Thursday, May 29, 2014

1) Indonesia probes violations of indigenous rights in contested forests

1) Indonesia probes violations of indigenous rights in contested forests
2) Indonesia’s Ambassador Returns to Canberra

3) Let’s try harder to rebuild trust with Indonesia


1) Indonesia probes violations of indigenous rights in contested forests

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 29 May 2014 11:09 AMAuthor Fidelis E. Satriastanti More news from our correspondents
A Badui tribe member stands in Kanekes village on the outskirts of Lebak regency in Indonesia's Banten province, April 4, 2009. REUTERS/Beawiharta

JAKARTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission has launched the country’s first national inquiry into alleged human rights violations related to land conflicts involving indigenous people.
“It is the first inquiry into these (land conflict) cases on a national scale because we have indications of the same patterns (of human rights violations) for these conflicts,” said Sandra Moniaga, a member of the commission, which is known as Komnas HAM, before the launch of the initiative in Jakarta on May 20.
Public hearings will be held in seven regions – Sumatra, Java, Bali-Nusa, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Maluku and Papua – in addition to a national hearing. Each hearing will involve witnesses, experts, local leaders and advocates from civil society organisations.
Around 140 cases have been reported to Komnas HAM as part of the inquiry.
“We will have a comprehensive investigation (and) secondary data collection from institutions that are concerned with this issue,” Moniaga said.
The institutions include the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago, the Association for Community and Ecology-Based Law Reform and the National Forestry Council.
The commission aims to complete its inquiry by November and to issue recommendations for action by the country’s next president, who is due to be elected in July.
Nearly 70 percent of Indonesia’s forest - 136 million hectares (336 million acres) - belongs to the state. Land conflicts involving indigenous people date back to the Dutch occupation of the country from 1847 to 1942. Land was frequently claimed as the state’s property without considering the customary claims of native people living in forested areas.
In 1967, then-President Suharto issued a forestry law that covered only forest categorised as protected, natural reserves and forest used for production or tourism. The 1999 Law on Forestry did mention indigenous forest, but defined it as state-owned forest situated within an “indigenous law community area”, meaning an area where local people have established mostly unwritten laws and customs over generations.
Activists slammed the 1999 law for excluding the claims of people living near or inside the forests, which resulted in ongoing conflicts.
“The previous laws should be corrected by the ruling government,” said Moniaga, who says the state has engaged in systematic land grabs.
“People usually associate human rights violations with social and political rights, but these (indigenous) people are also suffering from human rights violations. They lost their rights to their lands, they lost their political rights, and most of these conflicts ended up with deaths,” she added
Abdon Nababan, secretary general of the Indigenous People’s Alliance of the Archipelago, agrees with this characterisation.
“We are referring to economic, social and cultural rights,” said Nababan. “These are the same rights being taken away from indigenous people.”
Kaharuddin, a member of the Dayak Punan tribe, one of the oldest indigenous communities in Kalimantan, said his tribe has suffered as a result of the government’s policies, from “forced” migration to the granting of timber concessions in the tribe’s customary forests.
“We were forced to move from the forests to settlements by the government in 1972 for the (stated) reason that we were living in too-remote areas. But we are forest people, we would eventually go back to the forests,” said Kaharuddin. Only 63 families are still living in the forests, making the tribe an endangered community, he added.
To make things worse, the Punan tribe’s 22,000 hectares of traditional forest are now threatened by timber concessions.
“These companies ... come to our forests and just leave it damaged. They have destroyed fruit, trees, rattan and rubber which are the main commodities for the Punan people,” said Kaharuddin.
“We Punan people (are) always careful in managing our forests. We usually cut trees every five years, but these concessions with their equipment cut hundreds of trees (very quickly). It’s painful to hear that we are being accused of destroying our own forests,” he added.
The struggle of indigenous communities to have their land recognised by the state received a boost in 2012 when the Constitutional Court granted an appeal by civil society organisations to revise the definition of indigenous forest in the 1999 forestry law.
The court’s decision, popularly known as MK 35, excluded indigenous forest areas from being categorised as state forests and recognised indigenous people’s ownership of the land in their forest areas.
However, there have been no significant efforts by the government to follow through on the decision.
“On the contrary, it is going backwards after the ministry of forestry and ministry of home affairs issued letters presenting bureaucratic obstacles” to implementing the decision, said Iwan Nurdin, secretary-general of the Consortium for Agrarian Reform.
Nurdin cited a 2013 letter from the forestry minister stating that indigenous forest can remain in the state’s possession if the community’s claim to the forest has not been legalised by regional regulations. Few such regulations have been issued in the past year.
The second letter from the home affairs minister also sparked controversy because it included land owned by traditional royal families in the category of “indigenous law community areas”, a classification that many experts and historians reject.
The implementation of MK35 is being overseen by the coordinating ministry of people’s welfare. The assistant deputy for conflict issues, Marwan (who goes by one name), was only appointed two months ago.
“I am still learning about the cases, but we will find a way to deal with these conflicts,” he said.
Kaharuddin said his tribe simply want their forest lands back. “(They) don’t have to be in good condition. Give us back our forest, we will fix it ourselves,” he said.
Fidelis E. Satriastanti is a Jakarta-based writer with an interest in climate change issues.
For more articles on progress and challenges in developing nations’ efforts to legislate on climate change and forests, check out our spotlight on “Laws and climate action”.

