Friday, May 25, 2018

1) What is the most attractive thing to see in FDS 2018?

2) The exclusion of indigenous rights in Papua autonomy era
3) Health workers are on demand in Papua
4) Indonesia targets deal with Rio Tinto in June
5) Back to the future in Southeast Asia
6) Jayawijaya Plane Skids Off Runway at Wamena Airport
1) What is the most attractive thing to see in FDS 2018?

Illustration of traditional Papuan dance – Jubi / Engel Wally
Sentani, Jubi –Jayapura Regent Mathius Awoitauw stated traditional food produced from sago and cultural performances would be the two most attractive things to see in Lake Sentani Festival (FDS) 2018.
Furthermore, he said location, where the festival takes place, must be set attractively to avoid an impression of a night fair event or a regular traditional market.
Those who will be directly involved in performances at the FDS, such as dancers, must wear cultural costumes. They are not allowed to wear anything else on stage,” he said.
The Second Vice Chairman of Jayapura House of Representatives Kornels Yanuaring said the FDS, which is an annual government agenda, should have a positive impact on the local community.
Visitors should acquire clear information about this event; what would perform in this festival. So, we could see their interest on the event, and it could be an indicator of the income for the local community,” he said. (*)
 Reporter: Engel Wally
Editor: Pipit Maizier
2) The exclusion of indigenous rights in Papua autonomy era

Nabire, Jubi – After nearly a week, the Forestry Region VI Nabire (KCDK) Agency finally operates after the Head of KCDK Region IV Office open it since it was barred by former staff members of Nabire Forestry Agency due to the inauguration of officials and new structure in this agency by the Acting Papua Governor.
They thought the appointment of non-Papuans in the office structure is against the Law No. 21, 2001 on special autonomy, which mandates a priority should award to indigenous Papuan, particularly Nabire native. It moreover considers neglecting former civil servants of Nabire Forestry Office whose office currently merge into the provincial forestry office.
KCDK Region VI Nabire Agency was as a result of the enactment of the Law No 23, 2014 on the Regional Government and the Government Regulation No. 18, 2016 on the regional apparatus.
According to these two regulations, staff and authorities of the Regional Forestry Office transferred to the provincial office. Papua Province then opened a branch office in the district as an extension of the Provincial Forestry Office. However, the new office structure does not accommodate the former staff.
A former staff member of Nabire Forestry Office Tenni Sembor said Acting Papua Governor should refer to the Law No.21, 2001 on Papua Special Autonomy before a decision to appoint the head office and establish a new structure of KCDK Region VI Nabire. He must prioritise Nabire natives as mandated in the law. He moreover explained that none of the officers in the new structure come from Nabire District, which is the Saireri customary area, and its natives are the owner of the land tenure right in Nabire Municipality.
So we think this humiliates the rights of indigenous Papuans, in particular, the customary people in Nabire, whereas the Special Autonomy Law is the basis of protection and alignment towards the rights and local wisdom of Papua indigenous people,” said Sembor on Tuesday (5/22/2018).
Another former staff member of Nabire Forestry Office Marthinus Taa thought it is very unfair because, in this special autonomy era, none of the Nabire natives gets a position in the new structure. “While the agency is to manage forests in Nabire which associated with the customary rights of indigenous peoples,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Customary Consultative Council (BMA) of Wate tribe of Nabire District Yohanes Wanaha expressed his concern on the inauguration. He asked Acting Governor and Papua Provincial Office to reconsider the inauguration occurred on Monday 2018.
This is an insult to the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in this land. The Special Autonomy Law is still ongoing, but for decades, the government hardly accommodates our rights as indigenous peoples,” he said. (*)
 Reporter: Titus Ruban
Editor: Pipit Maizier


