ECP Bishops to DoJ Secretary: do the right thing, withdraw terrorist list and continue peace talks
In a statement of “deep concern” over the alleged terrorist list filed in court by the Department of Justice (DoJ), the Council of Bishops of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines (ECP) urged the DoJ Secretary to “withdraw the list if not the petition altogether” as great risk and threats of harassment looms on the individuals listed including two of the ECP’s members – International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) Global Coordinator Beverly Longid and the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.
The ECP statement was released in response to the DoJ petition filed at the Manila Regional Trial Court last February seeking to tag the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist groups under the Human Security Act of 2007. The petition includes over 600 names accused of membership in the CPP-NPA. Other than Longid and Corpuz, both known as international Indigenous Peoples (IP) rights advocates who are also Indigenous Bontok-Kankanaey from the Mountain Province, IP leaders also found in the list are Joan Carling, Atty. Jose Molintas, Windel Bolinget, Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding, Joanna Carino, Datu Isidro Indao, Datu Mandayhon, and Datu Mampadayag.
“Due to my social involvement, I have experienced threats, harassments, and intimidation from suspected State agents,” Longid said in her personal statement. Similarly, the ECP stated that human rights advocates and ECP members accused of trumped up cases reported being subject of harassments making them vulnerable to unjust vexation – something they believe should have ended during the Martial Law years.
Attacks on IP and human rights activists is “a reaction [of the government] to [the] defense of Lumads caught in the massive military operations launched by Rodrigo Duterte” as Tauli-Corpuz pointed out in an interview. Longid also stressed, “Impunity reigns in my country, and the pronouncements and actions of Duterte show his total disregard for human rights, peoples’ welfare and interests, and rule of law, undermining our tight to speak freely and other basic freedoms.”
The ECP expressed that, instead of vilifying and putting people in great risk, the government must push for the peace talks with the National Democratic Front to prosper by addressing the ‘socio-economic issues [that] have spawned the long-drawn conflict in this land’ and put an end to ‘killing each other for another generation’. The IPMSDL reports that numerous cases of IP rights violations, killings, and attacks on culture and ways of life are the result of state military and para-military abuses carried out under the guise of counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism activities.
“The International IPMSDL organization, and I in my personal capacity, is overwhelmed by this show of solidarity to drop the DoJ terrorist list. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the whole Council,” Longid declared regarding the ECP’s statement. “At the same time, we appeal to all to echo the call to dismiss and delist the names in the DoJ petition and stand for everyone’s democratic rights for lawful dissent without fearing for their safety and security.”
Reference: Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator | email@example.com
CLICK HERE to view the ECP Council of Bishops’ Statement.
PRESS RELEASE | International Indigenous Peoples Movement praises local councils’ resolution against PH terrorist list
International Indigenous Peoples Movement praises local councils’ resolution against PH terrorist list
“Activism is not terrorism. And with the growing support of local councils in the Philippines against the terrorist tagging by the Duterte administration, I am more than thankful for the reassurance that our fight for the rights, freedom, and justice of Indigenous Peoples are legitimate,” said International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) Global Coordinator Beverly Longid, referring to the passing of Resolution No. 27 – 2018 by the Sangguniang Bayan of the Municipality of Sagada, the Resolution No. 2018-182 by the Mountain Province Provincial Board, and the Baguio City Council Resolution No. 92.
IPMSDL commends the Municipality of Sagada’s resolution last April 16 “requesting the Department of Justice/Philippine government to drop in its terrorist tag the following persons, namely: Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Joan Carling, Beverly L. Longid, Atty. Jose Molintas, Windel Bolinget, Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding and Joanna Cariño.” Similarly, last March 20, the Baguio City passed a resolution “urging the government to drop the ’terrorist’ tag against Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) leaders.”
“As a daughter of the Cordillera, I am glad that these councils recognized that the Department of Justice (DOJ) fabricated the terrorist list in the proscription which includes my name and my colleagues in the CPA. I have been with different internationally-recognized IP organizations and civil society movements here and abroad since the 80s. These councils know us and our passion in advocating for the respect and recognition of IP rights,” Longid, an Indigenous Bontok-Kankanaey, explained.
The DOJ petition for proscription released on February 21, 2018 listed over 600 names for alleged membership in the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) -organizations which allegedly use “acts of terror to sow fear and panic to overthrow the government.”
With the recent killings and illegal arrests of human rights workers and activists, the ‘terrorist list’ merely intensifies the government’s free pass to arrest voices critical of the Duterte government, including IP and human rights defenders. Recently, Fr. Mark Ventura, a Catholic priest and an IP and anti-mining advocate was shot dead in front of children and choir members after having mass in Cagayan last April 29.
