Churches call for halt to appeal in Viktor Yeimo’s case

News Desk – Viktor Yeimo’s Treason Trial

Moderator of the Papua Council of Churches, Rev. Benny Giay (right) hands over a letter from the Papua Council of Churches to the Papua High Prosecutor’s Office, on Tuesday (16/5/2023). Through the letter, the Council of Churches asked the Papua High Prosecutor’s Office to stop appealing the verdict of the Jayapura District Court that declared the International Spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee, Viktor Yeimo, not guilty of treason. – Doc. Papua Council of Churches

 23 May 2023

Jayapura, Jubi – Rev. Benny Giay, the Moderator of the Papua Council of Churches, paid a visit to the Papua High Prosecutor’s Office in Jayapura City on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. His purpose was to request that the Papua High Prosecutor’s Office refrain from appealing the verdict of the Jayapura District Court in the treason case against Viktor Yeimo.

Giay was received by a prosecutor and they engaged in a discussion regarding the court decision concerning Viktor Yeimo, the International Spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB)

According to Giay, the meeting lasted approximately 90 minutes. He mentioned that he handed over a letter from the Papuan Council of Churches to the head of the Papua High Prosecutor’s Office during the meeting. Giay emphasized that the Jayapura District Court had acquitted Viktor Yeimo of treason charges, and he appealed to the Papua High Prosecutor’s Office not to challenge the verdict.

“When we met at the Papua High Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday, the meeting went smoothly. We have submitted a letter requesting the cessation of appeal actions by the High Prosecutor’s Office,” Giay stated in an interview with Jubi.

Viktor Yeimo’s case pertained to his alleged involvement in the Papuan anti-racism protest, which aimed to denounce the racial insults directed at Papuan students in Surabaya on August 16, 2019. The case was reviewed by a panel of judges led by chief judge Mathius and accompanied by member judges Andi Asmuruf and Linn Carol Hamadi.

On February 21, 2021, the Public Prosecutor charged Viktor Yeimo with treason for playing a leading role in the demonstrations that occurred in Jayapura City on August 19 and 29, 2019. In the initial indictment, Yeimo faced charges of conspiracy, incitement, and active participation in treason, as specified under Article 106 in conjunction with Article 55 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code.

In the second indictment, Yeimo faced charges of conspiring to commit treason, as outlined in Article 110 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code. The third indictment accuses Yeimo of encouraging, commanding, or participating in acts that provide opportunities for treason, as stated in Article 110, paragraph (2). Lastly, in the fourth indictment, Yeimo is charged with incitement, either verbally or in writing, to commit criminal acts, engage in violence against public authorities, or disregard legal provisions or official orders, as specified in Article 160 of the Criminal Code in conjunction with Article 55 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code.

On April 27, 2023, Viktor Yeimo was convicted of treason under the first count of Article 106 by the public prosecutor. The prosecutor recommended a 3-year prison sentence for Viktor Yeimo.

However, in the verdict announced on May 5, 2023, the Panel of Judges concluded that the four charges brought by the public prosecutor against Viktor Yeimo were not substantiated.

Instead, the Panel of Judges found Yeimo guilty of violating Article 155 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to eight months of imprisonment.

However, the verdict against Viktor Yeimo was based on an article that had been invalidated by the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court Decision No. 6/PUU-V/2007, announced on July 17, 2007, declared Articles 154 and 155 of the Criminal Code unconstitutional, rendering them legally void.

Recently on May 12, the Papua High Prosecutor’s Office filed an appeal against the decision made by the Jayapura District Court. The appeal was submitted by public prosecutor Yanuar Fihawiano.

The Papua Council of Churches perceives the appeal as an indication of the state’s attempt to perpetuate racism against the indigenous Papuans. “There is an intention by the state to perpetuate racism against indigenous Papuans,” Giay said.

He demanded the Papua High Prosecutor’s Office to respect the rights of Papuans, including Viktor Yeimo, to express their opposition to racial discrimination against Papuans.

“Viktor Yeimo is a victim of a system that neglects the human rights of Papuans,” said Giay. (*)

Wenda calls on Papuan rebels to free NZ pilot ‘unconditionally’ 

By APR editor –  June 4, 2023

Asia Pacific Report

The president of a West Papuan advocacy group has appealed to the militants holding New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens hostage to free him unconditionally and unharmed, describing him as an “innocent pawn”.

United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) president Benny Wenda said he held  “deepest concern” for the life of Mehrtens, captured on February 7 by guerillas fighting for the independence of Papua.

Fighters of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), armed wing of the rebel West Papua Organisation (OPM), have demanded third party negotiations for independence and have recently called for Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape as a “mediator”.

“Currently, the priority of all parties involved in this tragic ordeal is to help and assist the pilot to return home safely and rejoin his family and friends,” said Wenda in a statement.

He condemned the impact of the “brutal martial law” imposed by Indonesian security forces in the West Papua region.

“Philip Mehrtens’ condition is being made significantly more precarious by the Indonesian government’s refusal of outside aid and determination to use military means,” he said.

Jakarta’s aggressive stance went hand-in-hand with its increased militarisation of the region.

Mehrtens ‘innocent human being’
“Mehrtens is an innocent human being who has been unwittingly made into a pawn in a decades-old conflict between the colonial power of Indonesia and the indigenous resistance of West Papua.

“Therefore, securing Mehrtens’ safe return must be the top priority for all parties involved, as his life has been thrown into chaos through no fault of his own.”

Wenda said he was aware of a threat made by the TPNPB last week to shoot the pilot.

“It is indeed tragic that the life of the pilot is at risk, and I understand where the Liberation Army is coming from; however, I cannot comprehend why the blood of an innocent family man should be shed on our ancestral land.

“For more than 60 years, the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent Papuans has been shed on this sacred land as a result of Indonesian military operations.

“We do not need to shed the blood of another innocent.

“As Papuans, we do not take innocent lives; nor do we have a tradition of genocide, killings, massacres, or land theft.

Peaceful resolution
“This is not a teaching handed down from our ancestors. We have dignity and tradition and as our ancestors always taught us, the killing of an innocent person is strictly prohibited.

“We believe in this, and every Papuan knows it.

Wenda said the ULMWP sought a peaceful resolution to “reclaim our stolen sovereignty”.

“This does not imply that we are weak or ineffective, nor does it indicate that the international community has turned a blind eye to the crimes committed by the Indonesian security forces.

“The world is currently watching Indonesia closely due to their inhumane treatment, barbaric behaviours, genocidal policies, ecocide, and acts of terror against our people.

In a message to the TPNPB, he warned the rebels to “reconsider the threat” made against and what the pilot’s death would “mean to his grieving family, as well as to our national liberation cause”.

“All West Papuans know that international law is on our side: Indonesia’s military occupation and initial claim on West Papua being clearly wrong under international law.

“But so too is taking the life of an innocent person who is not involved in the conflict.

Wenda said it should never be forgotten that “truth is on our side and Jakarta knows it”.

“One day we will win. Light will always overcome darkness.”

Mourning for Beanal

Meanwhile, West Papuans have mourned the death of Tom Beanal, a freedom fighter, head of the Papua Presidium Council, and leader of the Amungme Tribal Council.

