Book addresses land ownership issue in Papua

Book addresses land ownership issue in Papua
The Jakarta Post, 20 April 2010

Atmajaya Catholic University researchers launched Tuesday a book addressing land ownership issue in Papua, highlighting a general misconception between local tribes and outsiders apparently obstructing the latter’s attempts to exploit the region.

The book, entitled “The Culture and Cultural Land of the Moni Tribe in Sugapa District, Papua”, reveals how while the Moni tribe has begun to regard land as possessing economic values, they could hardly accept the idea of having their lands sold to outsiders.

“Moni tribesmen are holding fast to the tradition that they will not participate in transactional trades of the lands. What they acknowledge is leasing system or a rights to use the land,” the writers say in the conclusion chapter of the book.

“This system is often misunderstood by outsiders. Parties outside Moni tribe consider that abdication certificate of the land translates to transfer of rights, giving them the ownership to the property. It is a general misconception of this system,” they add.

The team of researchers, which consist of George Martin Sirait, Lamtiur Hasianna Tampubolon, Florencia Yuniferti Sare, S. Agus Widodo, Inka Oktora and A. Bobby Pr, conducted the research in 2008 in Bilogai and Jogatapa districts in Paniai Regency, Papua.

Lamtiur said in a discussion held shortly after the launch of the book, that the research was aimed at providing outsiders with information of local cultures they should understand before deciding to develop their business there.

Indeed, the research was part of a pre-feasibility study --particularly from the social aspect -- of PT MineServe International, an affiliate of US-based mining giant company Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold, which has been operating the world’s largest gold mine near Papuan town of Timika.

“We hope businesses will be more considerate (with the cultures of the locals) before starting to open mines, etc,” Lamtiur said.

“(It’s because) we cannot blockade those outsiders wanting to access Papuan districts,” she said.

Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) researcher Muridan S. Widjojo, who served as a commentator in the Tuesday’s book discussion, said land ownership issue had always been “problematic” across Papua, not just to interested companies and other newcomers, but also to local administrations.

“There is this land philosophy that they uphold, that is whoever produce what from a land, then they must share the products with the original owners of the land,” Muridan said.