Papuan landowner advocate condemns diocese link to palm oil companies

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Merauke Archbishop
The Archbishop of Merauke, Monsignor Petrus Canisius Mandagi, MSC, with the company PT TSE. Image: Tabloid Jubi/IST

By Ans K in Merauke, Papua

Mama Elisabeth Ndiwaen, one of the Papuan landowners who has been strongly critical of highlighting oil palm investment in Merauke regency in Papua province has urged the Archdiocese of Merauke to stop collaborating with PT Tunas Sawa Erma (Korindo Group).

She has condemned the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) aid in the form of funds worth Rp2.4 billion (NZ$240,000) given in stages by the company to the diocese.

“Frankly, I have just got this information. How did it come to that, Merauke Archdiocese has collaborated with the limited company of Tunas Sawa Erma (PT TSE) which is actually investing in palm oil?” she told Jubi.

“And where the forests of indigenous peoples are destroyed only for the benefit of investors.”

Ndiwaen said her party was very disappointed with the action of the Merauke archdiocese.

“The Archbishop of Merauke, Monsignor Petrus Canisius Mandagi, MSC, does not know what happened to the Marind-Papuan people who have destroyed the forests here,” she said.

Ndiwaen said that as a “lost sheep”, so far, her party had continued to consult and ask for assistance to the Merauke Archdiocese’s Secretariat of Justice and Peace to speak out against the damage done to the forests of the Marind-Papuan people that have been ransacked by palm oil plantation companies.

When church speaks
“At this rate, where do we sheep lean back? We know that when the Catholic Church speaks, it is certain to be heard. But if [the reality] is like this, who else can we hope for?” she asked.

With this kind of game played by companies, she said, it was certain that the Merauke archdiocese was no longer independent.

“Father. Bishop, I just want to convey that those who experience and feel how painful it is when forests are evicted for palm oil investment for us, the Marind people, as the [indigenous] owners of the country,” she said.

Ndiwaen asked the diocese to cancel the cooperation as well as return the money that had been handed over by the company a few days ago.

“Why do I ask for the cooperation to be canceled? It is because the company will instead take advantage of the opportunity and that is where when the palm oil plantation opening activity is carried out again. It is certain that the diocese will remain silent,” she said.

Separately, the Archbishop of Merauke, Monsignor Petrus Canisius Mandagi, MSC, expressed his gratitude for the assistance provided by PT TSE.

In fact, the assistance was intended for the people in South Papua, he said.

Distribution originally for education
However, the distribution through the diocese was originally used for the education of prospective priests. Later the priest (pastor) would also work for the community.

“We Merauke archdiocese is not rich, so we need funds. If a region wants to advance, it certainly needs investment. Many people are anti investing, but they also eat from the investment invested here,” he said.

Monsignor Mandagi said the Merauke Archdiocese supported the company, but that did not mean “turning a blind eye” if there was environmental damage or no benefit was felt by the community.

“If there is such a thing, it is certain that the company will be criticised.

Tabloid Jubi articles are republished with permission.

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