Wenda said that on behalf of the ULMWP and the West Papuan people, he expressed sympathy and condolences to Beanal’s family, friends, and “everyone he inspired to join the struggle”.

Tom Beanal was a member of the Amungme tribe. Along with the Kamoro people, the Amungme have been the primary victims of the struggle over the Grasberg Mine, the world’s largest gold and second largest copper mine. It is opened and operated by the US mining company Freeport McMoran.

“Amungme and Kamoro people are the indigenous landowners – tribes who have tended and protected their forest for thousands of years. But they have been forced to watch as their lands have been destroyed, physically and spiritually, by an alliance of big corporations and the Indonesian government,” Wenda said.


Compromise worked in Aceh – why not Papua?


Detailed map of Oceania with countries,main cities

By Duncan Graham

 May 30, 2023

There are parallels between Indonesia’s Aceh where an Ozzie surfer faced a flogging, and Papua where a Kiwi pilot is facing death. Both provinces have fought brutal guerrilla wars for independence. One has been settled through foreign peacekeepers. The other still rages as outsiders fear intervention.

There were ten stories in a Google Alert media feed last week for ‘Indonesia-Australia’.

One covered illegal fishing in the Indo-Pacific claiming economic losses of more than US $6 billion a year – important indeed.

Another was an update on the plight of NZ pilot Philip Mehrtens, held hostage since February by the Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Papua Barat (TPNPB West Papua National Liberation Army).

This is the armed wing of the Organisasi Papua Merdeka, (OPM Free Papua Organisation) that’s been pushing its cause since the 1970s.

A major story by any measure. The Indonesian military’s inability to find and safely secure the Kiwi has the potential to cause serious diplomatic rifts and great harm to all parties.

There have been unverified reports of bombs dropped from helicopters on jungle camps where the pilot may have been held with uninvolved civilians.

The other eight stories were about Queenslander Bodhi Mani Risby-Jones who’d been arrested in April for allegedly going on a nude drunken rampage and bashing a local in Indonesian Aceh.

Had the 23-year-old surfer been a fool in his home country the yarn would have been a yawn. Such stupidities are commonplace.

But because he chose to be a slob in the strictly Muslim province of Aceh and is facing up to five years jail plus a public flogging, his plight opened the issue of cultural differences and tourist arrogance. Small news, but legitimate.

He’s now reportedly done a $25,000 deal to buy his way out of charges and pay restitution to his victim. This shows a flexible social and legal system displaying tolerance – which is how Christians are supposed to behave.

All noteworthy, easy to grasp. But more important than the threatened execution of an innocent victim of circumstances caught in a complex dispute that needs detailed explanations to understand?

Mehrtens landed a commercial company’s plane as part of his job flying people and goods into isolated airstrips when he was grabbed by armed men desperate to get Jakarta to pay attention to their grievances.

Ironically, Aceh where Risby-Jones got himself into strife, had also fought for independence and won. Like West Papua, it’s resource-rich so essential for the central government’s economy.

A vicious on-off war between the Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, (GAM – Free Aceh Movement) and the Indonesian military started in 1976 and reportedly took up to 30,000 lives across the following three decades.

It only ended when the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami killed 160,000 and former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was elected president and revived peace talks. Other countries became involved, including the European Union and Finland where the Helsinki Agreement was signed.

Both sides bent. GAM leaders abandoned their demands for independence, settling for ‘self-government’ within the Indonesian state, while soldiers were withdrawn. The bombings have stopped but at the cost of personal freedoms and angering human rights advocates.

Freed from Jakarta’s control, the province passed strict Shariah laws. These include public floggings for homosexual acts, drinking booze and being close to an opposite sex person who’s not a relative. Morality Police patrols prowl shady spots, alert to any signs of affection.

Australian academic and former journalist Damien Kingsbury was also instrumental in getting GAM and Jakarta to talk. He was involved with the Papua standoff earlier this year but NZ is now using its own to negotiate.

Kingsbury told the ABC the situation in Papua is at a stalemate with neither Wellington nor Jakarta willing to make concessions. The Indonesian electorate has no truck for separatists so wants a bang-bang fix. NZ urges a softly-slowly approach.

A TPNPB spokesperson told the BBC: ‘The Indonesian government has to be bold and sit with us at a negotiation table and not [deploy] military and police to search for the pilot.’

The 2005 Aceh resolution means the Papua fighters have a strong model of what’s possible when other countries intervene. So far it seems none have dared, fearing the wrath of nationalists who believe Western states, and particularly Australia, are trying to ‘Balkanise’ the ‘unitary state’ and plunder its riches.

This theory was given energy when Australia supported the 1999 East Timor referendum which led to the province splitting from Indonesia and becoming a separate nation.

Should Australia try to act as a go-between in the Papua conflict, we’d be dragged into the upcoming Presidential election campaign with outraged candidates thumping lecterns claiming outside interference. That’s something no one wants but sitting on hands won’t help Mehrtens.

In the meantime, Risby-Jones, whose boorish behaviour has confirmed Indonesian prejudices about Oz oafs, is expected to be deported.

Mehrtens will only get to tell his tale if the Indonesian government shows the forbearance displayed by the family of Edi Ron. The Aceh fisherman needed 50 stitches and copped broken bones and an infected foot from his Aussie encounter, but still shook hands.

After weeks in a cell the surfer has shown contrition and apologised. Australian ‘proceedings of crime’ lawsshould prevent him earning from his ordeal.

If the Kiwi pilot does get out alive, he deserves the media attention lavished on the Australian. This might shift international interest from a zonked twit to the issue of Papua’s independence and remind diplomats that if Jakarta could bend in the far west of the archipelago, why not in the far east?

Lest Indonesians forget: Around 100,000 revolutionaries died during the four-year war against the returning colonial Dutch after Soekarno proclaimed independence in 1945. The Hollanders only retreated after external pressure from the US and Australia.

Duncan Graham 

 Duncan Graham has been a journalist for more than 40 years in print, radio and TV. He is the author of People Next Door (UWA Press) and winner of the Walkley Award and Human Rights awards. He is now writing for the English language media in Indonesia from within Indonesia.

Indonesia Refuses International Aid to Free New Zealand Pilot

Translator Dewi Elvia Muthiariny Editor Mahinda Arkyasa 29 May 2023 23:36 WIB TEMPO.COJakarta – Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Mahfud Md explained the reason why the government refused international assistance to release New Zealand pilot Captain Philips Max Mehrtens who is being held hostage by the West Papua National Liberation Army-Free Papua Organization (TPNPB-OPM). The involvement of international institutions, he argued, will only make the case worse. “We will handle it internally. Our policy is not to involve other countries and this is internal issues. And we can do it whatever the stakes are. International communities are not allowed to join the case,” Mahfud said when met in South Jakarta on Monday, May 29, 2023.If the government receives assistance from international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), then other international institutions will intervene in the case, including even the United Nations (UN).“So, we reject any attempts of international interference offered by NGOs, by international NGOs,” Mahfud underlined.OPM threatens to shoot Susi Air Pilot in two monthsOn Friday, May 27, TPNPB-OPM spokesperson Sebby Sambom sent a video showing a “visibly emaciated” Mehrtens surrounded by Egianus Kogoya and his fighters. Mehrtens said the rebel group will shoot him if other countries did not urge Indonesia to recognize Papua’s independence.In the same video, Kogoya threatens to shoot the New Zealander if Indonesia does not recognize Papua’s independence within two months.The Papuan separatist group has been holding Mehrtens hostage since February 7, 2023, right after the latter landed the Susi Air aircraft with flight number SI 9368 at Paro Airport, Nduga Regency, Pegunungan Papua Province. They ambushed the plane and set it on fire. After releasing the passengers, they took Mehrtens hostage.The government dispatched the Damai Cartenz Task Force to carry out an operation to rescue the Susi Air pilot. However, the effort came to no avail to date. In April, Mahfud stated that the rescue operation was hampered because the TPNPB-OPM made Philips Max Mehrtens, women, and children as human shields.M JULNIS FIRMANSYAH | EKA YUDHA SAPUTRA