3) Health workers are on demand in Papua

Jayapura, Jubi – Papua Accelerating Health Development Unit (UP2KP) admitted Papua Province still need more permanent health workers said UP2KP team to a legislator of the Indonesian House of Representatives from the Electoral District of Papua. They asked the legislator to enforce a quota of health workers in civil servant recruitment in 2018.
We observe that Papua needs permanent health workers for more effective and efficient health services,” said the First Director of UP2KP Agus Raprap in the press release to Jubi on Sunday (20/5/2018).
He said many health problems such as exceptional condition (KLB) and outbreaks of diseases in Papua, in particular in remote areas, were occurred due to a crisis of health workers.
A member of the Commission IX of the Indonesian House of Representatives from the Electoral District of Papua Roberth Rouw said he is ready to view the input on the health workers recruitment for Papua. He moreover said that health is the most critical sector of human development resources.
I will learn the data related to the human resources demand (in the health sector). I will give it to the Minister of State Apparatus, but UP2KP should also provide data because this is very important to show a specific map about the existing of health workers in Papua and the number of health workers from outside of Papua that we need,” he said.
According to him, the lack of health workers in Papua becomes a very concerning issue. He agrees with the result of the monitoring and evaluation conducted by UP2KP which reveal that many health facilities in Papua, especially in districts, do not have permanent health personnel. (*)
 Reporter: Roy Ratumakin
Editor: Pipit Maizier


4) Indonesia targets deal with Rio Tinto in June
News Desk The Jakarta Post
Jakarta | Fri, May 25, 2018| 01:37 pm

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno has said the government is aiming at concluding its negotiations with Rio Tinto on the purchase of the latter’s interests in Papua’s Grasberg mine -- the world’s largest gold and second-largest copper mine.
She, however, was reluctant to talk about the negotiation involving state-owned mining company PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium (Inalum), as a representative of the government and Freeport McMoran, the parent company of PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI), and Rio Tinto.
“If we have signed the agreement, we will reveal it. God willing, the negotiation will be concluded in June,” said Rini in Jakarta on Thursday as reported by
Previously, London-based Rio Tinto confirmed it was discussing the sale with Inalum and Freeport McMoran. Rio Tinto said it noted reports of the potential purchase by Inalum of Rio Tinto's entire interest in the Grasberg mine for US$3.5 billion.
Rini also declined to comment about the price of Rio Tinto’s participating interests in mining, saying that it was under negotiation.
“No, we cannot reveal it. […] We are in the process of [document] finalization before we sign the agreement,” she stressed.
The government has appointed Inalum to buy PTFI’s shares, in line with a law that requires foreign mining companies to divest 51 percent of their shares to Indonesian entities.
Freeport McMoran and Rio Tinto established an unincorporated joint venture in 1995, which gave the latter control of 40 percent up to 2022 in certain assets and future production above specific levels in one of the blocks at Grasberg. (bbn) 

