Mpur tribe in Papua Barat demands that PT BAPP stops operating on its customary land

In January 2022, the Minister of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya, through SK 01/MENLHK/SETJEN/KUM.1/1/2022 concerning Revocation of Forest Area Concession Permits, revoked 192 forestry permits/concessions. One was PT Bintuni Agro Prima Perkasa’s (BAPP) concession area of ​​19,368.77 ha in West Papua. The Mpur tribe of indigenous people, whose customary land is affected by the concession, had urged to revoke PT BAPP’s permit in West Papua since 2017.

The Mpur is one of the tribes of the Doberai indigenous territory. The Mpur tribe is divided into the Mpur Wot tribe and the Mmpur Swor tribe. The Mpur Wot tribe inhabits the northern coastal area of ​​the Tambrauw district, and the MPur Swor tribe inhabits mountainous regions and the Kebar valley. This valley has beautiful meadows and endemic plants, namely Kebar grass, believed to increase women’s fertility, and the tribe has lived there for generations. Their customary law regulates their interaction with nature, on which their livelihood depends. They believe that life must be in harmony with nature so that they take care of each other. If it is not harmonious, natural disasters will occur and even take their lives. The activities of PT BAPP have harmed this harmony.

Although the Ministry of Environment and Forestry revoked its concession permit and its operation has been rejected by the indigenous people of the Mpur Tribe, PT BAPP is still active and operating in the Kebar Valley. PT BAPP adheres to the Decree of the Regent of Tambrauw No. 521/297/2015 concerning Food Crops Cultivation Business Licenses in Kebar District and Senopi District. The Mpur have tried to discuss this with the regent of Tambrauw and the relevant agencies. Still, the regent and representatives of the appropriate offices object to meeting directly with the customary land rights holders. The Tambraw Regent has twice extended the cultivation permit at the Tambrauw Regency Investment, Manpower Licensing and Transmigration Office from 2016 to 2018 and again in 2019. The Mpur indigenous people in the Kebar Valley still struggle to stop the company’s activities.

Entry of PT BAPP into the Kebar Valley

In early 2015, PT BAPP shared with the MPur community its plans to invest in oil palm plantations in the valley. The company held meetings with the Mpur community at the Kebar district office. PT BAPP said it would set up a small-scale oil palm plantation business on land owned by the Mpur tribe. PT. BAPP did not show any legal documents to the public. The community rejected this plan because they were aware of the harm palm oil plantations bring to the land.

Later that year, the company returned to meet the community in Lembah Kebar. The meeting took place behind closed doors in Inam and Arumi villages with several customary land owners and the village head of Inam. During the meeting, the company talked on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and said it would plant corn for two years in the reed fields in the Kebar valley, not in the forest. The indigenous people of the Mpur tribe agreed to the trial of planting corn for a limited period. The community only later learnt that the trial of planting corn was not conducted by the Department of Agriculture but by PT BAPP.

The land where the corn was to be planted belonged to six clans in the Kebar Valley, namely Amawi, Ariks, Arumi, Kebar, Wanimeri, and Wasabit. The company gave 50 million Rupiah to each clan except for the Ariks, who received 100 million.  

Impact of PT BAPP’s activities

From 2015 to 2017, PT BAPP planted corn not only in the reeds area but also in forest areas, which are customary lands belonging to indigenous peoples. Long-term crops such as durian, rambutan, lansat, Chinese petai, mango, and cocoa were damaged. Various animals lost their habitats, and different kinds of plants were lost. As a result, people lost their livelihoods. Besides, the period of growing corn exceeded the two-year limit.

Moreover, the use of chemical fertilisers by PT BAPP since planting corn or since land clearing in 2015 impacted the Aspire river, which flows around the plantation area. Contamination of the Apriri River harmed the fish in it. Also, the residents of Narai village who used the river’s water experienced itching in 2018. Most of the residents from East Kebar to West Kebar were afraid to consume fish from the Aspire river.

Due to the clear violation of the initial agreement and the environmental damage that PT BAPP’s operation was causing, the Mpur indigenous people turned against PT BAPP. They tried to dialogue with its representatives, but they were ignored. Therefore, the indigenous peoples in the Kebar Valley held a meeting and agreed to request PT BAPP to stop their activities in the Kebar Valley.

The struggle of the Mpur against PT BAPP

On 13 May 2017, the indigenous peoples of Mpur made a statement rejecting the presence of PT BAPP. They urged the company to immediately stop all investment activities, planting and clearing forests in the Mpur tribal area in the Kebar valley, Tambrauw district. The MPur community gave a maximum of 2 months for PT BAPP to revoke the boundary markers installed in the MPur tribal customary area and leave the Janduraw area and other areas in the Tambruw district.

Since then, the indigenous people of the MPur tribe have also asked the Minister of Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia to immediately cancel and revoke permit number 873/SK/MENHUT II/2014, which was issued on 29 September 2014. The decree regulates the release of production forest areas for oil palm plantations. The PT BAPP was assigned an area of ​​19,368.77 hectares and entered the Kebar Valley supported by that decree.

Actually, according to the Regulation of the Minister of Forestry in force at that time, namely the Minister of Forestry Regulation number: P.28/Menhut-II/2014 in article 7, a company can obtain a forest area release permit if the company already has a Plantation Business Permit (IUP). To get an IUP, the company must have an environmental permit. Based on Law 39 of 2014 concerning Plantations, officials are prohibited from issuing IUPs on customary lands of customary law communities unless an agreement has been reached between the Indigenous Law Community and the Plantation Business Actors regarding the transfer of land and compensation. The company must make an Environmental Impact Analysis (AMDAL) to get an environmental permit. However, the permit to release the area for PT BAPP’s oil palm plantation was issued without an AMDAL and the company started operating without an environmental permit.