Green” finance bankrolls forest destruction in Indonesia

Published on 01/06/2023, 2:00am

Green funds have been spent cutting down trees for biomass to make electricity, decimating the traditional food sources of indigenous people

By The Gecko Project

Millions of dollars in green financing intended to help Indonesia reduce its carbon emissions have been invested in a project that is destroying rainforest in Papua.

The money has been used to help an Indonesian conglomerate, Medco Group construct a biomass power plant that makes electricity from burning wood.

Medco has already cleared large tracts of rainforest, establishing timber plantations in its place.

As a result of the financing, it plans to expand its plantations by at least 2,500 hectares – seven times the size of New York’s Central Park – and cut down more rainforest.

The project has made it harder for Marind people, hunter-gatherers indigenous to the lowlands of Papua, to find food to eat.

With food in the shops expensive, many families are going hungry, eating meals consisting solely of rice. Children have died of malnutrition.

Rainforest to wood chips

Medco’s project started in the late 2000s, as part of Indonesia’s push to convert southern Papua into a source of food and energy.

The company’s initial plan was to plant a vast timber plantation that would produce wood chips for export.

Medco obtained a licence for some 170,000 hectares of land, overlapping substantially with the ancestral territory of Marind people living in Zanegi village.

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Before the deforestation began, villagers said, they could find food a few steps from their homes.

It was common to see cassowaries – a flightless bird similar to a turkey – in their backyards.

Boar and kangaroos roamed around the village, and the swamps were full of fish.

Early promises

Still, some villagers welcomed the arrival of Medco. The company assuaged concerns by handing out cash and promising jobs, support for children’s education and a new school, church and health facilities.

The company signed a written agreement in 2009 committing it to protect sacred places, areas of cultural importance, hunting grounds, and what Medco described as “other places considered important to the community.”

“At the beginning, it was good, because the people got jobs,” said Amandus Gebze, a Marind father of nine. “Everyone was involved in the work, there were no exceptions.”

But within a few years, the villagers were fired. The regular income Medco had provided dried up, replaced mostly with irregular work picking up small pieces of wood for $5 a cubic metre.

Asked why the employees had lost their jobs, Medco said that it stopped clearing the forest in 2014 because it was losing money. But it added that it had switched from employing staff directly, to working 

through “contractors or third parties.”

The company then suggested the villagers had lost their jobs because they were unable to “comply with company regulations” and were “often absent,” and were therefore considered to have resigned.

Food sources wrecked

Some villagers returned to hunting to provide food for their families. But Medco had replaced a ten kilometre wide stretch of natural forest with a man-made plantation of identical trees.

In interviews, nine villagers said it had become significantly harder to source their traditional foods.

They now had to roam up to 15 kilometres away to hunt cassowaries or deer and often returned empty-handed several days in a row.

The groves of sago, which produce a starchy staple food like tapioca, had been spared from clearing. But the denuded landscape meant they’d been ruined by mud and chemicals.

With free local food sources drying up, the villagers are forced to buy food that comes in by pick-up track and often costs more than it would in a high-end supermarket in Indonesia’s big cities.

Empty rice

Without a secure income and their traditional food sources declining, some villagers told us it has become common for them to eat only rice, a meal they refer to as nasi kosong or “empty rice.”

The Gecko Project observed Amandus Gebze’s family prepare a breakfast of rice with two packets of noodles, split between the parents and six siblings.

Some families will sprinkle pepper on the rice to make it edible. Others will pour salt water on it or just drink large quantities of water to help them swallow it.

In April 2022, health workers stationed in the village told the Gecko Project that four children were stunted and eight pregnant women were suffering from chronic energy deficiency, a health risk to them and their babies.

Health records obtained during an investigation by the Indonesian newspaper Kompas in August last year showed that around a third of young children measured were stunted.

Since 2012, there have been reports of a total of nine malnourished children from Zanegi dying. Indonesian newspaper Kompas found that between 2019 and 2021, one family alone lost three children.

Not our fault

Medco rejected the suggestion that this could be linked to its project. “Medco Papua’s operations do not cause malnutrition,” it wrote. “No community food sources were disturbed.”

However, it also said that the “allegations presented by The Gecko Project regarding malnutrition incidents require further in-depth investigation”.

Medco denied making promises to the community, beyond the written agreement to protect their food sources and other key areas.

It insisted that it had made efforts to help improve the plight of the community, despite its project losing money.

Green funding boost

Medco claimed that its project’s progress was limited to 3,000 hectares of land because it was not financially viable.

This is supported by satellite imagery, which shows the forests around Zanegi being cleared rapidly after 2010, then largely stopping in 2014.

But in 2017, the Indonesian government gave Medco’s failing project a new lease of life.

It provided financing to help Medco construct a new biomass power plant 20 kilometres away from Zanegi while the state-owned electricity company committed to buying the energy it would generate.

Satellite imagery shows the new power plant emerging, 20 kilometres south-east of Zanegi, in late 2018. In 2021, it also shows deforestation resuming, north of Zanegi.

The backers – SMI

The first tranche of government funding came from PT Sarana Multi Infrastruktur (SMI), a state-owned company under the control of the Ministry of Finance.

In 2017, it provided 60 billion rupiah ($4.5 million) in “project financing” for the power plant.

SMI was established in 2009 to provide infrastructure financing, but has been increasingly focused on helping Indonesia meet its climate change commitments.

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Its 2017 sustainability report suggested that Medco’s power plant could help Indonesia deliver on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In a 2020 presentation, an SMI director presented the plant as an example of “financing to contribute towards climate change mitigation”.

This was despite nonprofits saying publicly, including to the UN, that the Medco project was making the Marind go hungry.

SMI declined to comment.

The backers – IEF

In 2021, the energy ministry and Medco said that another government fund, the Indonesian Environment Fund (IEF), had also provided “funding support” for the biomass power plant.

Budi Basuki, a senior Medco executive, said that the total funding had reached 140 billion rupiah, more than $9 million.

The IEF was established in 2019 as a body that could be used to channel investments to protect the environment.

When it received IEF’s support, Medco had already cleared an estimated 3,000 hectares of forest.

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The company said it needs to almost double the size of its plantation to meet the demands of the power plant, and that it would continue to use wood harvested from the forest as it is cleared.

It also hopes to triple the capacity of the plant, creating demand for more land and wood.

Government maps show that as of 2012, large areas of its concession were intact, or “primary”, rainforest and swamp forests.