5) Back to the future in Southeast Asia
It's been 20 years since the late Indonesian dictator Suharto was forced to resign amid deadly student protests and the country's worst economic crisis.
Updated 3 days ago
Former southeast Asian dictators are back in vogue at the moment.
At 92, Mahathir Mohamad became the world's oldest elected leader with a surprise win in the Malaysian elections, ousting Najib Razak from power a fortnight ago.
The pair were once allies but clashed over a graft scandal concerning allegations $6 billion was siphoned from a state fund including $932 million funnelled into Najib's bank account. Najib denies any wrongdoing.
Mahathir had a reputation as an authoritarian ruler during a previous stint in power between 1981-2003.
He's now considered a beacon of hope for democratic reform and anti-corruption after joining an alliance with opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim, who has been pardoned and released from jail, for what many consider a politically motivated sodomy conviction.
There's a lot riding on how the unlikely partners will navigate Malaysia's political transition and a power handover as well as potential legal action against Najib.
If a similar journey in neighbouring Indonesia is anything to go by, the road ahead is unlikely to be smooth.
This week, on May 21, marked 20 years since the late Indonesian dictator Suharto was forced to resign amid deadly student protests and the country's worst economic crisis.
During 32 years in power, he amassed up to $47 billion through corruption and later avoided prosecution because doctors declared him medically unfit to face trial.
His three daughters and three sons built vast commercial empires from nepotism and government patronage.
Former Australian ambassador to Indonesia, Bill Farmer, said the past two decades had seen Indonesia become a democratic leader in southeast Asia, with genuine elections, a much freer press and active civil society.
"Indonesia is not a perfect democracy by any means," Farmer told AAP.
The explosion of conservative Islam since 1998 is shaping Indonesia's democracy before the 2019 presidential elections.
For decades Suharto's rule had banned most expressions of Islam and generally kept a lid on extremists.
But religious tensions are on the rise, exemplified by a family of suicide bombers targeting Christian churches in the second largest city Surabaya last week and the jailing in 2017 of Jakarta's former Christian governor known as Ahok on blasphemy charges.
While democracy had allowed people to exercise their rights to freedom of religious expression, at the other end of the spectrum there is a growth of extremist sentiment, Farmer said.
This includes instances of Islamic vigilantes cracking down on promiscuity and homosexual behaviour and some groups trying to stop shop assistants wearing Santa hats at shopping malls in the lead up to Christmas.
Deakin University professor Damien Kingsbury said repression from the Suharto days had largely lifted.
"While economic conditions aren't necessarily wonderful, people are now free to talk about it, complain about it and protest," he told AAP, adding that the range of media coverage is much broader than 20 years ago.
Suharto had centralised corruption so everyone knew their place in the pecking order, Kingsbury said, but since his political demise corruption hadn't diminished - it had just spread out.
"There's no longer this pyramid with the king at the top, it's really a much flatter structure," he said.
Farmer acknowledged that in some quarters in Indonesia there was still nostalgia for "strong man" leadership and the "good old days" when rice was heavily subsidised for the poor.
There are some frustrations Indonesia's economy is not living up to its potential and the rupiah has recently weakened.
A PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts Indonesia to be the fifth largest economy in the world by 2030.
Farmer believes that estimate is "a bit far-fetched" because of shortages of basic elements such as energy and infrastructure investment have been a handbrake on economic growth.
Kingsbury said there was a perception in Indonesia the presidency of Joko Widodo had not lived up to high expectations.
"He's probably not a shoe-in for re-election," Kingsbury said.
Widodo, a former governor of Jakarta and furniture businessman, was the first Indonesian president not to have hailed from the political elite.
Suharto's youngest son Tommy - a former racing car driver, who served four years in jail for ordering the murder of a supreme court judge - has announced he's running for president.
"I have done my term and according to the laws I now have the same rights as anyone else. I have the right to vote and the right to be elected," Tommy told Al Jazeera TV.
Farmer said the Suharto name has drawbacks linked to some of the excesses of the past - human rights violations and the army's role in disappearances.
"(Tommy) has a history of shady business accomplices and dealings, so I personally wouldn't rate him highly as a prospect for high office," Farmer said.
Kingsbury predicts an even tighter presidential poll next year compared to 2014 when Widodo netted 53 per cent of votes to ex-general Prabowo Subianto's 47 per cent.
Subianto, Suharto's son-in-law, polled well despite a chequered history of alleged human rights abuses in East Timor and Papua.
Former army chief Gatot Nurmantyo, who briefly suspended military ties with Australia last year, is emerging as a potential dark horse candidate.
Kingsbury said written into Indonesia's DNA was a "militaristic and authoritarian tendency".
"There's a theory that countries tend to reflect the stamp that was put on them at the time that they achieve independence," he said.
"The simple fact that (Gatot and Subianto are likely to be) competitive shows that many Indonesians see that as a viable alternative to a more liberal model," Kingsbury said.
Even after 20 years of democracy, it can be hard to shake off the past.
Source: AAP

6) Jayawijaya Plane Skids Off Runway at Wamena Airport
TEMPO.COJakarta- Jayawijaya Dirgantara Air cargo plane bearing flight number PK-JRM skidded off the runway while landing at Wamena Airport, Papua, on Thursday, May 24, at 14:08 local time.
The plane, which was carrying rice and cement, slips on the airport's runway 15.
Papua Police’s spokesman Sr. Comr. Ahmad Kamal has confirmed the incident and and said there was no casualty. 
The report suggested the airliner slipped off the runway strip as its left engine was detached and fell off. The plane then landed on the left side of the runway. 
“There was no casualty in the incident and the airport's operation resumes as usual because the aircraft’s position is on the outside of the runway,” said Kamal.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

1) Distraction or disaster? Freeport’s giant Indonesian mine haunted by audit report

2) ‘Democracy isn’t always pretty’: Human rights in post-Suharto Indonesia

3) India’s Engagement with Indonesia: The ‘Breakout’ Nation


1) Distraction or disaster? Freeport’s giant Indonesian mine haunted by audit report

Bernadette Christina Munthe, Fergus Jensen 7 MIN READ 

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A state audit of operations at Indonesia’s Grasberg mine has cast a cloud over the government’s multi-billion-dollar deal to take a majority stake in the mine from Freeport McMoRan Inc and its partner Rio Tinto, according to government and company officials.

