Respecting Indigenous Peoples’ Agrarian Rights will Save Indonesia

Bogor, October 19, 2013 – ‘The struggle of the indigenous peoples is the struggle to free the Archipelago from oppression and restore it back to the people,’ said the Secretary General of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) Abdon Nababan in Bogor, on Saturday 19 October 2013.

His remarks came at the opening of a book discussion for Orang Indonesia dan Tanahnya (Indonesian People and their Land),byCornelis van Volenhoven, a Dutch anthropologist known for his work on Hukum Adat(Customary Law) in the Dutch Indies, and Politik Hukum Agrarian(The Politics of Agrarian Law) by Prof. Dr.Achmad Sodiki,SH, Professor from the University Brawijayaand a former member of the Constitutional Court. The discussion was jointly heldby AMAN and the Sajogyo Institute. ‘From these two books , we will talk about the nationalism. We’ll talk about the past, the present, and the future of Indonesia,’Mr Nababan said.

Originally titled De Indonesier en Zijn Grond, Orang Indonesia dan Tanahnyabegan as an academic pamphlet written in 1919 in opposition toa proposed amendment to Article 62 of the Regerings Reglement 1854 (Constitutional Law of the Dutch East Indies). This amendmentwould have removed protections of indigenous peoples’ land rights, particularlyfor those outside of Java and Madura.It has since been translated and was republished by STPN Press, Huma Society, and Beta Homeland Publisher (Sajogyo Institute) earlier this year.

‘This pamphlet managed to stop the amendmenttoArticle 62 of the Dutch East Indies Constitution and also shows agrarian politics during Dutch colonialism,’ said Noer Fauzi Rachman, Executive Director of the Sajogyo Institute and member of the Expert Board of the Consortium for Agrarian Reform. The work shows the interconnectedness of the indigenous peoples’struggle, the agrarian struggle and establishment of the Republic.  ‘Respecting agrarian rights, means saving Indonesia [from the numerous existing land conflicts],’ he said.

Mr Rachman also explained that the oppressionof indigenous peoples and the treatment of them as if they were animals was part of agrarian politics during colonialism. The rights of indigenous peoples over their land are ‘innate rights’ that are passed from generation to generation, while the authority given to companies are‘grantedrights,’provided by the central government.

‘Who owns the land in Indonesia?’ According to Mr Rachman, that is the basic question in agrarian politics during colonialism. It is a question that has spawned a variety of forms of land tenure for colonial interests over the interests of the people of the Archipelago.

Denial of the rights of the agrarian population and the birth of capitalist-oriented laws was reaffirmed by Prof. Dr.Achmad Sodiki, SH, in his book Politik Hukum Agraria. Published in June this year, this book is resonates in the context of the struggle for the rights of indigenous peoples, especially after the Constitutional Court Decision, No. 35/PUU-X/2012,which establishes that indigenous forestsare no longer state forests.

‘The problem is not solely about indigenous forests , but it must be viewed holistically, where the political awareness and increasing prosperity will enable greater awareness about the rights of indigenous peopleswho are still marginalized,’ said the former judge of the Constitutional Court.

He explained that the law is the product of diverse political interests and is therefore not impartial.‘If the state favours only the powerful, it means betraying the state constitution,’ said Prof. Dr. Sodiki.

He added , ‘Customary law may not bea certainty, but it contains justice. It is better to choose the law that contains justice rather than certainty. Laws in Indonesia are like that,without justice. This is the kind oflegal justice that we have been striving forall thistime.

The discussion was attended by representatives from 11 civil society organizationsand three AMANwing organisations. The event closed with a presentation of agift of appreciation to Prof. Dr. Achmad Sodiki, SH, for his role in the Constitutional Court Decision No. 35/PUU-X/2012 regardingthe Judicial Review Act No. 41/1999 on Forestry. ‘The decision has a huge and positive impact on the struggle for the rights of tens of millions of indigenous peoples in the archipelago,’ said Mr Nababan. The gift, a woven kain from the Dayak Sintag community was presented to Prof Dr Sodiki bythe Chairman of the National Council of AMAN, Mr. Hein Namotemo .

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