, another prominent member of the Onggari community. expressing his disappointment with Rajawali for clearing the forest without permission.
The Onggari village government and other community leaders met with the leader of the Malind District, Martinus Dwiharjo, on Thursday 11th April 2013. They complained about how Rajawali was clearing the forest without permission. “This is harassment, and a violation of our traditional rights as Marind people”, said Stephanus Gebze.
The community is demanding that Rajawali’s activities are stopped until a settlement is reached according to Marind customary law. There must be compensation for all the various losses the people suffer, including for grasses and other plants and disruption to animal life. The community wishes that these problems can be resolved peacefully and according to the Marind people’s traditional mechanisms.
Martinus Dwiharjo said that he had no knowledge that Rajawali had been clearing people’s land in Onggari. Martinus has offered to facilitate a meeting to resolve the issue with Rajawali as soon as possible, on Tuesday 16th April 2013. Martinus also wishes to lend his support to resolve any questions about the location of the boundary between land belonging to the clans of Kampung Onggari and Domande. The majority of Kampung Domande’s land has already been given over to Rajawali.
Who knows how often Rajawali has overstepped the line? In November 2012, the people of Kampung Domande, Malind district, imposed a penalty on Rajawali according to their customary laws because the company had cleared land on the Sanggayas burial ground. Fransiskus Kaize, the village head, explained this penalty consisted of a seven million rupiah fine, one pig and twelve kava plants. The Sanggayas Burial ground has now been cordoned off with a coconut leaf fence to show that is is forbidden to destroy the surrouding areas.
When a company clears forest without permission, it is grabbing land, insulting indigenous traditions and breaking the law. It is only right that the Malind people of Onggari take action to uphold their customary law against such companies.