In April, in follow-up action to the audit, the environment minister issued two decrees that gave Freeport six months to overhaul management of its mine waste, or tailings, at Grasberg, the world’s second-biggest copper mine. One of the decrees said Freeport would be barred from any activities in areas that lack environmental permits. 
And there may be more troubles to come for the Phoenix, Arizona-based company as the government has so far acted on only a part of the 2017 report by Indonesia’s Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) on Freeport’s decades-long operations at the mine in Indonesia’s remote easternmost province of Papua. 
A letter from Freeport CEO Richard Adkerson to the environment ministry, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters, said the decrees imposed “undue and unachievable restrictions” on Freeport’s basic operations. 
In a separate letter to the government, quoted by Tempo magazine, Adkerson said: “I am deeply concerned that these actions have the potential to derail the progress that all of us have worked so hard to achieve.” 
Freeport officials declined to comment on the letters. Officials at the mining and environment ministries confirmed that letters from Adkerson were received, but did not provide detail on their contents. 
In a call to analysts last month, Adkerson had played down the impact of the decrees. “This is a distraction, but you all know over time we have to deal with political issues, and this is one of them,” he said. 
“We don’t see anything to interfere with our operations. The government needs and desires now to make sure that we continue to operate and they collect their taxes and royalties.” 
The biggest problem for both the government and the U.S. company may be the additional findings in the BPK report that are yet to be taken up. It asserted that Freeport caused environmental damage worth $13.25 billion, missed royalty payments, cleared thousands of hectares of protected forest and began mining underground without environmental clearance. 
Pressure is mounting on the government to take more action. 
Kardaya Warnika, an opposition party member who chairs parliament commission VII, which oversees the mining sector, said the government and parliament were both obligated to follow up on the audit findings. 
If Freeport is found to have royalty shortfalls, “then they should pay,” Warnika said. 
Sonny Keraf, a former environment minister who led talks on Indonesia’s 2009 mining law, said the government needs to follow up on the BPK report “comprehensively”.


2) ‘Democracy isn’t always pretty’: Human rights in post-Suharto Indonesia

“I SHED a tear. I did not know why,” says Ariel Heryanto, the Herb Feith Professor for the Study of Indonesia at Monash University as he reflects upon watching President Suharto’s resignation on television on May 21, 1998.
“Perhaps trauma and vague memories of the victims of the regime.”
Suharto took power in 1966, ushered in by the killings of up to a million alleged communists in a matter of months. A secret CIA cable from 1968 described the event as “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century, along with the Soviet purges of the 1930s, the Nazi mass murders during the Second World War, and the Maoist bloodbath of the early 1950s.”
For more than three decades afterwards, dissidents would be jailed, tortured and violently suppressed by the iron fist of a military dictatorship. The New Order muzzled the press, tried to eradicate the language and culture of ethnic Chinese Indonesians, and strictly dictated the lives of women.
These things would soon change with Suharto’s retirement, ushering in Indonesia’s democratic transition known as Reformasi…………………..


3) India’s Engagement with Indonesia: The ‘Breakout’ Nation

As India seeks to augment its eastern engagement as part of its ‘Act East’ policy, Indonesia is a natural ally to be sought for the cause by virtue of its geographical location, size and leadership role in ASEAN. It is a prospect that has been flagged by discerning commentators in the past. 
Indonesia has been considered as a ‘Breakout’ nation that will become the seventh largest economy in the world by 2030. It is also a nation that has, in recent years, been more robust in its strategic manoeuvering and engagement with the world. It is not a coincidence that President Xi Jinping announced his vision of a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) in October 2013 during his first visit to Indonesia.
In 1991, India was on the verge of bankruptcy and struggling to come to terms with the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War. With economic reforms and an overhaul of its foreign policy, India emerged as a rising power engaging with the world without the hesitations of history.
In 1998, Indonesia was judged as a basket case with its economy derailed by the 1997 Asian crisis and political upheaval leading to the overthrow of Suharto. However, the country underwent a remarkable turnaround. Dictatorship gave way to democracy and the Army was detached from its political role. The economy revived and foreign policy underwent a metamorphosis to reach out to the world.
Historical Ties
India and Indonesia gained Independence around the same time from the colonial rule of the British and Dutch respectively. India supported the cause of the Indonesian freedom struggle. Biju Patnaik was awarded the Bintang Jasa Utama, Indonesia’s highest civilian honour, in recognition of his daredevilry in flying Prime Minister Sutan Sjahrir to New Delhi in 1947 despite an air siege by the Dutch…………...


