Jayapura- West Papuan Indigenous Auyu people and their lawyers yesterday presented a barrage of evidence in their legal fight to reclaim tens of thousands of hectares of traditional forest land handed to a Malaysian palm oil company, PT Indo Asiana Lestari (PT IAL).

Among the 50 documents submitted were the results of participatory mapping of the extent of the traditional lands belonging to the Woro clan of the Auyu people, who live in the richly forested Boven Digoel district located in the Indonesian territory known internationally as West Papua. Also included was a declaration rejecting the palm oil project, sent to the government in 2018 by the Boven Digoel Indigenous Peoples Association.  

The files prove that the Provincial Government of Papua made a mistake in issuing an environmental permit for PT IAL which did not heed the rights of Indigenous peoples and the threat of the current climate crisis, said Tigor Gemdita Hutapea, a member of the legal team.

“The evidence we submitted demonstrates that the palm oil permit issuance takes away the Auyu people’s traditional forest lands, and will cause environmental damage and exacerbate climate change. The government decision is in error, and violates the plaintiff’s rights as Indigenous Peoples,” said Tigor.

Meanwhile the palm oil company has so far presented no evidence to defend its permit, but instead has made an application to the court that its documents be kept secret from the Auyu and their legal team, claiming commercial confidentiality.

“The respondents would love to keep their business confidential, but the nature of confidentiality must be in accordance with the Freedom of Information Law. Administrative law procedures also stipulate that all evidence is open. We hope that the panel of judges will reject the company’s motion,” said Tigor.

From outside the Jayapura Administrative Court, support poured in for the Auyu people’s struggle. The Papuan Student, Youth and Peoples’ Alliance (Ampera) staged a peaceful demonstration in front of the court, delivering impassioned speeches and theatrical actions in solidarity with the Auyu plaintiffs.

Apart from their lawsuit in the Jayapura Administrative Court, representatives of the Auyu Indigenous people have also filed a complaint with the National Commission on Human Rights in Jakarta. 

The government’s issuance of a palm oil plantation permit to PT IAL is also out of step with Indonesia’s promise to tackle climate change. According to Indonesia’s Enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement, the government is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 31 percent, or 43 percent with international financial support, by 2030. Indonesia’s largest source of emissions is from land use and deforestation, yet the issuance of PT IAL’s environment permit is expected to trigger deforestation of ​​26,326 hectares of primary forest, releasing approximately 23 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – five percent of the nation’s anticipated annual carbon emissions for 2030.

Notes to Editors:

Photos available of the trial and peaceful demonstration. Note that Auyu is also written in Indonesian as ‘Awyu’. 

Media Contact:

Tigor Hutapea, Bentala Rakyat Heritage Foundation, +62 812-8729-6684

Igor O’Neill, Greenpeace Indonesia, [email protected] +61-414-288-424