Mon, 22 Mar 1999

Indigenous peoples take united stand

JAKARTA (JP): The nation's indigenous peoples have united in demanding an outright end to abuses against them and respect of their sovereignty by the state.

In their declaration issued late on Sunday to conclude a five- day congress, they stated "there is no place for a uniform policy of the state" because of the nation's diversity. The congress was a first for the country's indigenous groups.

About 250 representatives also announced the establishment of the Nusantara Alliance of Indigenous Peoples.

"If the state does not recognize us, we also do not recognize the state," an introduction to the declaration read.

Years of pain shared by indigenous peoples "has its source in the nonrecognition of (our) sovereignty by the state of the Republic of Indonesia ..."

The declaration was read by Mathea Mamoyao, a representative of West Papua, the name demanded by those seeking an independent Irian Jaya.

Chairwoman of the organizing committee Sandra Moniaga said solidarity was fostered among participants during the congress and a two-day workshop preceding it at Hotel Indonesia.

The alliance is led by a 54-member governing board. Its executive secretary has yet to be announced. Representatives plan to meet legislators on Monday to report on the results.

In lively congress activities, participants exchanged experiences of resisting powerful investors, the government and the military, all perceived as threatening their livelihood. Congress participants included farmers, fishery workers and miners, many who are also community elders, chiefs, traditional kings and advisors.

The statement of basic views, also read by Mathea, said customary institutions "have been torn apart by the imposing of regional and village administrative structures applied uniformly", based on the 1974 law on regional administration and the 1979 law on village administration.

"The imposed concept of the village has led to extraordinary conflicts," she said, adding that state institutions did not have representatives of indigenous peoples.

State control of resources "has become a powerful tool to eradicate the sovereignty of indigenous peoples" leading to various rights abuses. The statement added that those resisting government or private projects have been subjected to torture and killings.

Economically, the government, without consulting locals, "has given new rights to businesses and other institutions foreign to indigenous peoples".

Demands included an end to terms such as "isolated tribes" and "state-owned land"; a return of political sovereignty of the indigenous peoples; the revoking of all laws denying their sovereignty; an end to military intervention leading to violence, particularly toward women, and correction of all abuses of violated rights.

Programs using land and resources should entail consultation with indigenous peoples, including in areas such as transmigration, mining and forestry exploitation.

Laws which should be revoked included those on land, forestry, mining and fisheries.

Various projects should guarantee an end to rights violations, including in the enforcement of the family planning program, the statement said. (anr)