Women Decolonising Melanesia

An inspiring and informative evening and workshop the following day at the 
Women Decolonising Melanesia lecture  (23 May) at the State Library of NSW,  and the  Women Decolonising Melanesia: Workshop (24 May) at Uni of Western Sydney Parramatta City Campus.
The public lecture  featured women speaking on decolonisation in West Papua and New Caledonia.
The events was hosted by the Sydney Pacific Studies Network (University of Sydney) in conjunction with the Oceania Network (Western Sydney University).

Workshop (24 May) at Uni of Western Sydney Parramatta City Campus.


Parramatta City Campus.

1) Will Solomon Islands change its position on West Papua case?

2) A story of living with Papua’s remote village tribe

Will Solomon Islands change its position on West Papua case?


                                                 Solomon officials who visit West Papua on April 2018 – Jubi
Jayapura, Jubi/RNZI – A leading foreign affairs official from the Solomon Islands government says it’s now seeing a balanced picture on Indonesia’s Papua region.
The government is consulting with the provinces as it formulates an official position on West Papuan human rights and self-determination issues.

Consultations follow a visit by a Solomons government-led delegation to Indonesia’s provinces of Papua and West Papua at the invitation of Jakarta.
The Solomons’ Special Secretary on Foreign Relations, Rence Sore, was one of the government officials in the delegation.
He said the visit was aimed at achieving a balanced picture of what’s going on in Papua.
“Before we went we had been listening to the other side of the story. And the story we heard, we were always hearing at that time, was there’s always human rights abuse, there’s always fighting for independence, someone is being killed and all that. It’s one-sided, all one-sided.”
Rence Sore said that when they went to Papua region, the story was entirely different.
He said that for now the government had yet to decide on its official position regarding West Papua and Papua provinces.
“We’re trying to give the government a good picture. Both sides of the coin we have to tell the government, and the government independently makes that policy decision.”
The delegation’s visit and resulting report were indications that the Solomon Islands government, under prime minister Rick Hou, was approaching a different stand on Papua to that of the previous prime minister Manasseh Sogavare.
Mr Sogavare, who is now the deputy prime minister, campaigned internationally about West Papuan human rights issues. He was also supportive of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, and instrumental in its admission to the Melanesian Spearhead Group in 2015.
The Liberation Movement, which Indonesia’s government opposes, last month voiced disappointment that it wasn’t notified by Solomon Islands about the delegation’s visit.
Mr Sore, who said his government consulted with Indonesian authorities for the visit, noted the Liberation Movement’s strong connections with civil society organisations in Solomon Islands.
“And to some extent, that strong connection also was with the previous Solomon Islands leadership, government, prime minister.
“We went (to Indonesia) with authorisation from the current prime minister, and official authorities were notified.
However Mr Sore would not be drawn on whether the Hou-led government had shifted position on Papua.
“That decision is not yet formal. It depends entirely on the report. We did a report when we came back, and we are still doing the consultations on the policy. That policy will go through the government cabinet.”
Regarding that visit, The Solomon Star reports Development Service Exchange (DSE) spokesperson Jennifer Wate made the comment while rejecting any involvement in the trip.
This is despite DSE chairperson, Inia Barry, being among several from civil society organisations who went along on the visit which was hosted by Indonesia.
Ms Wate said her organisation had found out about the trip the evening before the delegation‘s departure for West Papua.
The DSE did not endorse Mr Barry or any of the other civil society representatives who took part in the West Papua visit, she said
Ms Wate maintained her organisation was not aware of any details of the trip or its terms of reference and she called on the Solomon Islands government in the future to formally approach the DSE on matters that required civil sector representation.
Ms Wate also admonished the government for not informing civil society groups in West Papua ahead of their trip. (*)

Note. A number of photos in story.