Analysis of satellite imagery by The Gecko Project indicates that the area remains largely undisturbed. These landscapes hold large amounts of carbon that are released if they are cleared.

Endah Tri Kurniawaty, of the IEF, said that the area had been designated a “production forest” and said that it was therefore legitimate for Medco to cut the forest and replace it with a plantation. “According to the existing

 laws and regulations, they may do that,” she said.

Co-firing to net zero

The Indonesian government’s support for biomass in Papua is not an aberration.

Rather than shutting down its coal-fired power plants, it plans to keep the furnaces burning but phase out a portion of the fossil fuels by “co-firing” with biomass.

Last June, the energy minister Arifin Tasrif, identified this kind of “co-firing” as central to its strategy for reducing emissions from coal.

While the Merauke operation is small compared to the network of vast power plants spread across Indonesia, dozens of them are also burning biomass.

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The state energy company, PLN, announced in 2022 that it planned to increase its use of biomass five-fold over the next year, and had set a target of burning 10.2 million tonnes across more than 50 power plants by 2025.

According to PLN, by 2022 the majority of its biomass came from waste, like sawdust, rice or palm oil husks. But to meet the massively growing demand it needs timber plantations.

The environment ministry has rallied behind the policy.

At the UN climate conference in Egypt last November, Agus Justianto, the director general of sustainable forest management, said that it would “promote plantation forests for energy development” and that more than a million 

hectares of “production forest” could be used.

Trend Asia, a nonprofit organisation that has been monitoring the policy, calculated that meeting this demand would require at least 2.3 million hectares of land to be converted to plantations – an area half the size of Denmark.

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Timber plantations can be established on “degraded” lands, as the government has suggested could happen now. But as with Medco’s project, they have often been planted in place of rainforests, which has the advantage for

 investors of generating a steady-stream of timber before the plantations reach maturity.

“The use of biomass is renewable in theory, but in practice it is not,” said Yuyun Indradi of Trend Asia. “Timber plantations have been a major driver of deforestation. So our concern is that it’s very likely this will trigger deforestation.”

“There’s no hope”

In Zanegi, the Marind have now spent more than a decade observing how policies decided thousands of miles away – and the whims of a corporation – can influence their lives.

Natalia Mahuze, wife of Amandus Gebze, stood barefoot with her three-year old son Efrem under the shade of a tree outside the Zanegi village health centre in April 2022.

The midwife emerged with a digital body-weight scale. She called Efrem’s name and his mother guided him into the scale: 10.7 kilograms – underweight for his age.

The midwife handed Efrem a pack of biscuits to supplement his diet, and took a photo of him holding the packet with her mobile phone. She gave another to his mother.

“Please don’t share these with his siblings,” the midwife told Natalia. “They’re only for him.”

Efrem was born around the time Medco completed construction of its power plant in Merauke.

“It used to be good,” Natalia said. “It’s really hard now.”

Her husband Amandus, once optimistic about Medco’s project, questioned whether it would ever deliver for his family.

“If they want to develop the community, they’ll need more of our territory,” he said. “If we have to give them more land, is there any chance they’ll show more concern for us? There’s no hope.”

This story was published in collaboration with Gecko Project, Project Multatuli, Mongabay and Climate Home News. —————————————-

Discrimination against victims’ families revealed in Mimika murrder trial: Komnas HAM

Police inspect relatives of the Mimika murder and mutilation victims who were about to attend the trial of the case at the Timika City District Court, Tuesday (2/5/2023). – Jubi/Rabin Yarangga

News Desk – Mimika Murder And Mutilation Trial 

2 June 2023

Jayapura, Jubi – Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) Atnike Nova Sigiro reports that the Timika District Court’s trial has shown discrimination against the families of the victims in the Mimika murder and mutilation case.

The four defendants accused of murder and mutilation are Roy Marten Howay, Andre Pudjianto Lee, Dul Umam, and Rafles Lakasa. The incident took place in Settlement Unit 1, Mimika Baru District, Mimika Regency on August 22, 2022. The victims were four Nduga residents named Arnold Lokbere, Irian Nirigi, Lemaniel Nirigi, and Atis Tini.

During the trial proceedings, Sigiro said on May 31, the victims’ families faced different treatment. One aspect of this mistreatment was the rigorous inspection of their belongings, which occurred twice: when entering the Court building and when entering the courtroom.

The security forces in Timika conducted these inspections. Additionally, Komnas HAM noted that the number of family members allowed to attend the trial was restricted to a maximum of 20 individuals, despite the courtroom appearing spacious enough to accommodate more people.

“Another notable observation was the presence of heavily armed security personnel throughout the trial process. The security was provided by members of the Mimika Police, Babinsa, and Brimob,” Sigiro added.

Sigiro said Komnas HAM had requested the Timika District Court to establish clear and legally binding regulations regarding access to trials. These regulations should ensure equal opportunities for everyone and guarantee that there are no restrictions imposed on the families of victims when entering the courtroom.

Furthermore, Komnas HAM urged the Mimika Police chief to maintain adequate security during the trial in a proportionate manner that does not instill fear or apprehension among trial attendees.

Komnas HAM has also requested the Timika District Attorney to conduct a thorough evaluation of the coordination mechanism in the murder and mutilation case. This evaluation is necessary due to multiple postponements of the trial process, which were attributed to the prosecutor’s negligence. The judges have reportedly rescheduled the trial for this case eight times.

In a separate statement, Helmi, a member of the Papua Coalition of Law Enforcement and Human Rights acting as the legal representative of the victim’s family, emphasized that the inspection experienced by the family of victims should strictly adhere to the regulations outlined in the trial rules.

Helmi emphasized that, as per the regulations, only court security officers are granted the authority to carry out luggage searches during court proceedings.

“Any individuals other than Court Security Officers are prohibited from conducting luggage checks on court visitors,” Helmi told Jubi on Thursday, June 1, 2023.

Final stage of trial

The trial proceedings for the Mimika murder and mutilation case have reached their final stage. On May 8, 2023, the public prosecutor presented the charges, asserting that Andre Pudjianto Lee, Dul Umam, and Rafles Lakasa had been proven to have committed premeditated murder together. According to the prosecutor, their actions of premeditated murder disrupted the stability and security of Timika City.

The prosecutor further stated that the murder, accompanied by mutilation, was driven by negative sentiments and discriminatory treatment based on identity, ethnicity, or certain groups.

In addition to seeking a life imprisonment sentence for the three defendants, the prosecutor requested that Andre Pudjianto Lee and his accomplices remain in detention and be ordered to pay court costs.

Previously on May 4, 2023, the prosecutor also presented the charges against Roy Marten Howay. Roy Marten Howay was found guilty of joint premeditated murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Military court verdict

The murder and mutilation case involved six soldiers from the Raider 20/Ima Jaya Keramo Infantry Brigade. The soldiers were separately prosecuted in the Surabaya High Military Court III and Jayapura Military Court III-19.

Maj. Inf Helmanto Fransiskus Dakhi stood trial at the Surabaya High Military Court III. On January 24, 2023, the panel of judges led by chief judge Col. Chk Sultan, along with member judges Col. Chk Agus Husin and Col. Chk Prastiti Siswayani, found Dakhi guilty of premeditated murder. He was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment and discharged from the Army.

