Means to Protect Customary Land Rights of Indigenous Ethnic Papua

Ethnic Papua

If you read closely, the Special Autonomy Law No. 21/2001 on the special autonomy of Papua and West Papua provinces highlights something related to ethnic Papua. The word “adat” (custom) has been mentioned 109 times, “adat istiadat” (customs) four times, “masyarakat hukum adat” (indigenous communities) 32 times, “masyarakat adat” (indigenous people) 30 times, “hak ulayat” (customary land rights) 18 times, “kultural” (cultural) five times, and “budaya” (culture) five times. It indicates the main concerns in Special Autonomy Law implementation: indigenous Papuans and anything relates to them.

Since then, the Papuan Customary Council (DAP) and other parties have been persistently fighting for the customary rights of the indigenous Papua people. Not only that, but customary rights have also been brought up as a hot topic in some discussions. One of the toughest rights to protect is customary land rights.


Ethnic Papua

There are three major challenges that the indigenous people of ethnic Papua are facing:

  • How to protect the customary lands to prevent being transferred into the ownership of other parties
  • How to reclaim customary lands that have been claimed by other parties. How to restore the sense of justice for the owner and his/her present and future descendants.
  • How to improve the welfare of the customary communities without losing the ownership of customary land

What have been done

Ethnic Papua

Addressing the third challenge, the Papua provincial government continues the implementation of Papua special autonomy programs in 29 regencies or cities. They aim to improve the welfare of the indigenous Papuans and to develop Papua comprehensively in the economy and infrastructure sectors using the customary lands approach. This approach is suitable for the people of ethnic Papua’s condition because their largest basis is located in the outermost and the most underdeveloped villages.

The local government in Papua divides customary lands into seven areas. These commodities are supported by Papua special allocation funds. The areas and their commodities are:

  • La Pago, including Jayawijaya Regency and its expansion (coffee, red fruit, sweet potatoes, tourism, agriculture, pig farm, horticulture, and honey bee)
  • Anim Ha, including Merauke regency, Boven Digoel, Asmat, and Mappi (integrated plantation, fisheries, rubber, and sago)
  • Mee Pago, includes Dogiyai regency, Deiyai, Nabire, Intan Jaya, Paniai, and Mimika (coffee and mining)
  • Saereri, including Biak Numfor, Supiori, Yapen and Waropen Islands (tourism spot and fisheries)

The Saereri indigenous territories lie in the northern, coastal areas and islands to the north of Papua. The tribe living in this area is mostly the Biak Numfor Tribe. This tribe is known to be adept at fishing.

  • Mamta, including Jayapura City, Jayapura Regency, Keerom Regency, Sarmi Regency, Mamberamo Raya Regency (cacao, coconut, Sentani Lake tourism spot, and electricity)
  • Domberai, located in the northwestern part of Papua

Development in Domberai region includes Sorong, Raja Ampat, Manokwari, and Bintuni will focus on the fisheries and marine products sector, oil- and gas-based industries, as well as tourism.

  • Bomberai, located in the southern part of Papua

Every customary leader in the aforementioned areas is taking responsibility for playing an active role in overseeing the implementation of the Special Autonomy Law in Papua. This is to make sure that the Law contributes to improving the people of Papua’s welfare.

In the context of the implementation of special autonomy for Papua, the customary approach has become a suitable strategy for stimulating community participation in improving the welfare of indigenous Papuans. This is because each customary community has different problems and conditions. Therefore, implementing development using the “one shoe fits all” treatment will cause discrepancy between the development programs and the problems encountered in real life. It should be noted that the treatment that works for one area might not work in other areas and vice versa.

In this context, the government takes participative development planning where it involves the participation of the community in general—not only as an object but also as a development subject. In short, development planning is done by the Papuans and for the Papuans. The government also provides opportunities for indigenous Papuans to hold top positions in Papua.

The government has provided IDR 18 trillion for the 17 strategic infrastructure projects. Some projects are docks and road construction, and some undergoing airport development in both Papua and West Papua provinces.

What needs to be done

Ethnic Papua

To prevent the transfer of customary land rights ownership, customary communities with the help of the government should reinforce customary rules.

The central government must issue the NPSK (norms, criteria, standards, and procedures) for the implementation of the utilization of customary community forest products. Before being implemented, the NPSK must be approved by indigenous Papuans and the claim of customary territories.

Evaluating the customary rights of the indigenous Papuans are also attended by the representatives of the seven customary territories and some members of the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP). The representatives must actively participate during the talk of empowering and protecting indigenous peoples on the Land of Papua.

All components of both the central government and Papua and West Papua provincial government need to sit in one room and discuss this bill by involving all indigenous peoples. Thus, the government grasps what the aspirations of the indigenous communities in Papua are. We need different treatment of development for the different communities because each community has different conditions and problems.

Those are the challenges and the means in protecting customary land rights of indigenous people of ethnic Papua. It can be seen that the treatment should be different from other regions due to Papua’s complex and diverse condition. Implementing the means using the customary approach is hoped to improve their welfare.