THE plantation and forest production projects under way in Merauke Regency at the southern tip of Papua, are in danger of unraveling. Last year, a wood-processing factory of PT Medco Papua Industri Lestari stopped operating for two months as a result of heated protests from local residents. Clearing of land for planting sugarcane by PT Cenderawasih Jaya Mandiri, a subsidiary of the Rajawali Group, also ran into trouble. Two tribal groups disputed over the amount of land to be used by the company. Similar conflicts have taken place in many other areas in Merauke, affecting over a dozen companies there.
What is going on? Why is Merauke, known as a relatively calm region of Papua, suddenly beset with problems? The numerous protests from Merauke’s indigenous tribal groups, who are accusing companies of not respecting their customary rights, threaten to turn the ambitious project of the Agriculture Ministry, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate, into a failure.
Tempo reports directly from Kampung Zanegi in the Animha District, and gets to the root of this cultural confl ict over the clearing of hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest in Merauke.
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