The other five soldiers were Capt. Inf Dominggus Kainama (who passed away on December 24, 2022, due to heart disease), First Pvt. Rahmat Amin Sese, First Pvt. Rizky Oktaf Muliawan, First Pvt. Robertus Putra Clinsman, and Chief Pvt. Pargo Rumbouw.

On February 16, 2023, the Military Court III-19 Jayapura found the four defendants guilty of premeditated murder. The Court sentenced Sese and Muliawan to life imprisonment, while Clinsman received a 20-year imprisonment and Rumbouw 15 years. All were dismissed from the Army.

Maj. Inf Helmanto Fransiskus Dakhi lodged an appeal against the verdict. On April 12, 2023, the Appellate Panel of Judges at the Surabaya High Military Court III overturned the decision of the previous panel.

The Appellate Panel of Judges concluded that Dakhiwas only guilty of being an accomplice to murder, committed in association with other criminal acts with the intention of facilitating the unlawful acquisition of goods. As a result, his sentence was reduced to 15 years of imprisonment. (*)

How to mourn a forest

The Marind people of West Papua deploy mourning not only to grieve their animal and plant kin but as political resistance

 Sophie Chaois a Eurasian (French and Chinese) environmental anthropologist and environmental humanities scholar interested in the intersections of capitalism, ecology, Indigeneity, health, and justice in the Pacific. She is a DECRA fellow and lecturer at the University of Sydney, working and living on unceded Gadigal lands. Previously, she worked for the Indigenous rights organisation Forest Peoples Programme. 

Her first book is In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua (2022).  

Edited byCameron Allan McKean  4,600 words

One torrid afternoon, I journeyed with an Indigenous Marind woman and her family to a patch of razed forest at the edge of the plantation frontier, where workers had cleared the way for oil palm trees. Her name was Circia*. A mother of three in her late 50s, Circia was imposing, but her footsteps were gentle, almost silent when she led us across the wet soils of Merauke, a district in the Indonesian-controlled western half of New Guinea known as West Papua. The patch of former forest that we travelled toward that hot afternoon in May 2016 was a sacred site that belonged to her clan, forming part of the customary territory of the Marind peoples, which today number around 600 families.Though the Marind rely directly on the forest for their everyday livelihoods and subsistence, Circia had not journeyed here with her three children and nine grandchildren to forage or hunt. They had come to mourn.

Towering piles of felled trees surrounded us, ripped from the soil days earlier to make way for a 50,000-hectare oil palm plantation. Among and between the trees lay the bodies of plants and animals who had once inhabited this sacred place. The air was stiflingly hot and still. It was quiet, too, until a distant chainsaw ripped to life. Somewhere in the remaining patches of forest, plantation workers were clearing the way for more oil palm.

I visited Merauke between 2011 and 2019 while doing long-term ethnographic fieldwork with the Marind. I came to learn how they understood the spread of oil palm in their home of West Papua, which has been under Indonesian rule since the 1960s. But during the 18 months that I lived with Marind communities along the upper banks of the Bian River, Circia and her kin taught me something else: the arts of mourning. This was not only a mourning for people, but for trees, animals and ecosystems.

In our age of planetary unravelling, mourning has become a crucial disposition. It is one that allows us to acknowledge and grieve loss, but also to create or revive connections with more-than-human others. In that way, mourning becomes a form of resistance that pushes against human exceptionalism. It reminds us that we share the world with many other kinds of beings, and that these beings also have their own ways of grieving. But the space shared with other species is complicated. We are not just together in the same world, we are tangled up in each other’s lives. Other species live on and in us, they change us, and we change them, too: we breed them, farm them, mutate their genomes, eat them, research them, love them, and kill them. Increasingly, human action is leading to their extinction. Should we not mourn them, too? Acknowledging the relations that sustain or undermine life and death in multispecies worlds means also learning to practise ‘multispecies mourning’.

For Circia and the Marind, multispecies mourning can mobilise pain and grief, especially the grief that comes from witnessing profound ecological changes. But it’s not just a form of commemoration and remembering. Mourning resists the trivialisation of lives that aren’t human and the regimes of violence that make more-than-human deaths seem normal or natural. Mourning the deaths of plants, animals and landscapes, as the Marind do, demands that we rethink which deaths deserve grief, which deaths are morally sanctioned, and which are forgotten altogether. It invites us to consider how we might remember those who must die for us to thrive. But how exactly do you mourn a forest?

For three weeks, Circia and her relatives travelled to a razed patch of earth, where they sang songs, wove sago bags, and planted bamboo. They ‘shared skin and wetness’ (a set of practices known as igid dubadub in Marind) with the landscape by crying over it, touching it, smelling it, and storying it. They also cleared waterways to facilitate the movements of animals and smoothed ruts left behind by the bulldozers that were decimating the forest. That way, Circia explained, the earth’s scars could ‘heal’.

Marind communities have traditionally depended on the forest for their everyday subsistence, which they collectively procure through hunting, fishing and gathering. These plants and animals include sago palms, taro, yam, rambutans, papayas, bananas, rusa deer, riverine eels, lorises, possums, cassowaries, fowl, kangaroos, crocodiles and pigs. These sources of food are considered kin by Marind and often referred to as their ‘grandparents’ (amai in Marind) or ‘siblings’ (namek). They share common descent with Marind clans from ancestral spirits (dema) who fashioned them from primordial mud at the beginning of time. Marind relations to their plant and animal kin are grounded in principles of respect, reciprocity and care. Plants and animals grow to feed their human counterparts and, in exchange, humans must perform rituals, exercise restraint and demonstrate reverence towards these organisms and the ecologies they depend upon to survive and thrive.

In the past decade, many Marind families in the Upper Bian region have lost their native forests to monocrop plantation projects. Since 2010, the Indonesian government has allocated some 1.2 million hectares of land in Merauke to 36 domestic and international corporations for the development of oil palm, timber and sugarcane plantations. Vast swaths of forest have been felled or burned. Major watercourses have been diverted to irrigate the newly established monocrops. Many Marind villages are now encircled by oil palm and other agribusiness plantations that cover several hundred thousand hectares of former forest and extend north into the neighbouring regency of Boven Digul. Each of these plantations can range in size from 20,000 to more than 300,000 hectares. They creep to the edge of Marind settlements, encroaching on sago groves, hunting zones, sacred graveyards and ceremonial sites.

The relations between the Marind and their kindred plants, animals and elements are being severed

As we enter the third decade of this millennium, more companies are applying for operational permits. Agribusiness continues to expand relentlessly across the region, promoted by the Indonesian government and implemented by domestic and foreign corporations in the name of regional economic development and national food security in staple commodities such as oil palm, rice and sugar. These developments sit within broader processes of large-scale land investments across the tropics, a phenomenon prompted by the food, fuel and finance crisis of 2008 and driven primarily by multinational conglomerates and colluding governments across the Global North and South. The expansion of plantations also exemplifies a broader trend in oil palm expansion across the tropics, in which we are all unwittingly complicit through our daily consumption of myriad products that contain palm oil, such as cosmetics, shampoos, soaps and fast food.

