The Jakarta Post
The Indigenous People's Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) said on Wednesday that president-elect Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo and his deputy Jusuf Kalla must keep their promise to protect the rights of indigenous people and preserve their customary lands
Rukka Sombolinggi, AMAN deputy secretary-general, said that Jokowi and Kalla had promised in their vision and mission statement to establish a commission focused on the recognition and protection of indigenous communities.
'AMAN and indigenous groups have pledged our support for the Jokowi-Kalla coalition in the hope that they will fight for indigenous peoples' rights,' Rukka announced in Central Jakarta on Wednesday.
The organization held a commemoration of the International Day of the World's Indigenous People, which fell on Aug. 9.
During the presidential campaign, Jokowi pledged that he would establish an independent commission that would report directly to the president. The commission would be tasked with preparing regulations and policies related to indigenous peoples' issues. Jokowi also promised that he would push for ratification of the Indigenous People's Rights Acknowledgment and Protection Bill that is currently stalled in the House of Representatives.
Rukka emphasized that the 2012 Constitutional Court verdict declaring that customary forests no longer belonged to the state could play a critical role in the customary lands issue, but that unfortunately it had yet to be applied by the government.
She added that even after the court delivered the verdict, the Forestry Ministry continued to issue policies that infringed upon indigenous people's customary forest rights.
Rukka also criticized President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for delays in issuing a decree to implement the court's verdict, which she blamed for the ongoing conflicts between private companies, governments and indigenous groups over rights to the forests.
'We hope the next president will set out an agenda for conflict resolution between the government and indigenous groups. It is time for indigenous people to feel that they are part of this country,' she added.
Based on AMAN data, 150 land dispute cases involving indigenous people nationwide were submitted to the organization last year.
Contacted separately, Forestry Ministry secretary-general Hadi Daryanto denied the accusation that the ministry had not implemented the court's ruling on Law No. 41/1999 of Forestry. 'The Forestry Ministry acknowledges the court's ruling. We believe that customary rights for indigenous people is a very important issue,' he said.
Hadi added that the ministry had agreed to participate in a series of public hearings to be held in several provinces across the country from Aug. 27 to Nov. 28. The hearings will be sponsored by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).
The public hearings will provide forums for parties ' including indigenous people and the Forestry Ministry ' to meet and exchange views regarding the land disputes. Komnas HAM plans to submit the results to the next president.
'We agree that if these land disputes continue, the country will never achieve sustainable forest management,' Hadi said. (idb)
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