“These are dark times indeed for human rights in the Philippines. I recently became a grandmother and I would like to spend time with my family, especially my granddaughter, without fearing for our safety. That’s why I thank all institutions, organizations, and individuals in the Philippines and abroad who echo our call to drop the DOJ petition and guarantee the protection of every activists’ human rights,” ended Longid.
The morning was filled with much excitement as we plan to visit a Maasai community, not far away from Nairobi City in Kenya. For long, I heard Maasai leaders intervening in several indigenous peoples’ forums at the United Nations, but have not visited Maasai territories before. Members of the Working Group on Conflict and Fragility of CSO partnership for Development Effectiveness were able to visit the Maasai community members of Olkaria area on 8th March 2018 and to orient on pattern of conflict persisting among the Maasai people of Kenya and persisting challenges to their survival as peoples. The Maasai are one of the major indigenous peoples of Kenya, also inhabiting the Serengeti region of Tanzania. The traditional territories of the Maasai people are abundant with diversified wildlife and their way of life and cultures centered on their protracted affinity with nature and wildlife.
After crossing the highlands overlooking the Rift Valley, we entered into a territory close to the Naivasha Lake, where multiple agribusiness farms lined up, several with rose and other exotic flowers farms. As we reached the Hell’s Gate National Park managed by the Kenyan Wildlife Services (KWS), an ominous sign warns us, “Those entering the park enter at their own risk and whatever happen, the WFS will not be responsible”. Why should a place on earth be referred to a hell? The Park located close to the Great Rift Valley spreading over 64 Sq. Km provokes a peculiar curiosity on the nomenclature.
As one drive through the park shortly, one will be greeted by the Giraffes, with the young ones curiously gazing on by-passers, a playful Impala fleeing to safety, zebras unwary of passing vehicles. Entering further in the park, close to an imposing landscape in the form of a massive Canyon, we reached the Maasai Olkaria Cultural Centre, a spot close to the National park with few make shift stall with Maasai artifacts and craft on display for sale. A team of Maasai, comprising several women, youths and elders greeted us. The traditional Maasai dark Red, green and blue striped attires worn by Maasai elderly men and woman presents a charming contrast to the lucid colors of the forest, the sky and the imposing landscape and gorges. The Maasai village settlement, which I wish to witness, is missing.
As we interacted with the community leaders, the shrill roaring sound originating from various sites of the Geothermal Energy Projects, almost a kilometer from the Maasai Cultural Center, but within the Hell’s Gate National Park, is too loud and deafening. The loud sound is almost akin to the sound of a Jet Airplane booming in the sky continuously and disturbs our interaction with the Maasai elders.
Mr. Daniel Shaa, one of the elderly Maasai shared that long before, the Maasai people seek their livelihood and survival over a huge area of land and the Maasai had community ownership of land without any land titles. The British forcibly took land from the Maasai and pushed them to small areas of land to survive. Land taken from the Maasai are never returned even after Kenya’s independence from British. Land surrendered by Britishers was then grabbed by powerful elites who imposed land titles and continued with grabbing Maasai peoples land. Again, the remaining lands of the Maasai in Olkaria region near the Great Rift Valley are again converted into national parks and as sites for Geothermal Power Plants. Massive agribusiness, for instance, rose and other flower gardens for exports are also established by rich Kenyans and Dutch agribusiness farms units, leading to further alienation of land. The Kenya Wildlife Services while seeking land from the Maasai for the Park, falsely promised them to share revenue from the National Park, but now after all their land are taken away by the park, KWS only imposed restrictions on their free access to the Park and prosecuted them for being in the park, a land that rightfully belonged to them for generations. The ongoing processes of fencing of the park area by the KWS that cuts through the Maasai Culture Centre, a small remnant of Fourteen (14) Acres is against their will and bereft of seeking their consent. This will further restricts their access to their land and disturb the small economic activity of Maasai women by trading their traditional crafts and artifact to park visitors. With their land alienated and their only survival sources extinguished, the Maasai people of Olkaria will further be impoverished and pushed to brink of survival.
Indeed, the geothermal energy projects, Olkaria I, Olkaria II, Olkaria III, commissioned in 2000, Olkaria IV, commissioned in 2014 are introduced inside the Maasai territory, now located within the Hell’s Gate National Park. In 2010, the European Investment Bank, together with the World Bank, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW, Germany’s development bank), the French Development Agency and Japan International Cooperation Agency invested in the Olkaria V in further extension of the geothermal energy projects, Olkaria I and IV, involving the construction of additional 280 MW geothermal generation capacity. The African Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, USAID, Power Africa, US Overseas Private Investment Corporation also financed portion of the project. By 2016, Kenya was producing 544 MW of geothermal energy and the Government is embarking on initiatives to increase geothermal energy generation up to 1,110 MW by 2020. With additional plans to set up and commission more geothermal projects in the area, the area will simply be inhabitable, not just due to the increased and deafening sounds but also due the multifaceted environmental impacts.