Land privatisation, deforestation, soil erosion, water contamination and air pollution caused by oil palm expansion have radically jeopardised the Marind’s forest-based livelihoods and economies, as well as their food and water security. As forest landscapes give way to industrial monocrops, the relations between the Marind and their kindred plants, animals and elements are being severed. These homogeneous plantations are dominated by oil palm, a single cash crop that was introduced into West Papua in the mid-1980s that many Marind describe as aneh (alien), asing (foreign) and penjajah (colonising). As these plantations encroach further on the forest, the Marind’s capacity to seek nourishment is thwarted, and their intimate and ancestral kinships with native organisms are undermined. Kindred plants and animals struggle to survive in oil palm monocrops, which are characterised by low canopies, sparse undergrowth, unstable microclimates, high temperatures and a toxic mélange of chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides.

Loss follows in the wake of oil palm and, with it, new forms of mourning: Marind women and children weave sago bags as a form of collective healing; villagers create songs in response to roadkill they encounter; and Marind activists plant bamboos to reclaim razed lands by encouraging the growth of native vegetation. Even as forest ecosystems are destroyed and land is privatised, human and more-than-human fates remain indissociable. These arts of mourning are how Marind reckon with radical loss and actively resist the ecocidal logic underpinning the spread of oil palm. Multispecies mourning exemplifies the ways that Papuans Indigenise the planetary crisis and its more-than-human effects through their own dynamic modes of praxis and epistemics. These modes are anchored in a profound awareness of the consequential existences of plants and animals, a responsibility to celebrate their agencies, a creative impulsion to sing and tell stories about a rapidly changing world, and a refusal to live and die by the dominant nature-culture divide that positions human beings as distinct from and superior to the natural world. Together, these practices and philosophies demonstrate how learning to live more justly with other beings also entails learning how to mourn their deaths.

Sitting together in the forest on that sultry afternoon in 2016, I watched Circia’s fingers move swiftly as she twined the sago fibres into a tightly fashioned bag. As she wove, Circia wiped tears off her cheeks and smeared them deep into the moist earth.

For Circia and other Marind women, mourning the deaths of sago, bamboo and other plant and animal beings has prompted the revival of an age-old practice: making noken(handwoven bags). Fashioned by women and girls from filaments of bark and frond obtained from rattan palms, sago palms and gnetum trees, noken are used carry forest products such as vegetables, taro, cassava, kumara, fruit or firewood, and everyday items, including clove cigarettes, mobile phones, school textbooks and bibles. Other types of woven bags are used to transport young pigs – an animal of central significance in Marind ritual, barter and exchange – as well as Marind infants and children.

Noken come in all shapes and sizes: some are square, others are oblong; some are no larger than a child’s palm, others are broader than a man’s chest. Barks and knots ripple across their rough surfaces when first fashioned, but then become silky and soft with prolonged use. Gradually, rain, mud and sweat filter through the material, producing a dark and glossy veneer and a musky fragrance that reminds the Marind of the forest from which the barks and fronds are sourced. Children who fall asleep in noken are pacified by the heat of their mothers’ bodies as it permeates the cloth, but also by the soothing smells and warmth of the bag itself. Babies, infants and toddlers are held in different-sized noken, often produced from materials obtained from the same trees. That way, as Circia explained, sago and children can ‘follow each other’s lives’.

In the past, noken were woven at the birth of a child, the marriage of a relative, or the return of a distant friend. Since the arrival of oil palm plantations, Marind have started to weave noken for less celebratory reasons, such as when they discover patches of razed vegetation in their sacred forests, observe mill effluents spewing into the river, or hear the grumble of approaching bulldozers. These prompt groups of villagers to travel to the forest together and make noken, guided by elder women like Circia. Producing noken is not only an act of weaving, but something that many Marind describe as an act of healing the forest and, by extension, healing themselves.

The women repeat the movements over and over again – skin to skin, bark to bark, frond to fond

Once the group reaches the forest, they break out into small, scattered circles and sit in silence, some with their heads bent low, others observing their surrounds, and many weeping as they remember their experiences and encounters with forest death. This preliminary stage lets people release their pain. The act of weaving that follows involves an intimate mingling of human and vegetal limbs, which many Marind say helps to heal their emotional and physical severance from the forest. Women squat behind their children and guide their fingers along the translucent filaments, one after the other, one within the other. They murmur gently in their apprentices’ ears. ‘This way,’ says Circia. ‘Now that way, now this way again.’ Circia’s younger sister, Petra, chimes in, whispering: ‘The threads, like a river flowing. Your fingers, like a river flowing. All of us, like a river flowing.’

The women repeat the movements over and over again – skin to skin, bark to bark, frond to fond. All the while telling the stories of the species from whom the filaments derive, the forest beings with whom they co-exist, the land on which they thrive, and the different clans with whom they share descent: cassowaries, pigs, possums, tree-kangaroos, birds of paradise, sago grubs, nipa palms, and more.

Every so often, weavers hand over their half-finished bags to another group member, so that they may weave into it their own wetness and grief. A spiral of movement and materiality forms across the collective, binding them like they bind the bark in their hands, until every bag has passed through the hands of all those present. In the process, the togetherness of noken weaving takes multiple, interconnected forms: the sturdy yet flexible vegetal filaments, the symbiotic species from which these filaments derive, and the kin-bound people who fashion, exchange, gift and wear them.

Noken weaving is as much about making multispecies relations as it is about mourningthem. By combining processes of making and mourning, this practice offers a potent way out of the paralysing politics of despair that can arise in the face of generalised ecocide, as industrial processes undermine conditions of life at a global scale. Learning to live with other species also entails learning to mourn the multispecies worlds that disappear with each organismic death. It is this ethos that the Marind invoke as they mourn and celebrate by weaving with their significant human and vegetal others.

Over the past decade, a growing network of roads and highways has spread across the Upper Bian to facilitate the transportation of labourers, equipment and oil palm fruit between settlements, plantations, mills, refineries and ports. Some of these roads are privately owned by corporations and restricted to company personnel. Other projects, such as the Trans-Papuan Highway, have been initiated by the government in the name of regional economic development and transregional connectivity. Along these vast and winding capillaries – made from asphalt, concrete, dust and dirt – ecocide manifests in the form of roadkill: forest beings violently crushed by passing vehicles.

As they journey across the landscape, the Marind regularly encounter the mangled bodies, leaking entrails, scattered limbs and blood-stained feathers of their barely recognisable yet all-too-familiar kin. Nothing can be done in the face of these violent and often slow deaths. But, if you are Marind, you must nonetheless stop. You must turn off the engine of your motorbike. You must get off and stand by your dead or dying kin – a feathered ‘sibling’ or shiny-scaled ‘grandparent’. You must not turn away. And you must sing.

Sami, Sami, you slip, you slide
Sister of the forest, sister of the grove 
Sami, Sami, you weave, you glide 
Sister of the river, sister of the swamp 
Your skin is sleek and shiny, patterned by the land 
Silent and shy, you slither across the land 
Moving soil and leaf, patterning the land. 

Here you lie, Sami, snake sister 
Your body crushed, your wetness gone 
I cannot bear to look at you, I cannot bear to leave 
The trucks and cars, they took away your life 
Robbed you of your wetness, robbed you of your pride. 

