Sunday, August 10, 2014

1) Raja Ampat’s blossoming tourism

1) Raja Ampat’s blossoming  tourism
2) Conserving Raja Ampat’s  marine wilderness

3) Violence and Intimidation from PT Nabire Baru’s Brimob Guards continues


1) Raja Ampat’s blossoming  tourism
Novia D. Rulistia, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Sun, August 10 2014, 12:12 PM
Tourism may have only touched Raja Ampat in West Papua province over the past decade but today, the archipelago — dubbed the last paradise on earth — seems to be on everyone’s holiday wish list.
Otto Ferdinand from Jakarta is one person who had Raja Ampat on his wish list of diving destinations. He had heard many good things about the place but tried not to set his expectations too high.

As he stepped foot in Raja Ampat, Otto, who has dived in Bali, Pramuka Island in the Thousand Islands as well as Manado in North Sulawesi, was spellbound.

“When I dived at Raja Ampat, I was stunned by almost everything — it was unbelievably beautiful,” Otto said. “It didn’t feel like I was underwater as the visibility could reach 40 meters. I could see clearly just like on land.”

It was not only the crystal clear visibility that amazed him; the density and varied color of the coral, the varieties of fish and the endemic underwater species also took him by surprise.

Raja Ampat, which means Four Kings, covers a 4.5-million-hectare area that consists of four big islands: Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool. Almost 80 percent of its territory is covered by water and the location is home to three quarters of known types of coral — making it the world’s most diverse living library for marine species.

Its reputation as one of the world’s best diving destinations and its growing tourism industry helped Raja Ampat become the next location for the annual Sail Indonesia event, which will take place on Aug. 23 this year.

Raja Ampat tourism agency head Yusdi Lamatenggo said around 15,000 foreign visitors come to Raja Ampat annually, surpassing the number of domestic tourists at around 5,000 people.

Most tourists that come to the islands are divers who want to experience the area’s underwater charm.

The Nature Conservancy’s Bird’s Head marine protected area technical advisor, Purwanto, said the increasing number of tourist arrivals in Raja Ampat had not hurt its natural resources just yet.

“I think the capability of Raja Ampat to accommodate tourists and divers is still big,” he said.

West Papua tourism agency head Edi Sumarwanto said the area started to develop tourism as one of its main industries when it became a regency in 2003.

“In the early 1990s, only scientists came to explore Raja Ampat’s underwater world. The results of their research were then spread and soon attracted people’s attention, especially divers,” Edi said.

Back then, no tourism facilities were available and visitors came to the region voluntarily to follow their interests in underwater exploration.

Edi said the first accommodation in Raja Ampat was Papua Diving, which was set up in 1993 and rented out only a few villas.

But as Raja Ampat has become increasingly popular, more diving resorts have been set up, in line with the increasing number of tourists.

Edi said the resorts are required to conserve the ocean environment, the lifeblood of the islands’ tourism, while tourists have to pay entrance fees used to fund conservation, enforcement and community development programs.

Edi said the tourism boom had prompted local people to open affordable inns in Waisai, the capital of Raja Ampat.

Beatrix Chyntika Rahawarin, owner of Waiwo Dive Resort, said tourism began to blossom in Raja Ampat in 2012. “In 2008, there were only two resorts, including ours, and now there are around five to seven resorts along the coastline, which are always fully booked during peak season,” she said.

She said homestays were also popular options during high season, which usually runs from October through December.

Beatrix said foreign tourists mostly came from Europe in order to dive, while local tourists were mostly non-divers who preferred snorkeling, trekking, bird watching and sightseeing.

“We usually take them to Kabui Bay, Hidden Bay on Gam Island, Wayag to see karst islands, and tourism villages in Arborek and Friwen,” Beatrix said.

Tourism villages and facilities, however, are mostly centered in Waigeo. At Misool, only two accommodation facilities are available — namely Misool Eco Resort and Harfat Jaya Homestay.

Though less visited, Misool is in fact home to some interesting tourism sites, such as Harfat Jaya peak, Keramat cave and other caves that feature ancient paintings.

