Indonesian House works on indigenous peoples bill
"Violations of the rights of indigenous people continue to occur, although they played a key role in protecting the country during the colonial era, hundreds years ago," lawmaker Ignatius Mulyono, chairman of the House legislative committee, said in Jakarta yesterday (November 19). The committee has studied 15 laws or regulations applicable to indigenous people, including Article 18 of the 1945 Constitution and Law No. 5/1960 on agrarian issues.
Mulyono said the draft bill comprised nine sections and 36 articles. "It covers a wide range of issues relating to indigenous peoples, such as a definition for indigenous people, their rights, responsibilities and empowerment, funding mechanisms and much more," he said. Several challenges remain as lawmakers continue deliberations, including a debate on whether to call the subjects of the law "indigenous people" (masyarakat adat) or "people with indigenous law" (masyarakat hukum adat). "We still need to define these two terms, because 'indigenous people' has a wide range of meaning and the numbers of such people will continue to grow," Mulyono said. To verify those who would be designated as indigenous people, the legislative committee has conducted studies in eight provinces: Aceh, Bali, Central Java, Riau Islands, West Kalimantan, West Java, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), West Sumatra and Yogyakarta. Mulyono said that he hoped that the committee would finish deliberations before the House’s current legislative session ends in December so that the bill can be forwarded to the President. Abdon Nababan, the secretary-general of the Nusantara Alliance for Indigenous People, or AMAN, said that conflicts over land and natural resources were the most outstanding issues for the alliance. "Over the last 10 years, there have been two things that have become the main enemies of indigenous peoples, as their numbers continue to grow very expansively: palm oil plantations and mining exploitation," Nababan told The Jakarta Post. The draft bill currently under deliberation would grant indigenous people a stronger legal foundation to defend their rights, he said. "Up until to now, if there is conflict between indigenous people and companies or other legal bodies, they don't have any legal standing. They have no legal standing to bring the perpetrators to the courts. It's dangerous, because they can easily be beaten," Nababan said. Devasish Roy, the co-chair of the United Nations Indigenous People's Partnership (UNIPP) policy board and a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said the draft bill should contain substantive recognition of the rights of indigenous people and a contextual statement on how to implement the rights already recognised. Roy said that although indigenous peoples have been excluded from the nation-building process in almost every country in the world, those in Indonesia should be pragmatic about the bill under consideration in the House. "If you have a bill with 10 things, comprising five things that support indigenous people and five things that do not support indigenous peoples, I think that the indigenous people should think about they should go with the bill or not," Roy said. Albert Barume, the PRO 169 coordinator at the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation (ILO), said that deliberations on the bill should have involved indigenous people from the beginning to avoid mistakes that might worsen their plight.
Tags: Land rights