"A sweetness like unto death": Voices of the indigenous Malind of Merauke, Papua
This shocking report provides the first detailed field study of communities’ experiences with the Indonesia government’s 2 million hectare Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estare (MIFEE) project. The study shows that MIFEE is undermining local self-sufficiency, throwing into doubt the government’s national policy on food security based on promoting large-scale agricultural enterprises at the expense of local communities.
Key findings of the report:
Sugarcane, oil palm and timber companies operating in Merauke are failing to respect the right of the indigenous Malind people to withhold their consent to land conversion, and communities are giving their consent to land conversion based on deceptive information and restricted freedom of choice
National and local regulations are either not being implemented, or interpreted to suit the interests of the companies and government, or inherently in contradiction with international human rights standards, and are in urgent need of reform
The food security of the Malind is severely threatened by rampant land conversion to monocrop plantations without adequate guarantees of protection of their forest-based livelihoods from either the State or companies
This report examines the extent to which the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the indigenous Malind people of Merauke in Papua Province, Indonesia, is being respected by Wilmar-owned sugarcane company PT Anugrah Rejeki Nusantara (PT ARN), in the context of the MIFEE project.
The findings reveal that where local communities are giving their consent to the conversion of their customary lands, this is largely based on insufficient and one-sided information, non-guaranteed promises of economic and social welfare aid, unilaterally imposed terms of compensation, vague or non-existent contracts, and with little freedom of choice and expression. National and local regulations are either not being implemented, or interpreted to suit the interests of the companies and government, or inherently in contradiction with international human rights standards, and are in urgent need of reform.
Particular concerns are raised over the threatened food security of the Malind peoples in light of the conversion of vast areas of their customary lands to mono-crop plantations, as well as the consequences of this rapid and imposed transformation on their livelihoods, culture, identities and very survival as a people.
The findings in this report were used to support a third civil society submission under the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s Urgent Action and Early Warning Procedures, which led to further recommendations to the government of Indonesia for better recognition and respect of the rights of the indigenous Malind of Merauke from the CERD Committee.
The government of Indonesia immediately suspend any part of the MIFEE project that may threaten the cultural survival of the affected peoples and provide immediate support to indigenous communities – designed with their participation and consent – that have been deprived of their means of subsistence
National and local regulations need to be revised and harmonised in line with existing human rights instruments, including with regards to the right of indigenous peoples in Papua to give or withhold their Free, Prior and Informed Consent to any project affecting their lands, territories and resources
PT ARN and other companies operating in Papua, must provide comprehensive and impartial information to communities sufficiently in advance of any project going ahead, under conditions where communities are free to express themselves, and consult with them in ways that respect the right of communities to withhold their consent.