Ms. Esther Silom, a Maasai elderly woman from Olkaria also shared the suffering of Maasai people aggravated since the creation of Hell’s Gate National park and efforts to produce geothermal energy from Olkaria area in 1980s. She shared the entire land now covered by the National Park and the energy project belonged to them and protested the setting of the park and energy projects since 1971 for failing to respect their customary rights over land, their traditional institutions, failed to seek their consent and uprooted them to new relocation sites with no survival means and options. She spoke of her long experience of struggle for land rights and survival of her family and retorted, “We are really oppressed”. Those who oppressed others need be considerate of other peoples’ survival rights. Maasai children go to school, but because of poverty and survival challenges, cannot attend higher education. As such, most continue to remain without employment and the loss of land only makes the survival options much more difficult. The women, elderly, disabled, the widows suffered most. She continued that the Maasai people are moved from good, flat, productive land to a place, barren, rocky and hard to survive, in the name of development. The world needs to listen to our realities, how difficult it is for us to survive. The single word ‘oppressed’, Ms. Esther mentioned, speaks volume of the oppression, state hegemony and collusion with neo-liberal forces to plunder peoples land and resources with sheer unaccountability. With limited representation in the Kenyan political arena, local and national politicians have no interest to attend to the issues, the rights concerns and expectations of the Maasai of Olkaria region.
Mr. Rasto Merige, another Maasai community member shared the commissioning of Olkaria Stage I to V has led to forced displacement of four indigenous Maasai villages and areas resettled in 1700 acre resettlement site, known as “RAP land”. The titles which had been offered in RAP land turned out to be leaseholds and therefore, do not constitute affected peoples’ ownership. The relocated Maasai people are required to payment of approximately 1700 US Dollars for the rehabilitation site in RAP land and Cultural Centre. The Maasai people lose their land and can no longer graze their cattle and thus directly affected their livelihood. Difficulty with access to water source, lack of infrastructure and school remains a challenge in RAP land. Women, elderly, widows and disabled suffered most.
Communities expressed concerns that the leasehold rather than community ownership of land titles will leave them in a precarious situation – requiring payment of an annual, revisable rent, and requiring permission for any significant changes to the land. The RAPland now represents a symbol of systematic destruction of the Maasai people’s way of life. The residents of Olkaria Maasai Cultural Centre, one of the villages that were relocated to RAP land are now restricted to only 14 acres of land and largely depended on cultural tourism, tour guide and sale of a variety of Maasai beads and artifacts. The Government and the company insisted on divide and rule policy to break the unity and social fabric of the Maasai, making it more conducive to seek alienation of their land. Indigenous way of life, culture and traditions has been disturbed completely in the forced rehabilitation at RAP land.
Community response and harassment: In addition to impacts on Maasai people livelihood, the Geothermal Energy projects led to environmental impacts, primarily on the wildlife in the park due to its location in a fragile ecosystem. The excavation for the project structures led to loss of habitat and interfered with bird breeding sites and the use of heavy equipment during geothermal development emitted uncontrolled noise. The discharge of brine from production wells have contaminated water and soil, increasing demand for water used for drilling geothermal wells, thus leading to over extraction of water from nearby Lake Naivasha, a Ramsar Site, for domestic and industrial purposes.
The International Financial Institutions (IFIs) investing in the project failed to recognize indigenous peoples’ rights and to implement safeguard policies to mitigate multifaceted impacts. Representatives of the affected Villages filed a complaint with the World Bank Inspection Panel and the EIB Complaints Mechanism on project implications from failures to comply their safeguard policies in the resettlement process. The affected people raised social and environmental concern due to the development of Olkaria V with financing by JICA. On 8 February 2017, community members raised these concerns in a protest outside the Nairobi offices of JICA and KenGen. In response, on 15 February 2017, KenGen filed charges to the High Court of Kenya in Nakuru against members of Four Maasai villages.
Observation and commentaries: After listening to Ms. Esther and other Maasai leaders in Olkaria area, the fascination of the wildlife and the landscape one witnessed while entering the park, now unraveled a reality that increasingly pressed the Maasai in the periphery of survival and that propagate the Maasai as the offender and enemy in their own land. The true meaning of the nomenclature as Hell’s Gate Park, seems fully revealed, after the Maasai peoples prosperous land now been transformed into an inhabitable, hostile place riddled with inhumane, merciless, greedy, undemocratic practices unleashed by the corporate with State oppression of Maasai people. It is highly unfortunate that the Maasai people are completely driven out from their traditional territory by Agri-Business farming companies, National Park, Geothermal Power Plants, with such processes facilitated by financial institutions.
