On 7 September 2022, the indigenous peoples in the Grime Nawa valley in Jayapura Regency, for the umpteenth time, held a demonstration demanding the government stop activities and revoke the license of the palm oil plantation company, PT Permata Nusa Mandiri (PT PNM). The action took place at noon Papua time in the yard of the Jayapura Regent’s Office. The demonstrators chanted, “Papua is not an empty land”, followed by chants of “Ku Yombe Yombe”, which means the island, the land belongs to the indigenous people. They unfurled banners that read, “People can live without oil palm plantations, but we cannot live without customary forests. The Regent of Jayapura Regency immediately revoked the location permit of PT Permata Nusa Mandiri”. They also carried posters with the words “Traditional land of customary forest belonging to indigenous peoples”, “Papua forest last fort”, “Save Grime Nawa valley”, and “Immediately revoke PT Permata Nusa Mandiri’s permit.
PT PNM is a palm oil plantation company with a location permit from 2011, as stated in the Jayapura Regent’s Decree No. 213 of 2011 concerning the Granting of a Land Location Permit for Palm Oil Plantations covering an area of 32 thousand hectares. Meanwhile, they have had an environmental permit since 2014. In 2014, the Papua Provincial Government, through the letter of the Integrated Licensing and Investment Agency Number: 01/SK.IUP/KS/2014 issued a Plantation Business Permit (IUP) for PT PNM, covering an area of 30,920 Ha. This area covers six districts in Jayapura Regency. Unurum Guay District, Nimbokrang District, Nimborang District, Namblong District, Kemtuk Grassi District and Kemtuk District. Greenpeace revealed PT PNM to have ties to tycoon Anthoni Salim. PT PNM obtained a Hak Guna Usaha (HGU) permit on November 15, 2018, although the three-year Palm Oil Moratorium has been in effect.
PT PNM’s operation in the Grime Nawa valley has threatened the indigenous tribes who have lived for generations. The Grime Nawa valley is inhabited by seven indigenous tribes: Kemtuik, Klisi, Elseng, Namblong/Nimboran, Orya, Kaureh and Kautabakhu. The PT PNM concession area includes several villages and plantations of indigenous peoples in the valley. The land clearing location is also close to Isyo Hill’s Bird Watching in Rhepang Muaif Village, Nimbokrang District, Jayapura Regency. PT PNM has encroached on the forest, causing deforestation and threatening the existence of endemic flora and fauna. If more forests are replaced with palm oil plantations, it is feared that birds such as the single wattle cassowary, the victorian mambruk, and others will disappear.
PT PNM continues to operate after the revocation of permits by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the temporary suspension of PT PNM operations by the regional government
The existence of PT PNM in the Grime Nawa valley cannot be separated from the Decree of the Minister of Forestry Number SK.680/MENHUT-II/2014 concerning the Release of Convertible Forest Areas of 16,182.48 hectares. According to the Chairman of the Namblong Tribal Customary Council, Mathias Nawa, the process of releasing this forest area is problematic because it does not follow the indigenous peoples’ customs. The approval obtained by PT PNM only involved a few clan leaders. The community did not know that their customary area had a palm oil permit, they never gave their consent. They thought that the company would only work in two clans’ areas because they had agreed that the company would use the forest. Upon inspection, it turned out that the company had obtained a comprehensive permit covering all the customary lands of the seven tribes and traditional villages in the Grime Nawa Valley.
The Minister of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya, on 5 January 2022, through SK.01/MENLHK/SETJEN/KUM.1/1/2022 has revoked 192 permits/area concessions, one of which is PT Permata Nusa Mandiri’s covering an area of 16,182.48 hectares. However, the company continues to operate. According to the Coalition to Save the Grime-Nawa Valley, based on image analysis of satellite imagery of the PT PNM concession in the period 1 January – 12 February 2022, an area of 70 hectares of land clearing was identified. The company’s activities were immediately protested by the indigenous people of the Namblong Tribe. The Namblong indigenous people, through the Namblong Tribal Customary Council (DAS) and the Namblong Indigenous Women’s Organization (Orpa), urged the Jayapura Government to stop PT PNM’s activities.
Responding to this indigenous community’s insistence, in early February 2022, the Head of the One Stop Integrated Licensing and Investment Agency (DMPTSP) wrote to the company to stop activities in the permit area until there was clarification from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The Regent of Jayapura, in May 2022, also formed a team to evaluate business permits for oil palm plantations through Decree Number 188.4/214/2022, signed on 9 May 2022. Based on the Papua government’s evaluation, seven companies operate in Jayapura Regency. Two are already working, the rest have the potential to be revoked. In his statement to the media on July 24, 2022, the Jayapura Regent said that four of the five companies were almost certain to be voided, while PT PMN still needed to dig deeper because it already had an HGU. The head of the Jayapura Regency DMPTSP, Delila Giyai, also said that evaluating the PNM permit was a priority for the Jayapura Regency government. The district has authority only over location permits. Plantation business permits, forest area permits, and HGU are the authority of other agencies.
PT PNM is known to have filed a lawsuit to the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) on June 14, 2022, which was registered with case number 167/G/2022/PTUN Jakarta. PT PNM sued the Minister of Investment/Head of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) in its lawsuit. This lawsuit asks the Court to declare null or void the Decision Letter a.n. Minister of Environment and Forestry RI, Minister of Investment/Head of the Investment Coordinating Board Number:20220329-21-78718 dated March 29, 2022, concerning Revocation of Approval for Release of Forest Areas to PT PNM, Approval/Permit Number: SK.680/Menhut-II/2014 dated August 13, 2014, Issuer of Approval/Permit: Minister of Forestry RI. in the Districts of Unurum Guay, Namblong, Nimboran, Nimbokrang, Kemluk and Gresi, Jayapura, Papua. However, the company withdrew its lawsuit on 17 June 2022, which was accepted by the Jakarta State Administrative Court on 20 June 2022.
