The Jakarta Post
An NGO group on indigenous people has urged the government to establish a rights task force that it had already promised.
The NGO, called the Alliance of Indigenous People (AMAN), which has a network of around 2,253 indigenous groups across Indonesia who mostly live inside or around forests, said that indigenous people could not wait any longer to have their rights protected after being ignored for more than 70 years since independence.
'I want to emphasize that this is not an ordinary case. This is not just about past treatment of the indigenous. This is about the future of this country,' AMAN secretary-general Abdon Nababan said on Thursday in a discussion in Central Jakarta. He added that indigenous people's rights, such as the right for customary lands, would remain unprotected in the future if policies that regulate the rights are not created.
Abdon said that the establishment of the task force would help the government reconcile past cases that had harmed indigenous people.
'Indigenous people in Indonesia have been treated unfairly. The government should apologize and make a policy that guarantees unfair treatment will not happen again,' he said.
According to Abdon, AMAN had urged President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo to create the task force immediately because protecting the people is part of his Nawacita ' the nine programs of Jokowi's administration.
He said that protecting the rights of indigenous people is, in fact, in line with Nawacita, of which point number three says that Indonesian development must be started on the periphery.
'Indigenous people mostly live on the periphery. Start with indigenous people,' he said, adding that developing indigenous people means bringing back their rights over customary lands and forests, as well as recognizing their existence.
'The task force will help him realize his Nawacita,' he added.
Abdon said that Jokowi had promised to pay more attention to indigenous people in his presidential campaign, in return for AMAN's support in the election.
'AMAN had gathered votes to support Jokowi. Now we want him to fulfill his promise,' he said.
Meanwhile, Sandra Moniaga, commissioner of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), acknowledged the state's historically unfair treatment of indigenous people.
'There are many indigenous people's rights that the state has ignored so far,' she said, giving as example, among other things: rights over property, forests and lands, rights for occupation and rights for culture.
Sandra agreed that a special task force on indigenous people should be established in order to create a permanent body that deals with their rights.
'In fact, the reason indigenous people's rights have been ignored was because there is a void in regulations that deal with indigenous people's rights,' she said.
Early in his administration, Jokowi had raised the idea of establishing a special task force aimed at protecting the rights of indigenous people and preserving their customary lands.
The task force will work by identifying past problems regarding indigenous people. It will then create a permanent body that will help the government make policy in favor of indigenous people, Abdon said.
'The reason there is a task force before a permanent body is because we have an accumulation of 70 years of problems with indigenous people,' Abdon added.
Abdon suggested members of the task force be chosen from individuals who have been working for indigenous people's rights for a long time.
'We want as members people who are really familiar with the issue. Once the task force is established we want that they will begin work immediately: no more training or books needed,' he said. (saf)