2) Indonesia’s Ambassador Returns to Canberra

Indonesia’s ambassador to Australia has returned to Canberra after six months, as the two countries take steps 
towards normalizing relations in the wake of last year’s spy scandal.
Ambassador Nadjib Riphat Kesoema was recalled by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in November last year after documents released by Edward Snowden revealed Australia had attempted to tap the phones of Yudhoyono, his wife, and several close colleagues in 2009.
The bilateral relationship spiraled downwards following the revelations, with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott refusing to apologize and Indonesia halting all intelligence and military cooperation.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa have been discussing diplomatic protocol between the two neighbors since December last year.
On Monday, a spokesperson for the Indonesian president, Teuku Faizasyah, attempted to hose down the importance of the ambassador’s return, reportedly saying it was “only a step towards normalisation of bilateral relations.”
“Cooperation is related to the agreement of a code of conduct [on surveillance to be agreed between the two countries].
“The ambassador is returning to Australia very much to send a message that we are making progress in the discussions on the code of conduct … and it’s also an incentive to speed up the normalisation process. If we have someone there [in Canberra], I think it also has an impact on the way the discussions proceed,” Faizasyah said.
It has been reported that Yudhoyono phoned Abbott earlier this month about the prospect of normalizing relations by August. The Indonesian president is likely to want to see relations thaw before his term ends in October; however, it is unclear whether or not Australia will give way on spying protocols.
In November last year Tony Abbott ruled out agreeing to a no-spying code of conduct between the two nations. Yudhoyono risks losing face to the Indonesian public if he returns relations to normal without any compromise from the Australian’s.
Anti-Australian sentiment boiled over in Indonesia last year with Australian flags burnt outside the embassy in Jakarta. A crude cartoon depiction of Abbott masturbating was also published on the front page of local broadsheet Rakyat Merdeka.
Total bilateral trade between the two countries is worth around A$11 billion ($10.2 billion) annually, much of which comprises Australian agricultural exports to Indonesia. Despite the fiery rhetoric, trade doesn’t appear to have been affected; for example, Indonesia’s planned relaxation of rules on cattle imports is expected to see live exports from Australia soar more than 70 percent this year.
Australia’s unilateral policy of returning boats carrying asylum seekers to Indonesia is another issue that has also raised the ire of the Indonesians, but it is highly unlikely Abbott will compromise on what is such a key domestic policy.
Natalegawa slammed Australia earlier this month after it emerged that the Australian Navy added three asylum seekers to a boat before turning it back to Indonesia. The three men had been taken off a prior boat to be given emergency medical assistance. Australian Navy vessels also violated Indonesian waters in January this year during an asylum seeker related operation, later apologizing for the breach.
It is unclear whether or not Australia’s asylum seeker policy will play a role in the diplomatic negotiations to resume ties. It is also uncertain if Australia will be willing to make minor concessions to help the outgoing president save face. Canberra may just choose to wait for Yudhoyono’s impending departure.