Intimidation of the Mpur

The Mpur indigenous people’s protests against PT BAPP’s activities have often been met with intimidation and violence involving security forces. On 5 January 2018, Mr Semuel Ariks and several other customary rights owners received an invitation from the Manokwari Police Chief to meet at the Manokwari Polres on 10 January 2018 to discuss the dispute between PT BAPP and customary rights holders in Kebar district, specifically the area of ​​corn plantations and the paymernts made by PT BAPP. However, the invitation was not attended to by the customary rights owner because it was delivered orally and not formally.

Intimidation against the community strengthened in July 2018, triggered by the decision of several clans to return the money they received from PT BAP. Such as 60-year-old Samuel Arik, who returned Rp. 100,000,000 to the company on 8 July 2018. One week later, Samuel Ariks was intimidated. Three police officers on duty at the Kebar Sector Police persuaded Samuel to take back the money returned to the company, but Samuel refused.

Although the intimidation continued, the MPur indigenous people and other members of the community continued to protest. However, the Tambrauw Government did not listen to the communities’ protests and instead extended PT BAPP’s corn planting permit.

The Tambrauw Regency Government, through the Head of the Investment Licensing, Manpower and Transmigration Office on 4 August 2018, as SK.NO: 570/042/DPMPTSP/2018, provides an extension of the permit for planting corn by PT BAPP with an area of ​​19,368.77 Ha in Kebar and Senopy Districts. To deal with the protests, the company dispatched around 15 Brimob members from Manokwari and one police officer from the Kebar Police Station to oversee and supervise PT BAPP’s business activities.

On 20 August 2018, residents again protested and blocked roads at the boundary of the Arumi and Kebar clans’ land. As a result, a fight broke out between a member of the MPur indigenous community, 46-year-old Oktovianus Manimbu, and an employee of PT BAPP. Oktovianus Manimbu had prohibited PT BAPP from removing his long-term plantations, which PT BAPP ignored. As the owner of customary rights, Oktovianus Manimbu felt disrespected and end up beating PT BAPP’s field supervisor. A Brimob hit Oktovianus Manimbu with a rifle butt on the chest. So far, there is still one police officer from the Kebar sector police who is a security officer and a food stall entrepreneur in the company area.

On 30 August 2018, the community carried out a customary action. It was attended by the Papuan People’s Council (MRP) of West Papua province, the West Papuan People’s Representative Council, the Indigenous Peoples Institution (LMA) of West Papua Province, representatives of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI), the Student Executive Board of the University of Papua and representatives of the Research, Assessment, Legal Aid Development Institute (LP3BH) who asked PT BAPP to stop its activities. The Mpur indigenous people closed the land with a traditional barricade at the PT BAPP company field office. After this, on 5 October, the West Papuan House of Representatives formed a special committee consisting of 20 people. Through the work of this special committee, it was confirmed that PT BAPP does not have an AMDAL.

On 11 February 2019, the West Papua House of Representatives wrote to the President of the Republic of Indonesia with recommendations based on the results of the special committee’s work. One recommendation was that PT BAPP immediately leaves the land of the Mpur Indigenous Peoples and returns it to the customary rights owners. PT BAPP’s business activities were suspended for two months, from September to October 2018. However, in November, PT BAPP returned to work on an area of ​​500 hectares and continued even after the Ministry of Environment and Forestry revoked the permit in the PT BAPP area in 2022.

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: East Kebar, offices of PT BAPP (-0.8545815556166131, 133.20536631046156)
administrative region: Indonesia, West Papua Province, Tambrauw Regency, East Kebar District
total number of victims: dozens
period of incident: 01.03.2015-30.10.2022
perpetrator: agricultural company, police, other security forces, government
perpetrator details: PT BAPP, Brimob Manokwari, Kebar Police, Tembrauw Government
Issues: Cultural rights, indigenous peoples, food, freedom of assembly
Sources: Conflict over customary land in Tambrauw Regency – Indigenous Mpur communities reject corn plantation company – International Coalition for Papua (humanrightspapua.org), https://jelajah.kompas.id/ekspedisi-tanah-papua-2021/baca/sawit-ditolak-terbitlah-jagung/
Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationVillagesDistrictViolation
Unkownunknownunknownunknownindigenous Lembah KebarKebar and East Kebarcultural rights, food
 1Aser ArwanMale60 indigenous JandurawEast Kebarcultural rights, food
 1Agustina AmawiFemale45 indigenous WasanggonKebarcultural rights, food
 1Yoel AmawiMale35 indigenous JandurawEast Kebarcultural rights, food
 1Bernabas WasabitiMale60 indigenous AnjaiKebarcultural rights, food
 1Aser WasabitiMale62indigenous AnjaiKebarcultural rights, food
 1Yohana WasabitiFemale38indigenousManariaKebarcultural rights, food
 1Martinus AnjaiMale60indigenous AnjaiKebarcultural rights, food
 1Meki WanimeriMale60indigenousInamEast Kebarcultural rights, food
 1Oktovianus ManimbuMale48indigenous ArumiEast Kebarcultural rights, food
 1Markus ManimbuMale70indigenous ArumiEast Kebarcultural rights, food
 1Feronika ManimbuFemale40indigenousArumiEast Kebarcultural rights, food
 1Samuel AnariMale38indigenous ManariaKebarcultural rights, food
 1Filep KebarMale32indigenous AnjaiKebarcultural rights, food
 1Mina KebarFemale60indigenous JambuaniKebarcultural rights, food
 1Samuel AriksMale60indigenous ManariaKebarcultural rights, food
 1Melki AriksMale45indigenous InambuariEast Kebarcultural rights, food
 1Sinta AriksFemale32indigenous ManariaKebarcultural rights, food