Here you lie, Sami, sister snake 
I was not here to save you, I could not spare you death 
Sami, Sami, in leaves and fronds, I’ll wrap you 
With my arms and my legs, I’ll take you 
To a quiet, green place, I’ll carry you 
To that place where your fathers and forefathers were born. 

And there, you will find rest 
In the cool shade of the forest, you can sleep 
There, no pain or dust will haunt you 
The rain and soil will hold you 
This nightmare will release you 
I beseech you, accept from me this song 
Through it you will live on.

These lyrics were composed by Andreas, a Marind youth, upon discovering the pulverised remains of his clan’s sibling, the snake, along a recently constructed stretch of the Trans-Papuan Highway. Songs about roadkill, Andreas explained, celebrate the origins and lifeways of Marind’s more-than-human kin. They speak to the ancestral connections between organisms killed by the road and the individuals who discover them. They also allow the Marind to express their shame for not being present or able to spare their kin a tortuous death in the alien environment of newly built roads.

The villagers stood or kneeled in a circle around the body of a maimed boar

Here, the form of dying matters as much as the fact of death itself. Unlike organisms hunted in the forest and treated with customary ritual care, respect and reverence, organisms killed on the road are flattened into mutilated and disfigured remnants of themselves. If they survive being crushed, they are left to rot, where they will suffer a humiliating and lonely death, gasping for air. Songs about roadkill, then, come to embody a last rite of sorts, and a way of reckoning with the enormity of this form of loss that repeats over and over again across the landscape, under the indifferent weight of passing trucks and cars.

As with weaving, singing-as-mourning is a collective practice. I discovered this during the summer of 2016, when Serafina, a young Marind woman and close friend of mine, encountered roadkill near her home village of Khalaoyam after returning from a fishing expedition. Dropping her nets and harpoons, Serafina wailed to draw the attention of her relatives in the village, who rushed to meet us. The villagers stood or kneeled in a circle around the body of a maimed boar. Then Serafina began to sing in a slow, deep and guttural voice. She was searching for words, swallowing back tears, composing grief. When she stumbled on her words or stopped her singing, another member of the group took over, fleshing out the song with new meanings and memories. Human words were interspersed with mellifluous whistles, deep caws, husky hoots and gravelly grunts – those who did not sing continued to give voice to the voices of those whom they mourned. Sometimes, a bird in the forest will respond with a distant, muted call, which is how the Marind ‘know that the forest is listening’, as Andreas’s younger brother Okto explained. ‘They know that the forest, too, is grieving.’

Songs about roadkill are often accompanied by other acts of commemoration that give forest creatures something akin to a peaceful afterlife after a harrowing and lonely death. The remains are wrapped in fronds, carried to nearby patches of forest, buried in the soil, and covered with offerings of leaves, sago flour, nuts and shoots. People regularly visit and pay their respects to roadkill as they travel a landscape dotted with makeshift burial grounds. They stop to sing new songs and leave small gifts. Often, they bring to the dead the silent companionship of yet another victim recently salvaged from the dusty road. A crushed black-crested bulbul, yellow-feathered and lighter than a betelnut, is laid beside the mangled casque of a cassowary, its feathers and claws stripped and sold by plantation workers. A mature wild boar joins them in the ground, its hair matted with clots of blood and froth. Then Marind sing for the animals’ children and grandchildren, both already-gone and never-to-come. In doing so, they grieve not only the deaths they witness in the present, but also the deaths they anticipate will occur in the near and distant future as oil palm plantations continue to expand relentlessly across their native lands and forests.

Planting constitutes a third art of mourning on the West Papuan oil palm frontier. This involves harvesting juvenile bamboo shoots or rhizomes from the forest and transplanting them along the boundaries of customary territories owned by different Marind clans – particularly where these boundaries intersect with oil palm plantations. It’s a practice introduced by Indigenous Marind land rights activists. On one hand, planting demarcates and reclaims lands wrongfully stolen from the Marind by agribusiness corporations. But planting is about more than defining boundaries. For the Marind, it’s a way of acknowledging a kind of death for which the healing practices of singing and weaving aren’t suited. Singing and weaving serve to commemorate the deaths of specific sites or particular organisms: a patch of sacred forest, or a snake-sibling murdered on the road. Planting as mourning, on the other hand, is directed to death at a scale that is difficult to see, touch or fully comprehend. It is a death that unfurls across the hundreds and thousands of hectares of land now converted to monocrops. It is a death that is distributed across plants and animals, but also the elements and the land itself as it is sapped of its nutrients and minerals through monocultural exploitation. Planting seeks to recreate vegetal life within and against the plantation itself as a zone of death.

Solemnly and silently, villagers get to their knees, dig with their bare hands, and carefully place the rhizomes they have harvested from the forest into the ground before covering them up with a light layer of soil. Then, the group members utter prayers and words of thanks to the forest and the bamboo for its presence and nourishment. They enumerate the many animals and plants who have died here because of oil palm, and who therefore must be mourned. They entice the bamboo to grow fast, wide and well, so that it might offer food and shade to those who encounter it. They exhort the bamboo not to get sick or die, like so many others, but rather to flourish.

These utterances are enhanced by physical exchanges of skin and wetness, as villagers rub their tears and sweat onto the rhizomes as they bury them and along the smooth surface of previously planted stems. The growth of bamboo signals that the plant has listened to peoples’ voices and imbibed their life-sustaining wetness.

Planting bamboo is uncannily effective in undermining the operations of the plantations

The plants selected by the Marind, primarily the Nastus genus of bamboo, are characterised by their resilience and fast growth. Remarkably tolerant of both drought and waterlogging, Nastus bamboos develop from short rhizomes that grow into large, dense clumps. Each plant produces new shoots throughout the year, growing up to 30 centimetres daily before reaching a maximum height of up to 30 metres in their first year.

Pointing out the tangled, sturdy shoots of a bamboo cluster, Paskalus, a young man from Khalaoyam village, explained:

Bamboos are like Marind. Tall, strong and resilient. They know how to live with drought and monsoon, and forest and swamp. Their roots extend far and wide, holding the soil together. Bamboos do not know how to live alone. Instead, they grow with each other, close to one another, like this bamboo cluster, right here.

Paskalus then directed my gaze to the canopy, where towering mature bamboo stalks swayed in the mid-morning breeze. The sunlight reflected off their smooth surfaces down into the undergrowth, where smaller shoots were emerging from the soil. Paskalus ran his fingers up and down the stems and said: ‘The elderly ones, the young ones, the tall and short ones – they grow together and so they grow stronger.’

Though used in mourning practices, planting bamboo is also uncannily effective in undermining the operations and effectiveness of the plantations that state and corporate entities seek to control. For instance, bamboo shoots are largely invisible, subterranean and consequently overlooked. They lie dormant at first, and then erupt as they proliferate, creep and climb along and across each other to form thick clusters that are relatively resistant to herbicides and almost impossible to fully eradicate. Moving, cutting, unearthing and spraying eradicates bamboo only if all roots, shoots, rhizomes and culms are broken up and removed. If even the tiniest, stray fragment of a root remains in the ground, new growths will form, and the bamboo will multiply all over again, turning once-uniform oil palm monocrops into thickly overgrown, unwieldy landscapes, and therefore more expensive and difficult to manage.

