Members of the Batin Sembilan people living in the Harapan Rainforest Project in Sumatra recently sent a letter to KfW and Germany’s International Climate Initiative, requesting that they ask PT REKI, the company running Harapan, “to prioritize conflict resolution efforts” and to avoid “intimidating and insulting language and communication”.
The International Climate Initiative, under Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation Nuclear Safety (BMU), is one of the funders of the Harapan project, and KfW is the implementing agency for the €7,575,000 grant to Harapan.
In February 2013, some of the Batin Sembilan people wrote to PT REKI to complain about aspects of the Harapan project. PT REKI responded the following month. In its letter PT REKI states that,
Harapan Rainforest management never and will never intimidate or conduct any violence against your family at Simpang Macan luar, or the indigenous people of SAD Bathin Sembilan in general in the Harapan Rainforest.
REDD-Monitor looks forward to posting the response from KfW and Germany’s International Climate Initiative to this letter. The original letter is available here in Bahasa Indonesia (pdf file 703.5 kB).
KfW German Development Bank
BMU International Climate Initiative
Subject: Letter from the Suku Anak Dalam Batin Sembilan, Jambi
We are the indigenous Suku Anak Dalam Batin Sembilan, who have been living for centuries around nine streams that flow to nine areas where we live. To us, a river or what we referred to as ‘Batin’ in the local term, serves not only as our source of life, but also our social and cultural identity. Our identity (tribes and living areas) is associated with and addressed by the names of the rivers that flow to where we live, namely Batin Bulian, Batin Jebak, Batin Bahar, Batin Sekamis, Batin Jangga, Batin Singgoan, Batin Burung Antu, Batin Pemusiran and Batin Telisak.
Our ancestors, “Depati Seneneng Ikan Tanah” and Raden Ontar, were the leaders of the 9 Batin before the Dutch came to Jambi. Traditionally, we live by hunting and gathering fruits and forest honey (in sialang trees). Our relationship with our sources of livelihoods, which are provided by nature, is very close, and so is ours with lands and water resources. Land management and control are governed by inter-family social ties (“puyang” and “waris”) and traditional knowledge. However, government’s policies and the introduction of extractive industries to our lands have disrupted our life system.
Since 2007, PT. Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (PT. REKI) – a conservation company – has been operating in Suku Anak Dalam’s areas, notably in the Sungai Kandang (Batin Bahar), the Sungai Markanding (Batin Bahar) and the Sungai Lalan. According to PT REKI, they have obtained a concession permit from the Ministry of Forestry. We know nothing about the licensing process nor have we been involved in the process. Both the Ministry and the company have never consulted us nor have they asked for our consent concerning their plan to carry out conservation projects, which are referred to by them as Restorasi Ekosistem (ecosystem restoration). On the contrary, PT REKI tends to prefer closed dialogs and does not share broad and comprehensive information on the plan. Very often, they say and argue that they hold an official permit from the Ministry of Forestry to control the land and forests, which have historically been ours.
We do not deny that there are some groups within the Suku Anak Dalam Batin Sembilan that agree to be engaged in PT REKI’s program under the “nursery cooperation partnership” and “Mitra Zone” as well as working for PT REKI. However, respect should also be paid to those choosing not to cooperate with the company. No discrimination or even intimidation should be imposed on the latter, who choose to defend their customary rights to land and struggle for sovereignty over sources of livelihood without having to work for or partner with the company,
In our view, PT REKI should avoid adopting a ‘divide and rule’ approach within the Suku Anak Dalam Batin Sembilan. Deep in our heart, we never blame or insult our families who have chosen to cooperate with the company; we respect their decision. However, we will fight if our decision not to cooperate with the company is considered obstructive to the project and we are then treated as fools and are not allowed to express different opinions and to communicate with parties having sympathy to our choice or if we are treated as criminals. We will continue our struggle to have sovereignty over sources of livelihood, which we have been managing based on our traditional knowledge and expertise.
In the beginning, we had a great expectation that PT REKI was different from other timber (HPH) and monoculture companies, which showed no respect for our customs and which even altered our knowledge and life systems. Some of what PT REKI has done to us, however, reminds us of our past experience: they have never shared good and easy-to-understand information on its plans nor have they consulted us or asked for our consent; some of its staffs have even intimidated us, causing some of the families to move out in fear of forced displacement. We also have to find other sources of livelihood as our access to and use of our forests are limited.
We understand that PT REKI is a conservation company seeking to maintain and restore Indonesia’s tropical forests, which have been under threat of extinction. In principle, its objectives are in line with the values and life system we are stick to because forests are the backbone of our lives. However, we ask PT REKI and the Ministry of Forestry to understand that we have customary rights we have been exercising for generations to the lands where PT REKI is operating. The company should not add to the suppression and violation of our rights committed by timber (HPH) and monoculture companies in the past.
Therefore, we, the indigenous Suku Anak Dalam Batin Sembilan from the Sungai Kandang, Sungai Markanding and Sungai Lalan, request KfW (German Development Bank) and BMU International Climate Initiative – as the funders of PT REKI’s projects – to:
- Speak to and remind PT REKI to respect the rights of the Suku Anak Dalam Batin Sembilan, particularly those living by the Sungai Lalan, Sungai Markanding and Sungai Kandang;
- Remind PT REKI not to intimidate the Suku Anak Dalam Batin Sembilan, nor should it prevent us from asking for help and building communication with NGOs concerned about our fate and struggle; committing this means isolating us from interacting with the outside world;
- Evaluate PT REKI’s projects as it has never shared broad, comprehensive and easy-to-understand information on its plans and as it has never held fair and just consultations with us nor has it listened to our view of its projects;
- Ask PT REKI to prioritize conflict resolution efforts that are peaceful, fair, just and dignified and that respect our customary rights; ask it not to use intimidating and insulting language and communication and not to ever force us to follow the plans it has formulated unilaterally.
We do expect that BMU International Climate Initiative and KfW could provide us with favorable responses.
Customary Representatives of the Suku Anak Dalam Batin 9
Jambi, 18 March 2013
Pangkalan Ranjau Sungai Lalan
Pangkalan Ranjau Sungai Lalan
PHOTO Credit: Burung Indonesia.