The tensions and conflict among the indigenous peoples of Olkaria and the Kenyan State that deepens its collusion with multinational companies and IFIs is deepening. The overwhelming focus to advance the business interest of the latter while conscripting the community rights space is a clear testimony as to how development effectiveness principles, encompassing human rights, ecological sustainability, gender equality, accountability etc are all undermined. What’s happening in Olkaria region is just a repeat of the European colonial exploitation of Africa centuries back, but this time with a modus operandi of clearly established principles of free market under World Trade Organization by neoliberal forces, legitimizing the loot and plunder of resources from the developing countries like Kenya. Developing States like Kenya are just reduced to an instrument and mechanism to cater to the interest of developed countries and their corporations. But, the ultimate question is can a nation gain progress by pauperizing its own people, like the Maasai in Kenya? How can such exploitative process be projected as development?
Most unfortunately, the ones involved in the controversial Olkaria Geo-thermal Energy projects are also the ones increasingly involved in the financing of extractive industries, hydropower projects, infrastructures projects etc in Manipur and across India’s North East. JICA is preparing to finance the 66 MW Loktak Downstream Project and the Imphal Water Supply Project from Mapithel dam and also other road projects, such as the Imphal Moreh road project etc that will also facilitate building more controversial dams to aggravate land loss and violation of indigenous peoples rights in Manipur. The liming mining by Lafarge in Meghalaya with financing by European Investment Bank, the International Financial Corporation, Asian Development Bank etc has led to multifaceted violations of indigenous peoples rights. The German financial arm, the KFW is also preparing to finance protection of Forest and Wetlands in Manipur for climate change adaptation. But there’s concern the move will insist on conversation measures and introducing false climate change solutions, like the REDD+ which has proved controversial across the world. The collusion of Indian State, Developed countries, Corporations and IFIs to facilitate plunder indigenous peoples land and resources while suppressing their rights has become an alarming concern across India’s North East region.
With focus on private sector development and increased liberalization of economy, Manipur will be just reduced to another African State, fragile, afflicted with multiple conflicts, neck deep in corruption and indebtedness arising out of increased loan for development projects. The increase case of authoritarian regime, instability, fragility seems to be a deliberate creation to foster an enabling environment, political, legal etc for multinational companies to promote their market and profit. The question is whether the EIB, KFW, JICA, USAID, AFD funds projects in NE really care for development of people in the region or for very different reasons, including for commercial gains. The testimonies of the realities of conflict and fragility, rights violation, environment destruction, unaccountability of states & correlations with IFI financings, widening gap of inequality simply testified the development intervention, politics and strategies of development countries and facilitation of States is simply problematic. While situation aggravates and complicates and survival challenges gets worsened such as in Olkaria Area among Maasai, rich developed gets more and more developed. The dominant system becomes too exploitative leading to an increased impoverishment and inequality among communities.
Another question is as the economy, societies and political power of developed countries grow, will the situation of indigenous peoples like Maasai, whose survival is increasingly conscripted and forced out by the global unjust system and State’s hegemony and corruptive practices, ever improve? Should we allow the flourishing of people from rich countries at the cost of extinction of marginalized, indigenous peoples of Kenya or in Manipur for that matter? The same question is pertinent for Manipur, where the neoliberal forces and the Government of India unleashed politics of economic and political domination, expropriation of resources with militarism. Should we allow the indigenous peoples to cease to exist as peoples? There’s an inherent problem with this development model pursued.
For Kenya’s indigenous peoples, colonialism and imperialist practices finds much relevance even after the British left the Kenyan hinterlands. Even after Kenya’s independence. Maasai peoples’ land is consolidated and only possesses by the new political class, which indigenous peoples have no space. Only consolidating and continuing the British policies of domination, dispossession, oppression and human rights violations is antithesis to the development of indigenous peoples. How is the Kenyan state different from the colonial powers, the British? The same question is also an issue one need to be raised in Manipur, again a British territory before? Colonial policies pursued today, security and development, is simply continued, worsening with more capitalist countries, teaming up for collective raids and plunder in far flung frontiers, cordoned off from the practice of democracy, justice and human rights.
