An oil palm company named PT Indo Asiana Lestari has been trying to negotiate with the Auyu people living in several villages in Mandobo and Fofi sub-districts of Boven Digoel, including Ampera, Ikisi, Navini and Yare villages.
Frengky Hendrikus Woro, a resident of Yare village, explained to Okto Waken of the Justice and Peace Secretariat of Merauke Catholic Diocese that “The majority of clans do not consent to the company’s plans because we don’t want to lose our land and forest”.
The company’s public relations staff, known as Yakub, has been trying to persuade the community, but their opposition continues. The company has also asked a well-known community figure, Fabianus Senfahagi, to help convince the people to accept the company’s request to plant oil palm in their area.
Despite their efforts, the community have refused to sign a letter of agreement to allow the company to operate. Fabianus has explained to them that the company would divide the land into a core plantation and a ‘plasma’ scheme (a form of profit-sharing with the local community which is obligatory under Indonesian law).
“The company’s public relations rep said ‘We’ll pay special attention to customary land owners’ rights, you’ll be sitting pretty, you’ll get your wages at the end of the month, and a guarantee that this special treatment will extend to your children and grandchildren too'”, Frengky Woro related.
Around 20 landowning clans will be directly affected by the plantation company including the Woro, Mukri, Yame, Misa, Beni, Hamagi, Tifahagi, Nohoyagi, Senfahagi, Aweyoho, Sagi, Soh, Maa, Mabo, Bung, Sifiragi, Abugagi, Hanagi, Awe and Momu clans. Two of these clans, Senfahagi and Aweyoho, support the company’s plans.
In mid-October 2017, the chief of the Auyu ethnic group in Boven Digoel, Egedius Pius Suam, invited representatives of landowning clans from the four affected villages to meet in his house in Tanah Merah. As the clans discussed their attitudes towards PT Indo Asiana Lestari, suddenly a group of people arrived at the house where the meeting was taking place. They were believed to be a group supporting the company. They were angry and wanted to break up the meeting.
Frengky Woro related, “They spoke roughly, threatening us. ‘Don’t get in the way of us bringing this oil palm company in – if anyone does we’ll kill that person'”.
The Auyu people’s chief, Egedius Pius Suam, tried to calm the suspicions of that group and advised them that no-one was trying to be obstructive, but just wanted the company to respect the rights of other landowners in the community and hold a meeting to discuss the matter in the proper fashion. The men told the chief that if he reported this incident to the police, this would make them even more brutal. “We will kill you in own special way”, they said, according to Frengky.
In response to this threat, the Auyu chief explained that they would report the incident to the police so they could seek to resolve the matter. He stated his feelings clearly to the group of men “We are ready to die for our land and ancestral forest.”
The Auyu people continue to speak out for their rights which are currently threatened by PT Indo Asiana Lestari
[awasMIFEE note: There are indications that PT Indo Asiana Lestari was given a location permit in 2017 on land previously allocated to PT Energi Samudera Kencana, a Menara Group company which was later sold to Pacific Inter-link. An earlier article from Pusaka about opposition to PT Indo Asiana Lestari can be read in Indonesian here: http://pusaka.or.id/2017/10/perusahaan-datang-masyarakat-terbelah/]