Indigenous people Subur and Aiwat Villages protest against illegal clearing of their forest

The Wambon Kenemopte indigenous community in Subur and Aiwat Villages, Boven Digoel Regency, South Papua Province, is grappling with the eviction and destruction of their land and forest by PT Merauke Rayon Jaya (MRJ), a company holding an Industrial Plantation Forest (HTI) permit. In early April 2024, the community reported that PT MRJ had violated customary law by evicting land and forests without prior deliberation and consent from the indigenous landowners. The company has failed to get the community’s consent before clearing a forest area as required under the principles of free, prior, informed consent (FPIC).

Despite not receiving permits or recommendations from relevant provincial offices, PT MRJ has reportedly commenced operations, disregarding the rights and consent of the Wambon Kenemopte Indigenous People. The indigenous community has rejected PT MRJ’s operation plan directly to the company and through official letters to various government agencies. However, the local government has failed to take concrete action in response.

The actions of PT MRJ pose severe threats to the indigenous community’s livelihoods, food sources, and economic income, as well as damage to the natural environment and peatlands within indigenous territories. The community has issued warnings to stop the company’s activities and threatened to apply customary sanctions if the destruction of their forest continues.

The Indonesian Centre for Nature Conservation Studies and Advocacy (PUSAKA) called on national and local governments to uphold sustainable development principles and respect human rights in development projects. PUSAKA urged authorities to take immediate action in addressing PT MRJ’s alleged violations and ensure the protection of indigenous Papuans’ socio-economic rights and livelihoods.

Indigenous community members from Subur and Aiwat Villges protest against the destruction of their forest by PT Merauke Rayon Jaya (MRJ)