Despite the challenges, the Maasai Peoples standing up for their rights, taking the case to the Government challenging them in courts and challenging the unaccountability and exploitative financing by financial institutions, multilateral banks etc, present much hope. Especially the persistence and consistent efforts to reclaim their land to seek justice and to correct the arbitrations by IFIs and developed countries, despite the threats and harassment presents much hope for the Maasai and similarly for many other politically and economically disposed and struggling peoples. This is also an opportunity for IFIs, donor countries, MNCs and the State itself to reflect on their flaws of development model propagated within Indigenous territories and to improve in terms of recognition of rights of Indigenous peoples, full-fledged compliance to human rights standards and compliance with development effectiveness principles. Gone are the days when power and might rule the roost where the rights regime is nonexistent. In the world of so called democracy, any inhumane practices and those propagating undemocratic practices are simply a bane of the society.
States should ensure the full respect for indigenous peoples’ way of life, their survival relationship with their land and their right to free, prior and informed consent for any development decision affecting their land, resources, rights and future. Any intimidation or reprisal against development challenged people seeking rights and justice from corporate bodies, the IFIs and the State should be withdrawn. Decimation and complete annihilation of indigenous peoples, alienating from their land and survival sources and pushing them to brink of survival, extinguishing the future of their generations can never be considered as true development, as hence must be rescinded.
Article and Photos by Jiten Yumnam | firstname.lastname@example.org
Advancing Development Effectiveness in Indigenous Territories: IPMSDL in the 1st International Dayak Congress
The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination & Liberation (IPMSDL), the focal organization for the Indigenous Peoples Sector of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE), attended the 1st International Dayak Congress held at Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Indonesia from 24th until 26th July 2017. The Congress was organized primarily to discuss and converse among diverse stakeholders the advancement of the rights, indigenous cultures, way of life, and sustainable development among the Dayak people inhabiting the Sabah and Sarawak side of Malaysia and the West Kalimantan in the Borneo Islands. The IPMSDL delegates representing CPDE include Mr. Atama Katama, International Advisor of the Borneo Dayak Forum, Ms. Beverly Longid, IPMSDL Global Coordinator, and Mr. Jiten Yumnam, Secretary of the Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur. They shared the issues and challenges in realizing development effectiveness in indigenous territories.
Ms. Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator of IPMSDL
IPMSDL organized a solidarity event on Development Effectiveness on 26th July which was attended by around 200 participants. Ms. Beverly Longid shared the history of colonization of indigenous peoples and their struggle and resistance for land, rights, and for survival. She also shared that the intrusion on indigenous peoples’ land of mining, oil exploration, large infrastructure projects, and the subsequent disrespect of traditional customary practices, multifaceted environment impacts, corporatization, and privatization, have further negated their self-determination. Indigenous peoples land and territories are also subjected to increased conflict, instability, militarization, human rights violations, and repression of traditional institutions and organizations. Ms. Longid also stressed the importance of building solidarity among different communities, stakeholders, and sectors which are equally or similarly exploited like indigenous peoples.
Mr. Atama Katama of the Borneo Dayak Forum and IPMSDL
Mr. Atama Katama of the Borneo Dayak Forum shared that indigenous peoples land in the Borneo islands, especially those in Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia and West Kalimantan, Indonesia, are subjected to increased intrusion of multinational private companies pursuing oil palm and rubber plantations, as well as coal and mineral mines. He also shared that Free Trade Agreements and the insistence on liberalization over production for profit and privatization has seriously undermined indigenous peoples’ rights in Indonesia. The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement will further accelerate and reinforce monopoly capitalism in the Asian region and he stressed the need to uphold development justice.
The increased loss of land and forests to Palm oil plantations is worsening the loss of the Dayak peoples’ culture, rituals, traditional knowledge, and livelihood dependence on healthy forest. The originality of knowledge that comes from traditional knowledge, customary laws, rituals, dances, knowledge about indigenous plants and food, traditional healing, etc. is really valuable for indigenous communities. The changing globalized world is often detrimental to the prevalence of such traditional knowledge and the sharing and exchange of knowledge among the Dayak people involving the youths to further enliven the living cultures and mitigate the threats and challenge. Defending the land and forest in Kalimantan, along with imparting indigenous knowledge among the Dayak youths, is one way of defending indigenous peoples’ way of life and cultures and in asserting their self-determination over their land, lives, cultures, and future, and to resist imperialist globalization and corporate expansionism.
Mr. Jiten Yumnam of the Centre for Research and Advocacy – Manipur and IPMSDL
Mr. Jiten Yumnam of the Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur shared that unsustainable and destructive development projects have threatened the survival of indigenous peoples of Manipur and North East. The 105 MW Loktak Hydroelectric Project, the Mapithel Dam, submerged 80,000 acres of land. The Proposed 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam, 190 MW Pabram Dam, and others that are expected to rise, will submerge 60,000 acres of land. Enabling environment has been fostered for private sector functioning while restrictions and targeting of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders are increasing. Despite the global accord agreed in Busan HLM, many governments refused to recognise the independent role of Civil Society in development. States have worked against indigenous peoples’ rights and organizations and denied their right to self-determination and to free, prior, and informed consent.