3) Let’s try harder to rebuild trust with Indonesia

AT a conference on people-smuggling in Jakarta in mid-February, retired lieutenant general and former trade minister Luhut Panjaitan suggested Australia needed to reclaim “trust” if it wanted to ­rebuild relations with Indonesia.
Not surprisingly, Panjaitan, a veteran of the invasion of East Timor, reminded the small audience of the loss of trust Indonesians felt over the events of 1999.
His comments following the revelations of Australian eavesdropping on high Indonesian officials, including the President and his wife, raise a fundamental question over the future of the relationship: What foundation and expectations should Canberra and Jakarta set as they seek to ­restore ties after another confidence-sapping crisis?
The question is just as pertinent for strategic and defence ties as it is for the broader bilateral ­relationship. The pool of goodwill, even among Indonesian military officers deeply familiar with Australia, can be shallow and evaporate quickly in a crisis.
It is fair to say expectations have not been managed well by either side in the past and not enough has been made of the ­opportunities for closer defence relations in the good times. The rhetoric of trust and friendship — a flimsy rationale for relations between nations — has obscured the necessity for a sturdier base to the relationship tied to a clear understanding of shared strategic interests. Those shared interests dictate Australia could and should do a lot more in the realm of ­defence co-operation and engagement in the years ahead.
Panjiatan’s reference to trust is interesting, because trust was what the chief of the Australian Defence Force, General David Hurley, appealed to when he visited Jakarta in August 2012.
Hurley told an audience at the Indonesian Defence University that Australia and Indonesia needed to seek a true “strategic partnership”, an outcome that was already starting to unfold with the defence relationship in “perhaps its best shape ever”.  Hurley then went on to tell his audience that this state of affairs was “built on implicit trust”.
“This trust leads to the ideal of a genuine ‘security community’, even a community of two nations, which forms the backbone of a strategic partnership,” he said.
It is highly unlikely that for the foreseeable future a country as historically wary of foreign interference as Indonesia will embrace the implicit trust necessary to fulfil this aspiration.
The realities of diplomacy generally leave little room for such sentimentality. They have changed little since Lord Palmerston declared, as British foreign secretary in the 19th century, that his country had “no eternal allies and no permanent enemies”.
“Our interests are eternal, and those interests it is our duty to follow,” he said.
It is precisely the nurturing of a sense of common strategic interests that will permit the creation of a strategic partnership — in fairness, a point Hurley more or less alluded to in his 2012 speech with a reference to the need for “shared values and clearly defined interests”.  And, indeed, those interests will in the future need to be much more clearly defined and articulated and carefully cultivated through frequent interaction at all levels of the strategic relationship.  
Many shared interests are ­obvious, concerning the security and stability of maritime and mainland Southeast Asia. There is a range of actual and potential threats of a traditional and non-traditional nature of concern to both sides, such as transnational crime, terrorism, preventing the spread of weapons of mass ­destruction, security of the maritime environment and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
But while there is an undeniable logic to the idea that a sense of shared interests offers the most solid foundation for future strategic ties, it is not always readily apparent to either Jakarta or Canberra what they should be when it comes to the details and how to act on them once they are agreed.
Indonesia places high value on its sovereignty and autonomy, which can limit the extent of co-operation with foreign powers, including its ASEAN brothers.
Still, the two defence organisations have come a long way in ­recent years in broadening and deepening the apparatuses for high-level dialogue. Annual leaders summits were established in November 2011. Then, in March 2012, the two countries inaugurated the so-called 2+2 meeting of foreign and defence ministers, followed by the first annual defence ministers talks in September.
These ministerial meetings now sit alongside the High Level Committee, which brings together the respective chiefs of defence forces, which convened for the first time in April 2013.
Collectively, these forums offer a solid foundation for encouraging greater strategic understanding once the crisis in relations provoked by leaks about Australia’s intelligence activities passes.
There are signs the recovery is not too far off. Different arms of Indonesia’s military organisation have had different responses to the freeze in relations — some headquarters or services have seen it as no more than a temporary setback and quietly continued co-operation, while others have frozen all contacts with uniformed and civilian Australian officials.
At a gathering at the Australian ambassador’s house in March attended by Defence Minister David Johnston, his Indonesian counterpart, Purnomo Yusgiantoro, made light of the problems in bilateral relations by using the ­analogy of a dispute with his neighbour over loud singing.
Indonesian military officers and defence officials have quietly reassured Australian friends and counterparts that things will return to normal in time.
One sign of an improving ­atmosphere is that planning is under way for the possibility of a visit to Australia by Indonesian armed forces commander General Moeldoko later this year.
But once relations are back on track, Canberra needs to step up the levels of defence co-operation and engagement to match, and add substance to the increased tempo of strategic dialogue — a point that should be borne in mind by the drafters of a new defence White paper.
In his October 2012 speech, Hurley outlined an impressive array of activities that had been quietly built up in recent years, ­resulting in the “highest tempo ever” of professional exchanges and visits, education and training, and exercises and operations.
Special forces training alone in 2012 included two exercises in Indonesia and Australia, language training exchanges, parachuting skills and explosive detection dog training. A mobile training team from Australia put 100 junior ­Indonesian army officers through combat training on Java and the 30 best were brought to Australia for further combat training.
But more could still be done. Defence co-operation and engagement still does not penetrate Indonesian, and for that matter Australian, military or political life deeply enough. Moreover, the levels of some Australian activities are inconsistent with the rhetoric in policy and defence documents.
The state of the Defence Co-operation Program offers one example.  In contrast to the hundreds of millions of dollars Australia spends on hedging strategies aimed at Indonesia, DCP spending in 2013-14 was just $3.7 million, less than half the amount of the peak in 2004-05.
In contrast, DCP spending in Papua New Guinea was $27m in 2013-14. This was more than the total amount of funding for all of Southeast Asia.
The logic of DCP activities, which include programs to support capacity building and education, training and study visits, is that they help Australian and Indonesian personnel build familiarity in working together and, foster increased understanding.
This cultivates habits of co-operation among junior service personnel and senior officers, making it easier to solve problems or conduct more complex exercises and operations when the opportunity or need arises. It is also a valuable contributor towards stimulating a sense of shared interests. It might, in time, even help build the elusive sense of trust.
Donald Greenlees is a PhD candidate at the Defence and Strategic Studies Centre at the Australian National University. He is based in Jakarta.

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