Massive theft of West Papuan land condemned in New York

A Korowai woman in West Papua, which has been occupied by Indonesia since 1963.
A Korowai woman in West Papua, which has been occupied by Indonesia since 1963.
© Survival

Indonesia’s plans to seize 1.6 million hectares of indigenous West Papuans’ land for large scale agriculture has been condemned at a high-profile event at the UN in New York.

Pan-Indonesian organisation AMAN issued the condemnation at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on 23 April.

AMAN condemned ‘significant current and imminent threats of violations of indigenous peoples’ land rights taking place throughout Indonesia including in Borneo, in Sulawesi, in West Papua and in Sumatra’, and cited a new government plan, the ‘Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate [MIFEE]), for special mention.

‘MIFEE is designed to develop an integrated food production covering agriculture, horticulture and livestock in 1.6 million hectares of lowland forest and swamp (but) the areas allocated (are) indigenous territory, called Anim-ha, belonging to the Indigenous Peoples of Malind,’ AMAN said.

‘This kind of large-scale business in indigenous territories, without their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), will only exacerbate the human rights situation, leading to forced evictions and other human rights violations. . . This industry will have major impacts on their livelihoods by changing the ecosystem and threatening indigenous peoples’ food sovereignty.

‘This food industry is estimated to bring 6.4 million workers to Merauke and West Papua in general. . . With a population of only 174,710 in Merauke, these plans will acutely threaten the existence of indigenous peoples within these areas, turning them into a minority in number, even leading to extinction in the future. This is, as we may say, structural and systematic genocide.’

AMAN’s statement finished with a number of requests, including that the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples visit Merauke, in southern West Papua, and research MIFEE.

West Papua has been occupied by Indonesia since 1963, and indigenous Papuans have suffered greatly as a result. The Indonesian army has a long history of human rights violations, and thousands of Papuans have been killed.