The IPMSDL event ended with emphasis on the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights and also for all stakeholders, the State, and the corporate bodies in particular, to uphold CPDE’s key messages, viz, advancing human rights approach to development, promoting environmental sustainability, gender equality, CSO’s Enabling Environment, private sector accountability, just peaceful & a secure world order, and an inclusive multi-stakeholder partnership towards advancing development effectiveness.
The CPDE delegates also propagated that the role of CSOs recognised in the Busan Principles is carried forward in all development processes. Multi-stakeholder partnership should not only be for Public Private Partnership (PPP) or for the profit of corporations.
The 1st International Dayak Congress was also an occasion for sharing of experiences among indigenous peoples and for exposure to indigenous communities affected and challenged by mono cultivation in West Kalimantan. A visit at Kampung Raba and Tapis Village in interior West Kalimantan by Mr. Jiten Yumnam was a testimony to the ruthless destruction of forest land by the ever-expanding oil palm plantations and companies like Hilton, and the negation of community rights over their land and forest. In another visit on 29th July in Tapis Village, village elders complained that oil palm companies like Hilton, Agrina, and SGC plundered their forest through forest land acquisitions in the most exploitative means. The palm oil companies also deceived the villagers and incited conflict among them. The Indonesian Government is also preparing to mine Bauxite in a sacred hill within their village land in Kampung Raba and a peripheral village. The sharing in the village reflected not just the traditional wisdom and sustainable land and forest management of indigenous communities, but also the role of the Indonesian State and the corporate bodies in misleading indigenous peoples, pushing them to the brink of survival, and subduing their cultures and tradition.
The importance of adherence to human rights principles and recognition of indigenous peoples’ self-determination over their land and resources in all development processes of states, corporate bodies, and development financings is a message pervading in the congress and in the community visits. The promotion of indigenous way of life and sustainable management of land and resources with traditional knowledge and practices can foster sustainable development in Borneo. Ending forced development, establishing accountability mechanism for all development stakeholders, ending environment harm by unsustainable development projects, and rescinding all state effort and militarization to subdue indigenous peoples’ voices for self-determination and their rights is critical for advancing development effectiveness in Indonesia and in all indigenous land and territories.
Enlivening a Fading Culture: A Dayak Experience in Borneo
In an afternoon of July 2017 in Linga Ambawang village, located along the Samak River in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, around one hundred Dayak children and youth gather inside the traditional school to learn indigenous knowledge from their elders. The Dayak people, with several sub-tribes, are spread all over the Borneo Island and most have settled in the Kalimantan in Indonesia and in the Sabah and Sarawak State of Malaysia. The indigenous school, made of wood, cane, and bamboo, decorated with indigenous arts and musical instruments, was recently established by the Dayak youth with the support of their community elders. It was an enchanting experience how the children greeted their elders while following the steps to a dance led by Ms. Modesta Wisa, a Dayak young lady from West Kalimantan and Atama Katama, another Dayak from Sabah. They demonstrated graceful and rhythmic dance steps, which was passed on from their ancestors through generations.
The cheering of “Aros, Aros” filled the air when Dayak children greeted their elders in union. The graceful dance of the children to the beating drums enlivened the whole stretch of the school. Beautiful initiatives like these introduce our younger generations to indigenous cultures and orient them to keep our traditions alive. There was much hope in the collective voices of the children expressing appreciation in their learnings and in the initiative, itself. The ancestors and spirits of the land must be enchanted and delighted with such initiatives.
The village chief, Mr. Noeldi, shared that the indigenous school is at an early stage at just six-month-old but expressed his confidence that despite being small, it is a good beginning to promote their peoples’ culture and traditions. He believes that by maintaining consistency, the initiatives can be further strengthened until their traditional values and knowledge is fully protected and in the safe hands of the coming generations. The traditional school can rekindle and nurture indigenous children and youth’s connection with their land and territories for generations.
Ms. Modesta Wisa, one of the youths involved in setting up the indigenous school, shared that the school is a dream come true for her and that the initiative came from her people’s heart and passion that was made possible with the community’s support. Similar initiatives are being taken up in other places like Adat Radang, where knowledge on traditional craft and arts, caring for the land and environment, and promoting indigenous language are taught.
A village leader, Mr. Tomo, opined that loss of land and forest, already widespread in Kalimantan, has been uprooting the Dayak people, especially the youths, from their land. With traditional territories continuously usurped by monopolist, multi-national palm oil and rubber plantation companies, mining companies, and the state, it is high time for all generations to revitalize their intrinsic role as defendants of their land and forest. Revitalization and transmission of traditional knowledge by imparting them to younger generations is a crucial step towards sustainable and responsible management of their land, forest, and rivers and towards resistance against the companies’ continuing plunder and expropriation of their land and forest.
