Indonesian Indigenous Peoples Association files lawsuit against Parliament and President

The Indigenous Peoples Defence Association of the Archipelago (PPMAN) has taken legal action against the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR RI) and President Joko Widodo (Jokowi). PPMAN filed the lawsuit to the Administrative Court in Jakarta on 25 October 2023 (see photo on top, source: Suara Papua). Mr Syamsul Alam Agus, PPMAN’s chairman, explained that PPMAN had decided to take legal action due to the government’s negligent conduct concerning the new Indigenous Peoples Bill.

The Indigenous Peoples Bill, despite being part of the National Legislation Programme, has not advanced to the discussion stage since 2009, leaving indigenous peoples in Indonesia in legal limbo. Ten plaintiffs have filed in this lawsuit, one of one from the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN). Seven plaintiffs are currently incarcerated, illustrating the risk of criminalisation in the absence of legal protection for indigenous peoples in Indonesia.

The Administrative Court accepted the lawsuit, highlighting the urgency of addressing indigenous peoples’ rights. Mr Fatiatulo Lazira, a member of PPMAN’s legal team, emphasized the need for a national legal framework to prevent conflicts over land and resources and protect indigenous communities.

The absence of a specific legal framework for indigenous peoples has resulted in multiple adverse consequences, including the criminalisation and intimidation of indigenous land rights holders. Data shows numerous cases of land grabbing and criminalisation in recent years, illustrating the urgent need for legal recognition and protection of indigenous rights.

The failure to pass the Indigenous Peoples Bill indicates that the Indonesian government is not seriously committed to acknowledging and safeguarding Indigenous peoples. Meanwhile, the absence of legal protection has enabled the central Government to expand agricultural areas, push infrastructure projects, and accelerate resource exploitation on indigenous lands, causing significant harm to these communities.

The legislative process for the Indigenous Peoples Law has been stalled for a decade, with major political parties hindering its progress. This inaction contrasts starkly with the expedited process of passing Law No. 11/2020 on Job Creation, commonly known as the Omnibus Law. On 5 October 2020, the DPR RI passed the Omnibus Law during the COVID-19 pandemic despite widespread civil society protests across Indonesia. President Jokowi officially enacted the law on 2 November 2020.

The Government’s failure to protect the rights and well-being of indigenous peoples while pushing legislation for economic growth is nourishing suspicion towards the central Government. The plaintiffs argue that the Government does not sufficiently meet its constitutional obligation to protect indigenous communities.