“Raja Ampat is really huge and that’s our challenge in developing its tourism sector. But we haven’t set any targets for its development. We will let it grow naturally to avoid environmental damage,” Edi said.


2) Conserving Raja Ampat’s  marine wilderness
Novia D. Rulistia, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Feature | Sun, August 10 2014, 12:19 PM
It may be found in far corner of the country’s eastern region, but Raja Ampat in Papua is like a rough diamond waiting for attention.
Raja Ampat – which literally means “four kings” and consists of four big islands: Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool, and hundreds of smaller ones – covers an area of 4.5 million hectares, with coastlines that stretch for a total of 4,869 kilometers. Almost 80 percent of the territory is covered by water and only 35 of the larger islands are home to some 60,000 people.

According to the Nature Conservancy (TNC), Raja Ampat is home to around 75 percent of all known coral species, 1,470 reef fish and, still counting, eight types of whales and seven types of dolphins.

The mangrove forests boast uniquely soft corals that grow in various colors, while its beaches have become hatching grounds for the green turtle and the endangered hawksbill turtle.

However, the wealth of Raja Ampat’s sea has been jeopardized due to overfishing and destructive fishing.

Purwanto, Bird’s Head marine protected area technical advisor from TNC, said marine over-exploitation reached Papua while demand for fresh seafood increased worldwide.

He said in the 1970s overfishing and destructive fishing practices were overwhelming the waters of western Indonesia and as the resources were depleted fishermen slowly moved to the eastern part of the country.

“And in the 1990s marine exploitation finally reached Papua,” Purwanto said. 

Luckily, he said, before the exploitation got worse a joint conservation effort had been set up by the local administration, local communities and environmental organizations to protect 4.5 million hectares in the Raja Ampat zone. 

In 2006 a network of Raja Ampat marine protected areas (MPAs) was established, covering seven areas with a total of 1 million hectares of coastal area and sea. 

The areas are Ayau, the Dampier Strait, Kawe and Mayalibit Bay, which are facilitated by Conservation International (CI), and Southeast Misool and Kofiau which are supervised by TNC, while the Raja Ampat Marine Wildlife Sanctuary that is located off southwest Waigeo is managed by the Indonesian government’s Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Program (COREMAP). 

Those areas have implemented a zonal system that regulates which spots can be used for fishing and which ones are completely closed to all activities but scientific purposes. 

“Through the zonal system we set aside 20 to 30 percent of critical habitat to be protected and that can guarantee the sustainability of fisheries throughout Raja Ampat,” Purwanto said. 

Moreover, in 2010 the Raja Ampat administration declared its area as a shark and manta ray sanctuary, banning all activities that harm sharks, manta rays, dugong and turtles. Two years later a bylaw was issued to ban shark fishing, making Raja Ampat the first administration in Indonesia that has a firm regulation to protect sharks. 

“We’re so lucky because the natural resources here are still abundant and conservation efforts had been made before the exploitation got worse,” Purwanto said. 

“In addition, thanks to Raja Ampat’s location and its coral diversity and density, it is able to replenish itself quite fast after natural threats.”

But conservation efforts have actually been taking place for decades by the local people. When they observe sasi -- traditional conservation practices that have been passed down for generations -- they will close the area that is considered damaged and no one can enter it or do activities there until the condition has improved. 

After a year or two, they usually open the sasi with traditional ceremonies. Through sasi, they also understand that conservation can lead to increased welfare as the economic yield from the harvest is better.

“We decided to observe female-only sasi in order to get additional income for ourselves and family,” Betsina Hay, the coordinator of female sasi group in Kapatcol village, Misool. 

But the rich marine biodiversity will not last long unless local people also play a role in managing the MPAs, since NGOs will not be working around the islands forever.

TNC and CI recruited local people to work with them, training them with proper conservation skills. Some reach out to villagers to raise awareness to conserve the sea and educate children about conservation through fun learning and some take part in marine patrol squads, while others join the underwater monitoring team. 

Purwanto said one good example of the effectiveness of local people’s involvement in conservancy can be seen on Jaam Island in Misool, where the population of sharks had recovered quite quickly. 

