Conflict over customary land in Tambrauw Regency - Indigenous Mpur communities reject corn plantation company

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The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Desk (JPIC) of the Christian Evangelical Church in Papua (GKI-TP) has published a report about an ongoing landrights conflict in Tambrauw Regency between the Mpur Tribe and the agricultural company PT. Bintuni Agro Prima Perkasa (PT. BAPP), a subsidiary of the Salim Group. The conflict began in 2015, as the company started to establish its plantation with a concession area of area of 19.369 ha on the tribe’s customary land.  PT BAPP had decided to build a corn plantation after the initial proposal for the establishment of a palm oil plantation was rejected by the local government of Tambrauw Regency. The local government has prolonged the concession period - originally expiring in 2017 - although the land conflict remains unresolved.

Before PT. BAPP kicked off its operations in August 2015, the company did not inform the Mpur communities regarding the type of plantation, the environmental impact of the project and social benefits for their communities. Instead, PT. BAPP only approached the Ariks clan, one of the indigenous clans holding the customary ownership rights, and convinced the head of the clan to sign an agreement for the release of customary land. In return, the company handed over 100 million Rupiahs (approximately 6.025 Euros) as a 'reward' to the Ariks clan. Other Mpur clans holding land ownership rights were only informed after the plantation activities had already been launched for more than two months. The Mpur communities protested against PT. BAPP plantation in the Kebar area because the company did not follow legal procedures and disrespected indigenous land rights holders, community leaders and customary institutions in the Kebar District.

On 31 October 2017, the board of GKI-TP Kebar presbytery and the JPIC desk shared the Mpur Tribe’s concerns with the Regent, Mr. Gabriel Asem, who had approved the company’s concession with the consideration that the plantation would create job opportunities and bring welfare for the local communities. On 17 November 2017, the Mpur tribe organized a customary consultation meeting, bringing together 105 participants, consisting of heads of clans and sub-clans as well as community members. The outcome of the meeting was a statement on the rejection of PT BAPP and its corn plantation. The statement was signed by 44 indigenous leaders residing in the Kebar Valley.