Speaking about the unique initiative, Atama Katama, a youth leader from Sabah, shared that indigenous youths need to learn and cherish their cultures and traditional ways, which are important in defending their rights over their lands and their future survival. Most indigenous resources are passed on orally, which can be a challenge in its preservation and promotion. Traditional knowledge on customary laws, rituals, dances, indigenous plants and food, traditional healing, etc. is very valuable for indigenous communities. As globalization in these changing times is becoming detrimental to the preservation of such knowledge, the sharing and exchange among the Dayak people, including the youth, is needed to enliven the cultures and mitigate the threats and challenges.
In a faraway village tucked between the forest and hills in the Central Part of Kalimantan in Borneo Islands, a small team of Dayak youths performed traditional songs and dance to a group of young Dayak children; another conscious initiative to keep their traditions and cultures alive amidst the strong waves of globalization that sweeps indigenous cultures and peoples off survival. In a courtyard by a traditional healer’s home in Mansio Village in West Kalimantan, indigenous youths are busy learning traditional dance and songs. At first, only a few children arrived but later on, more children joined in as the music and the songs played across the village. The teaching and learning process is a direct display of inter-generational learning of traditional Dayak knowledge. An indigenous martial art, Mallingkaba, was also shared to the youths along with the traditional healer. The elder children, aged 15 to 20, taught Mallingkaba to the younger ones, aged 4 to 11. Boys and girls were taught together and separately depending on their role and responsibility. The traditional shaman occasionally intervened when requested to share his knowledge and skills. When the collective learning began, the village was filled with the voices of the children from their songs, dances, and most importantly, the laughter and the expression of delight on their tender faces. The village is suddenly transformed and the parents and the other elders of the village also joined in on the learning activity. Indigenous learning in its best form, indeed!
As some of the traditional songs shared is about the glory of Kalimantan and the peoples’ care of their land, one could feel there’s much hope and that the Dayak’s vision of a socially, economically, and politically liberated Kalimantan is still possible. One is hopeful that the positive energy that prevailed during the learning process will carry through the coming generations and keep the people, their traditions, and their land alive for long and help the Dayak survive as peoples and as a proud nation. The sharing of knowledge across generations is indeed a beautiful experience and a moment to cherish. These activities are a conscious initiative of the Dayak youths to promote their traditional knowledge and practices amidst the increasing changes in their traditional cultures brought about by the land losses due to a plantation-based economy and rapid globalization.
Indigenous youths like Atama and Wisa attempt to promote cross-cultural exchanges and sharing among the Dayak youths of Malaysia and Indonesia and also to learn the challenges in their land and territories concerning environmental destruction, increased assault on their land, increased corporate expansionism and imperialist globalization, the invasion of foreign capital and the impacts on their land, forest, and resources, and its negative impacts on the culture of indigenous youths. Dayak youths today are inculcated to be stronger leaders to understand and respond appropriately to the challenges affecting their cultures and way of life.
Ms. Wisa shared that West Kalimantan has seen the fast intrusion of palm oil plantations which destroyed the forests that were the traditional source of livelihood and culture for the Dayak people. She expressed that defending the land and forests of Kalimantan, along with imparting indigenous knowledge among the Dayak youths, is one way of defending indigenous peoples’ way of life and cultures and in asserting self-determination over their land, lives, and cultures. Ms. Wisa is fully aware that the increased loss of her land and forest to palm oil plantations exacerbates the decline of their culture, rituals, and traditional knowledge which are dependent on the healthy survival of forest, including the women’s bamboo, cane, ad craft works. She works with Dayak organizations to ensure the protection of their peoples’ land, forest, and water, and the sustenance of their culture. Indigenous schools are needed to ensure the full embodiment of indigenous cultures and traditions.
The best learning happens when many generations from the community are involved and there is much hope that this conscious effort will help enliven the Dayak culture and traditions. The learning of the traditional dance and songs happened in a relaxed and conducive environment; there was joy and laughter all around and there was a strong sense of collective role and responsibility in keeping the traditions alive and in ensuring the survival of their people. The best of learning also happens in natural settings: in the forest and in the traditional long houses, far away from the crowded classrooms with rigorous strictures and compulsions on young minds. The willingness to learn and the conscious urge to embark on learning in the context of a rich but declining culture is what makes the entire learning process special and unique. The inculcation of Dayak youths and kids with traditional knowledge and to respect towards their elders will help them reconnect with their land and cultures.