Bamboo shares ‘wetness’ with the Marind activists who manually replant it, wipe their tears into it, and entice it to grow. The plant’s fast growth and resiliency make it a partner in Marind struggles for territorial and environmental justice. Planting bamboo will never compensate for the vastness of death that oil palm plantations generate, but it’s nonetheless a powerful form of mourning-as-resistance. To replant bamboo is an act that commemorates the dead and helps break up the homogeneity of industrial oil palm landscapes.

During the past decade, Marind communities on the West Papuan plantation frontier taught me many forms of mourning. Weaving noken commemorates the shared injuries suffered by the forest and the humans who live on the plantation frontier. Singing eulogies refuses indifference to the fate of animals violently killed by cars and trucks. And planting bamboo challenges the homogeneity of monocrop landscapes and the innumerable plant and animal deaths that these landscapes produce.

The Marind peoples are aware that mourning alone will not achieve the social change needed to halt planetary ecocide. But these arts of mourning still matter. They mobilise pain – of humans and their many kin – to resist the trivialisation of regimes of violence that naturalise the deaths of plants, animals or forests. They are modest and resilient, poetic and political. They embody collective modes of reckoning, refusal and resistance. Cultivating arts of mourning demands that we envision a future not just by looking forward, but also by looking back – by remembering those who have been obliterated in the name of productivity and profitability. In Merauke, along the upper banks of the Bian River, arts of mourning draw together human and more-than-human worlds through shared planting, singing, weeping and weaving.

We sat cross-legged by the bamboos, running our fingers across the stalks like we had with Circia

 last visited Merauke in June 2019. Serafina told me that her grandmother Circia had died a few months earlier from pneumonia. I asked to visit the site where Circia had once taught us how to weave noken, but Serafina replied that this was not possible. The former patch of forest had since been planted with oil palm and fenced off with barbed wire. Instead, Serafina suggested we pay Circia a visit.

I was led by hand to the boundary of an oil palm concession located near Serafina’s home village. Here, between road and plantation, a row of fresh bamboo shoots rose green and translucent from the dirt. Circia had replanted them a few weeks before her passing. Short of breath and ridden with arthritic pains, she had painstakingly harvested the shoots from a part of the forest that was soon to be cleared for oil palm. She nurtured them in a plot of soil near her hut, and then gave them a new home at the edge of the concession.

Serafina and I spoke of Circia’s weaving, singing and planting until the sun set. We sat cross-legged by the bamboos, running our fingers across the stalks like we had when Circia enskilled us in the art of making noken. Though she was no longer with us, she left in her wake a place of meaningful mourning and continuance – a place where death and emergence were intertwined. Even in her afterlife, Serafina explained, Circia’s presence continued in the bamboo shoots thriving around us and in the arts of mourning she had taught us.

* Pseudonyms have been used throughout for reasons of security and privacy.

This essay is derived in part from Sophie Chao’s article ‘Multispecies Mourning: Grieving as Resistance on the West Papuan Oil Palm Frontier’ published by the journal Cultural Studies (Taylor & Francis, 2022)

23 May 2023

765 thousand hectares of forest turned into nickel mining concessions

Walhi mengungkapkan konsesi lahan untuk tambang nikel di Indonesia mencapai 1.037.435,22 hektare pada 2022. Ilustrasi (REUTERS/AJENG DINAR ULFIANA)


CNN Indonesia – May 16, 2023

Jakarta — The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) has revealed that land concessions for nickel mining in Indonesia reached 1,037,435.22 hectares in 2022.

Walhi campaign division head Puspa Dewy said that of this total,765,237.07 hectares are located in forest areas.

“The allocation of nickel mining concessions in 2022 was 1,037,435.22 hectares where 765,237.07 hectares of this were in forest areas”, said Dewy when speaking in Central Jakarta on Tuesday May 16.

The extent of these concessions experienced an increase on the previous year. Walhi noted that nickel mining concession covered 999,587.66 hectares in 2021 with 653,759.16 hectares of these located in forest areas.

Dewy explained that the increase in the concession areas for nickel mining was influenced by the government’s ambition to create an electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem. Nickel is needed for the manufacturing of electric batteries.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo issued Presidential Regulation Number

55/2019 on the Acceleration of Battery Based Motorised Electric Vehicles Program.

Then the president also issued Presidential Instruction Number 7/2022 on the Use of Battery Based Electric Vehicles as an Official Operational Vehicle for the Central and Regional Governments.

In addition to this, the government is also providing incentives to electric vehicle realted companies. “By providing fiscal and non-fiscal incentives”, she said.

Dewy said that nickel mining, which has become massive, especially in forest areas, threatens the environment. She gave the example of the Ake Wosia River in Central Halmahera, North Maluku province, which is known to be polluted by mining in the region.

“At least four rivers are polluted, namely the Ake Wosia, Ake Sake, Seslewe Sini and Kobe”, she said.

Dewy is recommending that the government tighten the issuance of nickel mining concessions, adding that mining activities are not allowed to be conducted in essential areas.

“Such as forest, coastal and areas that influence the ordinary people’s sources of livelihood”, she said.

CNN Indonesia has sought a response from Environment and Forestry Ministry Secretary General Bambang Hendroyono but has not received a response as of this article being posted. (yla/fra)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was

“Walhi: 765 Ribu Ha Kawasan Hutan Jadi Konsensi Tambang Nikel”.]

Peak Islamic body wants Billkin & PP Krit fan meeting banned over LGBT concerns

CNN Indonesia – May 12, 2023

Jakarta — Indonesia Ulama Council (MUI) Deputy Chairperson Anwar Abbas is asking that a fan meeting with gay Thai actors and musicians Billkin and PP Krit that is planned to be held in Indonesia be cancelled because they a symbol of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) groups.

“The Indonesian government should prohibit them from holding a fan meeting or public meeting with Indonesian citizens because such a thing would mean that the government tolerates LGBT practices”, said Abbas in a statement on Friday May 12.

Abbas said that Indonesia has the 1945 Constitution (UUD 1945), which clearly regulates that Indonesia is a country based on Belief in the Almighty God (Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa).

Because of this, he is asking the government not to tolerate practices or activities that conflict with religious teachings.

“Out of the six religions that are acknowledged in this country, namely Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism, not one tolerates LGBT practices”, he said.

LGBT, said Abbas, is considered to be an anti-human and anti-humanity movement. He is of the view that humanity could become extinct if the practice is allowed to perpetuate.

“Therefore LGBT acts have no place in this country because this matter is clearly not in line with humanitarian values and justice”, he added.

Billkin and PP Krit are two young Thai actors who are well known through several Thai TV drama series including “My Ambulance”, “I Told Sunse About You” and “I Promised You The Moon”.

The Billkin and PP Krit fan meeting is part of an Asia tour by the pair that will begin in early June. The Billkin and PP Krit fan meeting in Indonesia will be held on June 10 at the Senayan Indoor Tennis Centre in Jakarta. Ticket sales meanwhile will open on May 12 at 7 pm.

Billkin and PP Krit fan meeting tickets in Jakarta are divided into five categories. Tickets are priced at between 1.5 million rupiah for the cheapest and 2.7 million rupiah for the most expensive. (rzr/isn)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “MUI Larang Fan Meeting Billkin & PP Krit di Indonesia”.]