A story of living with Papua’s remote village tribe

Published 9 hours ago on 24 May 2018 By admin

Jayapura, Jubi – We catch up with Will Millard to reflect on his year living with Papua’s remote village tribe, and how travellers can engage with local culture on their journeys. His next adventure? We reveal all…
Will Millard is having a very big year. So far, he’s launched his controversial series My Year With The Tribe, just released his book The Old Man and the Sand Eel – seeing him travel the UK in search of a fishing record – and is currently filming his new series Hidden Wales, exploring his adopted home country. Oh, and he’s just had a kid too.

But it’s My Year With The Tribe that’s really grabbed headlines. Spending time in Papua with the remote Korowai people, Will discovered that previous documentaries had been somewhat ecumenical with the truth about quite how media-amenable the Korowai already were, leading to at least one reputable programme having to publicly apologise. But as Will – and we – get to understand the people he’s staying with, tensions emerge that result in Will and his crew essentially getting robbed in the final episode. It’s a fascinating, brutally honest, often self-lacerating programme, a far cry from the glossy docs that we’re used to.
You can certainly see why Will’s takes refuge in his beloved fishing for The Old Man and the Sand Eel – and in need of a break. When we say ‘Manop Topido’ to the one-time Papua expedition leader, well used to those dense, often-brutal jungles, he’s chilling in a decidedly non-rugged stretch of Lanzarote…

My Year With The Tribe has certainly ruffled a few feathers…

Oh mate, let’s not sugarcoat it. The press has been divided down the middle, and then online…
I’d say 90% has been positive, but then on Twitter some really harsh stuff has been written. But you’ve got to take it on the chin. With a lot of the criticism I could see where people are coming from, totally. Clearly I made mistakes during that year and people are right to go in on me on some of the things that I did. I take shots at myself.
We wanted to film the documentary without people going out there and ironing out the creases before I arrived. We wanted to be as real as possible and more in line with my own experiences of West Papua as an expedition leader on my own. I didn’t expect to walk into such a massive story too. I think it’s a lot for the audience to take: it is the unvarnished version of the truth and that’s always going to create some level of controversy.

How did the narrative of the documentary change in comparison to your original proposal?

I think if you’re going to make a proper documentary, the onus is on you to obviously tell the truth but also to allow an idea to develop. I’ve never gone to Papua and come back with the satisfying project that I set out to do.
For example, the first expedition that I tried to do in 2007, I was caught in quite a difficult part of the mountain range there; I was interested in intertribal trade and how the major routes in Papua communicate with each other through trade items. But I ended up doing something on the swampland societies on the border of Papua New Guinea. In 2009, same thing happened: I tried to go across the mountain range and got arrested, and ended up making something about salt trade in the far west.
2012 was my biggest disaster though. I ended up walking into a completely uninhabited 400 square-mile patch of rainforest that I thought was part of this intertribal trade route and it wasn’t. My expedition partner and I did a month where we were essentially starving in the forest trying to get ourselves out of this situation where we had no food, in a really hostile forest filled with snakes and really horrendous conditions; we barely walked away with our lives.
I’ve always accepted that when you go into Papua, you can have an idea of what you want to do but it’s going to change.

The year-long premise of the show means you get to see this transition over the course of the year…

The Korowai are very specific people. One of the things that set them apart from the other groups that I’ve worked with in Papua is that they’re not used to living in a village structure. The Korowai traditionally lived independent from any villages in family units. They lived spread out across this massive patch of rainforest in tree houses – not giant tree houses — in their own family units.
The Korowai are naturally mistrusting of strangers. To them, everyone is a stranger and they’re suspicious of everybody. The reason they live the way that they live is that they’re essentially living between two powerful tribal clans – the highland tribal clan and the Asmat people, who are these notorious headhunters back in the day. And they’ve been pushed into the marginal forest environment where they lived in scatted family communities.