Initiatives of the youths like that of Wisa, much concerned with the changing cultures of Dayak people, deserve much appreciation and support. She initiated the indigenous school for the Dayak children to impart their tradition, culture, and heritages, that would make the Dayak people a proud people with dignity and respect, and most importantly, a people fully able to assert self-determination over their land, resources, and their future. While involving herself in teaching Dayak dances, songs, and crafts, she also encouraged her friends and community elders to take responsibility and to also contribute in fostering Dayak culture and traditions. She seems to find solace in fostering inter-generational and inter-age connections among elders, women, youths, and children.
A visit at Kampung Raba and Tapis Village in interior West Kalimantan is simply a testimony of the ruthless destruction of forest land by the ever-expanding oil palm plantations of companies like Hilton and the negation of community rights over their land and forest. Mr. David Dumas, one of the villagers, shared how the palm oil companies have destroyed the forest land of their village and their indigenous way of life.
The palm oil companies also deceived the villagers and incited conflict among them. Similarly, in Tapis Village, the village elders complained that oil palm companies like Hilton, Agrina, and SGC plundered their forest through unleashed land acquisition with the most exploitative means. The sharing in the two villages reflected not just the traditional wisdom and sustainable land and forest management of indigenous communities, but also the role of the Indonesian State and the corporate bodies in deceiving indigenous peoples and pushing them to the brink of survival through annihilation of their cultures, tradition, and values. The Indonesian Government is also preparing to mine Bauxite in a sacred hill between their village land in Kampung Raba and another peripheral village. The Dayak people in both the Malaysian and Indonesian side of Borneo faces increased onslaught on their lands and resources and state repression especially in the Malaysian side. Indigenous youths are growing increasingly conscious of the unfolding realities and are preparing to undertake all efforts and means to respond to these emerging realities. The promotion of the indigenous way of life, of sustainable management of land and resources using traditional knowledge and practices will surely contribute to fostering sustainable development in Borneo.
The passing on of traditional knowledge and practices such as on traditional medicine also depends on protection of their land and forest resources. Indeed, losing our land and resources will also lead to loss of cultures, traditions and value systems within the community. Indigenous communities also need to respond to other factors that threaten their cultures, such as the introduction of larger economic and political forces that force indigenous children, youths, and women to migrate outside their territories for the sake of education, work, and other reasons. The visionary initiatives and practical approach of the Dayak youth is simply exemplary and gives a lesson for all indigenous communities beyond frontiers to conduct similar initiatives in other indigenous land and territories, such as in Manipur, that are directed towards asserting self-determination over their land, life, and future.
On the 55th Anniversary of the New York Agreement: MERDEKA FOR WEST PAPUA!
On the 55th year of the “Broken Promise,” the Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) and the Merdeka West Papua Support Network reiterate the call to free West Papua. We demand to allow the peoples of West Papua to vote for their independence, which was guaranteed by the New York Agreement of 15 August 1962.
The Papuans’ “act of free choice” never took place. We refuse to recognize the US imperialist-backed bogus referendum of 1969. The landmark agreement only officiated the turnover of West Papua’s colonization from the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Indonesia.
This historical betrayal has led to the renewed national oppression and subjugation of West Papua. Its peoples only experienced extreme repression and genocide under the Indonesian colonial rule, whilst the riches of their ancestral lands are plundered. The government of Indonesia never fulfilled its “administrative responsibility” mandated by the agreement to advance the social, cultural, and economic development of West Papua.
The Papuans suffered from this grave injustice for more than half a century, and we say enough. It is time: Merdeka for West Papua!
We call the United Nations (UN) to fulfill its obligation to end colonialism and internationally facilitate a genuine referendum on independence among the peoples of West Papua. We also demand the UN to look into and act upon the widespread human rights violations in and territorial degradation of West Papua. The Indonesia government should be held accountable for its transgressions against the Papuan peoples.
Let us show our fervent support and solidarity to the global demonstration today, 15 August 2017, at London and in other parts of the world in commemoration of the “Day of Broken Promise.” Together, let us stand for West Papua’s self-determination and liberation.
MERDEKA FOR WEST PAPUA!
STRUGGLE FOR THE PAPUAN PEOPLES’ SELF-DETERMINATION AND LIBERATION!
US IMPERIALIST AND INDONESIA, OUT OF WEST PAPUA!
END THE COLONIZATION, OCCUPATION, SEVERE REPRESSION, AND GENOCIDE IN WEST PAPUA!
LONG LIVE THE PEOPLES OF WEST PAPUA!
#LetWestPapuaVote #BackTheSwim #FreeWestPapua
Let us also express our solidarity through this global petition addressed to the UN. These names will be delivered at the end of this month in Geneva after being swum 69 km across Lake Geneva by the Swim for West Papua team.
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