Over three quarters of a million people have resettled in West Papua under the government’s Transmigration program. The majority are from the islands of Java and Sulawesi, but any Indonesian citizen and his family are able to take part in the scheme and receive assistance for transportation and establishment. As either “spontaneous”, or sponsored Transmigrasi, most have been resettled in large settlements along the Indonesia / PNG border, near the large towns of Jayapura and Merauke, or in the forestry / mining areas of Sorong and Timika. The Trans-Irian Highway will soon open up to Transmigration the previously isolated rural, and more densely populated, central highlands, a region where a mining concession of over 3 million hectares has been issued by the Indonesian government.
The overall effect of the influx of immigrant unskilled and skilled labour has been to severely limit opportunities for employment of Irianese in private sector activities. Unless positive employment policies in favour of the indigenous population are pursued, continued social conflict would appear to be unavoidable.
In many regions of West Papua the indigenous people, forest dwellers such as the Moi and Asmat, are losing their traditional way of life not only to deforestation and mining projects but also to the recently revised Transmigration policy. This policy encourages forest people to resettle in camps where they will be granted a small area of land to produce their everyday necessities. In the case of the Amungme, Dani and Mbua regions, this has involved the resettlement of people to lower altitudes, away from prospective mining zones, where resistance to disease such as malaria is low. Almost a million hectares have already been cleared and allocated for settlements, with lucrative contracts awarded for clearing and construction. A Canadian company, Lavalin, has been contracted to conduct the surveying. The World Bank has been the major financer of the scheme.
Transmigration is part of the Indonesian government’s stated policy of assimilating indigenous people with the goal of forging a single national identity. The Indonesian government has sought to alleviate the population pressure on Java by addressing the imbalance in population density with other so-called “outer” islands, such as West Papua, where the transmigration program is now concentrated.
It is projected that by the year 2010 the population of West Papua will have grown to between 2.6 and 3.9 million. This will largely be due to transmigration, both government funded and “spontaneous”, and subsequent industrialisation resulting from Jakarta’s “Eastward Development Policy” of 1990. Non-Irianese born already make up over 70 per cent of the province’s urban population. In the current five year plan the province will receive 52,000 families of transrnigrants. It is clear that a major consequence of Transmigration to West Papua is the large-scale displacement of the indigenous population from their traditional lands.
Clause 17 of Indonesia’s Basic Forestry Act of 1967 says:
“The rights of traditional law communities may not be allowed to stand in the way of transmigration sites”,
and Article 2 of the Basic Agrarian Law of 1960 says that:
“… it is not permissible … for a community based on its traditional rights, to refuse to allow forest land to be cleared on a large and organised scale for the implementation of large-scale projects undertaken in the framework of plans to increase the production of foodstuffs and to shift the inhabitants”.
Not only do the indigenous people have no right to resist appropriation of their land for transmigrants or industry, but they are also likely to receive little or no compensation for it. For example, at Arso and other places in the vicinity of Jayapura, “the local people have received no compensation for any of the land which they have been obliged to relinquish. Furthermore, if they resist the demand for their land, they are labeled OPM, which means future military harassment and abuse”.
According to the Minister of Transmigration, “the surrender of land for the needs of transmigration is not accompanied by compensation (ganti rugi) but only by granting recognition, namely a certificate of recognition of right …. Recognition can take various forms, even the form of something with no economic value such as the holding of a traditional ceremony, the presentation of agricultural implements, a church or a mosque or other social facilities.”
The stated goal of transmigration is, according to the former Minister, “to integrate all the ethnic groups into one nation … the different ethnic groups will in the long run disappear because of integration … and there will be one kind of man …” The official view is that the transmigration program is beneficial to the native inhabitants because it enables them to “learn from the Javanese”. It has been argued that the program must be hurried along as a means of transferring agricultural knowledge while integrating the indigenous Irianese into the mainstream of the nation. On the other hand, critics of the program argue that many of the Irianese people are not ready for, nor do they desire to enter into, an imported community of agriculturalists, forced without their consent to forego their traditional land rights and culture.