Some of the things we didn’t show was how chaotic it was just living in that village. The year that we were there, someone burnt down the head man’s house over a dispute over money…

Scroll forward to the modern era, and the Indonesian government are putting a lot of pressure on Papuan society to become more modern-looking and they’re investing money into building these villages. They’re chucking loads of money at getting these traditional societies to live in these so-called modern ways – but you’re making a group of people that have never traditionally lived together live in a village environment.
Some of the things we didn’t show was how chaotic it was just living in that village. The year that we were there, someone burnt down the head man’s house over a dispute over money; another Korowai got into a fight with another chief, over petrol for his boat. There were constant disputes over these sort of new-fangled technologies, as they become part of a cash economy.
If you went back now, you probably wouldn’t capture what we captured that year. I believe the two biggest transitions – the one of Haup and Halap saying goodbye and leaving life in the forest, versus the chaos of that first generation of people living the village set up – I think that’s really unique.

What advice would you give to people wanting a ‘local’ experience in remote places?

We have to question why we hold tribal or remote communities to a different standard to how we hold our own. Does it matter if the San Bushmen in Namibia put on a performance for your benefit of their traditional cultural identity? For me personally, I don’t think it does and that’s one of the things I try to bring out in the series.
I would say be responsible about where you go, but don’t go to places expecting people to act and behave in a certain way because you’ve seen it on TV or you’ve read about them. Certainly don’t judge people if they don’t behave the way you expect them to.
The funny thing is that if you talk to people who travel, most people don’t turn around and say, ‘oh, I saw the most incredible tribal dance.’ They talk about a friendship that they made or the homes that they stayed in. It’s about having new experiences, not about trying to pigeon-hole cultures and people against an idea that you’ve predetermined for them. Don’t go out there questioning peoples authenticity, go out there with an open mind.

You’ve been to Papua many times. What would you recommend?

The central highlands of West Papua are great and if you time it around the Baliem festival you’re in for a real treat. The Raja Ampat islands are the jewel in the crown of the whole Coral Triangle, with the best diving and snorkelling you’re ever likely to experience. You can swim with whale sharks out on Nabire Bay, and spot birds of paradise as well.

In between filming in Papua, you were travelling around Britain writing your book. That’s a big contrast of experiences, isn’t it?

It is a big contrast but there is crossover. I’ve written an article, which explains it better than I really can. I’ve had a lot of adventurous experiences and fishing is something that grounds me. There’s some interesting research that’s happening now in the UK about the therapeutic benefits of angling. Fishing is the first thing I do whenever I get home from any kind of hardcore expedition. I head to the rivers and lakes, and sort of throw my problems into the water.
The book took two years. I’d lost a British record catch, a greater sand eel off the coast of Dorset and I was gutted. So I’ve spent two years travelling the length and breadth of Britain and it takes me across the whole spectrum of places that you can fish – everything from crumbling urban docklands, right up to the tweed-covered heart of Scotland and the great salmon fishing rivers.
It’s not just a fishing book, it’s a natural history book, but really it’s a book for anyone whose got an obsessive side to them in terms of their hobbies and the reasons why we often look towards water to solve our problems.
Obviously I finished the Papua series in a major trauma and fishing had never been so important for me.

You’re currently filming the follow-up to Hidden Cardiff, Hidden Wales. What secret tips would you recommend for Wales?

I spent a lot of time in the Brecon Beacons and a lot of time in the Gower. These are very unvisited and away from the [more famous] climbs. If you go to a place like the Black Mountains, you can go a day and not see another soul.
But for now I actually like going to nice stately homes. Places like Insole Court in Cardiff – that’s really beautiful. Also Cyfarthfa Castle, which is a really nice old mansion that was owned by a family called Crawshay, who came from humble means and ended up kickstarting the Industrial Revolution in Britain. The iron works themselves are hidden away from the main road, so if you go to the Brecon Beacons for a day from Cardiff you have to drive over the top of them. Well worth pulling off for.
This is secret hidden history that no one ever goes to see and you can actually walk into these incredible iron works and that is amazing. To be stood in that history, and think, ‘bloody hell, all the great industrial cities were built off the back of what happened here.’

Where’s next for you?

North Wales is next for Hidden Wales. We’re going to be diving on the Resurgam submarine, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s a wooden submarine – surprise, surprise it sunk – but it’s an amazing thing to see. It’s going to be focused around North Wales
Now My Year With The Tribe is out there we’re going to start looking to pitch what’s next. I’d like to learn French and go to the Congo. I think Indonesia still has so many stories out there. I’ve never been to South America. The world’s out there, isn’t it? But with a kid now, your priorities change. We’ll see. (*)