“We can now see baby sharks swimming around Jaam Island -- something that was impossible to see two or three years ago when shark fishing around the area was still rampant,” he said. 

“This shows that when we are committed to protect the environment, the recovery process itself can be fast,” Purwanto said. 

A marine patrol post has also been built on Jaam. The deputy head of the patrol, Andi Darmawan, said that since the team -- comprised of local people who also cooperate with Raja Ampat marine police -- started its operation 2012, shark fishing and blast fishing practices by fishermen who mostly came from nearby Buton and Seram Islands could be stopped. 

“We regularly monitor various spots in Misool and constantly change our patrol routes so naughty fishermen will not be able to detect our presence,” Andi said. 

Another achievement was when the patrol team in Kofiau last year caught six fishermen from Buaya Island in Sorong who used explosives to catch fish. They were brought to court and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment each. 

“The perpetrators usually come from the same group. It’s sometimes very hard to catch them and we often get left behind during a chase,” Valen Ambarau, Kofiau patrol team member, said. 

Lukas Rumetna, the Bird’s Head portfolio manager of TNC, said that after years of building the skills and commitment of local people, they had been ready to continue the conservation efforts on their own.

“Most of them have understood their role in managing the MPAs. Some tasks may still need our assistance, but overall they have all been equipped with the know-how,” he said. 

“And as we’re leaving soon, local people will then work together with the technical control unit from the local administration that will replace our work here.”
                                                 A diver captures underwater beauty in Raja Ampat, Papua. (JP/SWI)
Getting around
Malaria is very common in Raja Ampat. Make sure that you take necessary precautions prior the trip and bring insect repellents.

A number of airlines offer services from Jakarta to Raja Ampat through Sorong on the mainland of Papua. Express Air also has a direct flight to Sorong, which takes about four hours from Jakarta. 

Sorong is the main entrance to Raja Ampat. Transfer to the islands is usually arranged through local resorts, but a public ferry is also available. The journey takes from two to three hours, depending on final destination, type of transport and sea conditions. If seas are rough, the journey can take from three to six hours. 

Bring enough money because some accommodations only accept cash and there are only two ATMs in the regional capital of Waisai. 

Buy an entry tag at Raja Ampat tourism office at the JE Meridien Hotel in Sorong, or make the purchase through a resort. 

If you arrive at the islands by public boat, you may have to charter another boat to take you around. If you’re staying at a hotel, it may provide you with the necessary vessel. 

— Compiled from various sources


3) Violence and Intimidation from PT Nabire Baru’s Brimob Guards continues

New reports continue to emerge of aggressive behaviour from Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) officers who have been stationed as security guards for PT Nabire Baru’s oil palm plantation near the city of Nabire. Here are a few of the most recent stories translated from local bloggers and activists. The first two articles are from a the Papales Mengabarkan blog. The third is an except from a longer piece based on the writings of Simon Petrus Hanebora, Yerisiam tribal chief who is frequently outspoken on how the oil palm companies are affecting local indigenous people. Hopefully a translation of that entire document will be uploaded to awasMIFEE soon.
Brimob are an elite police corps with militaristic training. Nevertheless in Papua and elsewhere it is still common for them to act as private security guards for businesses. Although PT Nabire Baru’s operations are not themselves legal (notably the company still hasn’t obtained approval for an environmental impact assessment), its Brimob guards have fiercely defended the company’s interests, by threatening, beating up and arresting opponents of the oil palm plantation. It is currently the clearest example in Papua of how plantation development is being forced on the Papuan people through the intimidation of state security forces.
Reports into the various problems around PT Nabire Baru tend to come from independent activists and bloggers, rather than NGOs or major media organisations. Government has been reluctant to issue information about the legal status of the various companies involved, which means that there are sometimes inconsistencies between the various different reports on these issues. awasMIFEE has translated the articles as they were written, but there are a few footnotes added where the original is not clear or there is doubt.
PT Nabire Baru, along with sister companies PT Sariwana Unggal Mandiri and PT Sariwana Adi Perkasa, is a subsidiary of Sri Lankan multinational Carson Cumberbatch.