 The Coalition to Save the Grime-Nawa Valley consists of PT PPMA, Walhi Papua, Jerat Papua, LBH Papua, Namblong Watershed, Namblong ORPA, Oktim Watershed, Bentala People’s Heritage Foundation, Greenpeace Indonesia, Auriga Nusantara, and TIKI Papuan Women’s Human Rights Network
Indigenous People in Grime Nawa Valley in Legal Uncertainty
After having stopped, the company is now back on site. The Greenpeace report is corroborated by satellite imagery showing the company’s activities in the early years and first week of July 2022. Greenpeace investigations recorded the company’s operations with heavy equipment at the site, including six excavators and other company vehicles on 5 July 2022. The company’s excavators resumed clearing vegetation and tilling the soil.
On 21 July 2022, following Greenpeace’s latest report, indigenous peoples in the Grime Nawa Valley held a traditional meeting of the Grime Nawa Region at the Office of the Namblong Tribe Customary Council as well as the Grime Nawa Regional Customary Council (DAD) in Nimbokrangsari Village, Nimbokrang District, Jayapura Regency, Papua. During the meeting, more than 100 traditional leaders and women leaders from the Grime Nawa area urged the Jayapura Regent, Mathius Awoitauw, to revoke the location permit and environmental permit of the palm oil company PT PNM. The participants sign the minutes of the customary deliberation. They urged Awoitauw, to recommend the revocation of other permits such as IUP and HGU.
On 7 September 2022, demonstrators finally spoke with the deputy regent. Jayapura Deputy Regent Giri Wijayantoro explained that the location permit and environmental permit issued to PT PNM had expired and would not be extended. He also emphasised that PT PNM should not carry out any activities at the location because they are still waiting for the results of the evaluation team of the study. The deputy regent also stated that the Jayapura Regency fully supports mapping customary areas in the location. The Jayapura Regency and the Papua Provincial government will coordinate with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to review the permit to release the company’s forest area and HGU.
The community urged the deputy regent to stop PT PNM’s operations, but the deputy regent said that he could not confirm because he thought it was the district’s authority. He promised to convey the aspirations of the demonstrators to the Jayapura Regent. The action coordinator, Yustus Yekusamon, said that the indigenous peoples would return to the Jayapura Regent’s Office on 21 September 2022 to confirm the revocation of PT Permata Nusa Mandiri’s permit because it was considered to have violated the rules. He also stated that the indigenous peoples would go to the field to stop the activities of the palm oil company PT PNM.
In detail, the indigenous peoples in the Grime Nawa Region filed 11 demands, namely:
- Rejecting the existence of PT Permata Nusa Mandiri (PNM) oil palm plantation in the Grime Nawa Valley area, which took over land and forest because it damaged the environment, land and customary law;
- Urge the Regent of Jayapura Regency to immediately revoke PT PMN’s license and recognise the sovereignty of the indigenous peoples of the Grime Nawa Valley as the rightful owners of customary lands, customary forests inherited from their ancestors;
- Urge the Jayapura Regent to acknowledge the existence of indigenous peoples and customary territories of indigenous peoples in the Grime Nawa valley area under Article 18 B paragraph 2 of the 1945 Constitution and Law Number 5 of 1960 concerning the Basic Agrarian Law;
- Urge the Provincial DPMPTSP to revoke the IUP of PT PNM because it does not fulfil the obligations in the IUP and the regulation of the Minister of Agriculture regarding the guidelines for permitting plantation business;
- Urge the National Land Agency (BPN) to stipulate PT PNM’s HGU as abandoned land under Law Number 39 of 2014 concerning Plantation Law in conjunction with Law Number 11 of 2020 concerning job creation and return it to the indigenous community of the Grime Nawa area;
- Urge the Minister of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) to maintain the decision to revoke the release of PT PNM’s forest area;
- The indigenous peoples of the Grime Nawa area reject the legitimacy of releasing land that is carried out unilaterally because it is not following customary law;
- Indigenous peoples agree that the management, utilisation and protection of customary lands and forests belonging to indigenous peoples are carried out based on the knowledge and customary law of the local community:
- All Indigenous Peoples of the Grime Nawa Region and other parties living in Customary Lands and Forests are committed to maintaining and protecting customary lands and forests so that they remain sustainable;
- All indigenous peoples of the Grime Nawa area (Orya, Namblong, Klesi, Kemtuk, and Elseng) agree not to hand over / give customary land or forest to Oil Palm Plantation Companies or other companies, which can cause loss of rights to ancestral lands and forests;
- In connection with points 1-10 above, the deadline for revocation of PT PNM’s permits is 30 September 2022. If PT PNM’s permit is not immediately revoked, the entire Grime Nawa Regional Indigenous Peoples will conduct a general mobilisation for the Volume II peace action and file a lawsuit to restore the rights of the indigenous peoples.
Detailed Case Data
name of the location: a text string, if possible coordinates in brackets (-4.29, 138.18)
administrative region: Indonesia, Papua Province, Jayapura Regency, Nimbokrang District
total number of victims: hundreds
period of incident: 05.01.2022 – 07.09.2022
perpetrator details: palm oil company PT Permata Nusa Mandiri (PT PNM)
Issues: cultural rights, freedom of assembly, indigenous peoples
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