By Harun Rumbarar in Jayapura
Indigenous landowners from the Marap people in Arso in Papua’s Keeron regency have this week invoked customary law to take back 1300 ha of oil palm land owned by PTPN II for 30 years as part of its Arso plantation.
The action took place at Yamara village PIR 3, Manem sub-district, Keerom Regency, in the province of Papua near the Papua New Guinea border on Wednesday.
Maickel Fatagur, head of the Fatagur clan which holds customary land rights, alongside other clans such as the Wabiager and Gumis clans, said that they would no longer hold any kind of meetings with the company.
That is because they have used customary law to take back the land PTPN was using, specifically the Core III, Core IV and Core V divisions.
“We used customary law to take the land back. That means now there will be no more meetings with the company. The land now belongs to us.” he said.
“We invite PTPN II Arso to take back its oil palm and we will take back our land. That’s all,” Fatagur made clear to the manager of PTPN II’s Arso plantation on Wednesday at Tami in Manem District, in Keerom.
According to Fatagur, PTPN II has operated the Arso plantation on the Fatagur clan’s land, and that of its sub-clans, for about 30 years, but the local community, who hold the customary land rights, have never felt economically secure
“All these years attention has never been paid to the wellbeing of the community, who hold the customary land rights, ” said Fatagur.
Dominika Tafor, secretary of the Boda Student Association (Himpunan Mahasiswa Boda) in Keerom, who is also an indigenous member of the Marap ethnic group, said she was supporting the action taken by local indigenous people.
“We strongly support the action which the Marap community of Workwama village are taking today. We support it, because for so many years the company has not paid attention to the fate of the community. They only come to destroy,” she said.
When the indigenous people arrived at the plantation office in Tami, PTPN II’s Arso plantation manager, Hilarius Manurung, received them. He said he would take their wishes on board and pass them on to the Keerom local government.
“Since we’re a state-owned company, we can only listen to all aspirations and complaints and pass them on to the local government for further action. There’s not much we can do. What we can do is to follow up all these complaints from the community,” said Manurung.
Suarapapua.com observed that security forces from the Keerom police headquarters were present – 11 armed policemen in a Dalmas truck, ready to police the Marap people’s action.
The indigenous people’s main banner said: “We don’t need oil palm, we only need forest … for our grandchildren”
As a symbol, the indigenous people brought soil from the three oil palm locations and taro yams from their gardens, placing them in a noken string bag made from forest palm frond midribs, and using traditional rituals took them to PTPN II’s office located in the plantation
administration centre in Tami.