Defending Oil Palm Company, Brimob Point their Guns at an Indigenous Man

Brimob elite unit from Biak are stationed at PT Nabire Baru’s oil palm plantation at KM 16 Wami, Yaur District, Nabire.
These Brimob guards have a history of being out of control in the area. The guards who were originally requested by PT Nabire Baru to guard the company’s assets, are becoming more arrogant and discriminative as time goes on.
Some time ago one of the indigenous customary landowners at the plantation site, who was working for PT Nabire Baru, had guns pointed at him and was terrorised by Brimob members guarding the oil palm company.
The incident took place on Thursday 17th July 2014, commencing at 15.10, when Imanuel Monei (a customary landowner) wished to admonish the company about a contractor which was engaged in building a company barracks / mess. Imanuel complained to the company because he felt that the company had violated the terms of a memorandum of understanding undertaken between the company and the customary landowners. According to Imanuel Monei’s account to this website, he said that the company had violated several points of the agreements in the MoU they had drawn up which stated “ All work (employee’s mess, living space, etc) which could be called construction projects, will be undertaken by indigenous landowners through the co-operatives they will form, and the work cannot be given to any other party aside from the customary landowner.” However, the company had ignored that agreemeny by giving the work to a contractor.
Because of that Imanuel Monei warned the company, saying that it would have to stop the construction work, because it contravened their commitment to the customary rights holders. The company didn’t give a response, instead they called Brimob security guards to arrest Imanuel. Several moments later a platoon of Brimob approached Imanuel fully armed, and pointed their guns at him while saying “Get out of here or we will shoot you on the spot, you Papuan who doesn’t know his place, acting like you know it all, in a moment you’re gonna be full of holes”. Feeling threatened, Imanuel left that place, and just told the company to stop the construction work, and that the company must be responsible for the what it had already done.
Since that incident, the customary landowners have taken the step of stopping work for PT Nabire Baru, and this has been ongoing for three days.1 They have also asked the Nabire District Legistlative Council to call on the company and the Nabire police chief as the one responsible for the Brimob unit, and ask them to take responsibility for this issue.
For your information, this is not the first time that Brimob security guards have been aggressive to local people, there have been several previous incidents where customary rights holders or employees have been harrassed by Brimob members (Read also :
Since 2013, when Brimob arrived in the oil palm plantation, Brimob members have been involved in eight sadistic incidents but these have not been published.

Nabire Indigenous Peoples’ Association urges Police Chief to withdraw all Brimob troops from the Nabire Area.

Indigenous groups have started to take clear positions as a response to various cases where security guards from the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) have caused extreme anxiety amongst local people due to their actions in the Nabire area.
Amongst others, speaking for the Indigenous People’s Association (Lembaga Masyarakat Adat or LMA) in the Nabire area, it’s leader Ayub Kowoy said “Nabire is not a conflict area, so there is no need for Brimob to be present in Nabire as security guards.” speaking to this website several days ago.
The LMA leader added that Nabire had been peaceful for some time before the Brimob troops were brought to the area, so actually it is their prescence which is creating conflict in Nabire.
He also made it clear that he was asking the Papuan Police Chief to immediately withdraw Brimob security from the whole Nabire area, because several incidents had already occurred around Nabire.
For your information there are four Brimob platoons currently in Nabire, two from the Brimob Security unit in Biak Regency and two more from the Manokwari Brimob unit.
These units originally came to provide security for the 2014 legislative and presidential elections in Nabire. However, what has happened now is that they are providing security for companies that are operating in Nabire.2
The companies they are providing security for include the oil palm plantation PT Nabire Baru in Wami which is guarded by the Brimob unit from Biak. Meanwhile the Manokwari Brimob is guarding the logging company PT Jati Dharma Indah in Yaro, Wanggar District, which it should be noted does not have a permit to extract timber.3
Since the Brimob guards have been stationed in Nabire several incidents have taken place, including an aggression towards the deputy Regency leader, an aggression to a member of the 1705 PWY Nabire District Military Command, the stabbing of a policeman from the main police station, and the assault on employees of the oil palm company and the recent case where a customary landowner was threatened with a gun.


The policing of PT Nabire Baru (excerpt from ‘Yerisiam Indigenous people’s sovereignty thwarted by investment’)

Examining PT Nabire Baru’s operation from a security and policing aspect, we see that the military approach is still the standard practice for investors everywhere. PT Nabire Baru frequently uses police mobile brigade from the Papuan provincial force who act as security guards for the company. Acts of violence which have taken place since Brimob members were posted as security guards include, amongst others:
1 Beating up a worker who was demanding that his wages were not fair for the work done. The man was tortured until he involuntarily defacated.
2. Beating up Titus Money when he demanded wages that were being withheld. The victim was an employee and also a customary rights holder
3. Frequently confiscating wood on the roads illegally, and demanding payment.
4. Having the opportunity to create wider vertical or horizontal conflict, such as happened in Wasior.
5. The latest incident involved striking the deputy Bupati.
6. The Regional Military Commander went to Nabire to get involved in the oil palm business. The Papuan Military Commander Major General Christian Zebua arrived in Nabire on 11th September 2013. His visit was accorded extra tight security from police and military guards from Nabire. The media were warned that they were forbidden to report or publish stories about the commander’s visit. He was picked up directly by an entourage including the Nabire Bupati, Legislative Council chief, District Military commander, the Nabire police chief, the director of PT Nabire Baru and PT Sariwana Unggal Mandiri. Closely guarded, they travelled directly to the oil palm area in Wami, Yaur district, West Nabire.
7. Local indigenous people have been labelled with the stigma of being OPM separatists, a crafty trick of corporations and security forces to strike down the indigenous people’s attempts to defend their sovereignty over the land of their ancestors. An example is the incident which took place on 2nd March 2014
On that day Otis Waropen, a resident of Kampung Sima in Yaur district, who was cultivating a forest garden near to the Bamboo River in Wami, was accused of being a member of (or courier for) the TPN-OPM. A unit of the Police Mobile Brigade acting as security with the oil palm plantation, alongside additional police officers from the Nabire headquarters were sent fully armed to the area to arrest the suspect. Otis Waropen was charged with the offence and held in the Nabire Police Station.
The incident compelled the chief of the Yerisiam ethnic group (SP Hanebora) to speak out in his role as protector of the indigenous people. On 3rd March 2014, SP Hanebora considered that it was a great pity something like this could happen. “The majority of my people live from their forest gardens, and so it is normal for them to stay days or months or even years in the forest. When people who had lived on the sea came to land they started farming in the forest, they are farmers,… just like fisherfolk live on the oceans. I deeply regret this situation because my people are not involved in politics or so on, but now the police start making accusations and create problems which are disturbing the everyday livelihoods of people in my tribe. Because they need to go to the forest every day to tend their gardens, go hunting and so on” he explained.4
The Yerisiam people do not tremble as they express indigenous rights in the face of the authorities’ threats and halucinations. Through the tribal chief, they routinely bring these problems to the public attention. This can be through statements, letters that are sent to concerned parties or expressing their dissent through press releases or even getting involved in process such as that described above, with one aim “give the indigenous people back what is rightfully theirs and respect the sovereignty of the indigenous people who were there long before the state arrived”.
  1. awasMIFEE note – not sure what this stoppage means, who all stopped work, whether the indigenous landowners made a customary blockade or not, and for how long 
  2. awasMIFEE note: there were certainly Brimob guarding PT Nabire Baru’s plantation since long before the April and August elections, so this point is not entirely clear. Possibly the Brimob fro Biak were the new arrivals? 
  3. awasMIFEE note: PT Jati Dharma Indah does have a forest management permit which expires in 2017, on the same land which PT Nabire Baru was given an oil palm plantation location permit. Other reports have stated that PT JDI has not been active for many years. As mentioned above, few people seem to have accurate information about the status of the various companies involved in the area.  
  4. awasMIFEE note: Activists familiar with the situation in Nabire have confirmed that Otis Waropen was released, possibly as a result of SP Hanebora’s intervention  
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