An article by Wensislaus Fatubun published by the Asian Human Rights Commission

INDONESIA: Kimaam Island — Rich but Poor

Kimaam Island, also called Frederik Hendrik Island, Dolok island, Yosudarso and Kolepom, covers an area of 14,357 km. Most of the area is swampy. This island is separated from southwest Irian Jaya by the Muli strait (now popularly known as Princess Marianne strait). This island was formed by sediment deposited by the Digul River. Therefore, the north and central parts of the island have higher elevations than the south and west. Kimaam Island is a wet-land area consisting of a mangrove ecosystem, a savanna, a swamp and monsoon forests.

Kimaam Island is blessed with natural resources. Looking at its bio-diversity, this region is a remarkable home to fauna such as birds, fish, crocodile, deer and kangaroo. The south coast region is the main habitat for different kinds of crocodiles. The general knowledge of the hydrology of the area and the vast numbers of mangrove tree plants in the coastal areas and along the river stream indicates that the area is an ideal place for the lives of sea fauna; fish, shrimp and crab. Besides its natural resources, the Kimaam Island inhabitants are unique in that they harvest from the swamps. Koenjaraninggrat writes in his book about the indigenous Kimaam harvesting from the swamp. J Boelar also wrote about a similar uniqueness in his book “Manusia Irian: Masa Lampau, Kini dan Akan Datang” (Irianesse: The Past, Present and Future). People inhabiting the south coast of rich Kimaam Island are now experiencing a number of problems such as lack of human resources, inadequate health services, natural resources related conflicts, high poverty rate, high illiteracy rate, high maternal and child mortality rate. In short, the richness of natural resources does not bring welfare and prosperity to the indigenous people. In 2006, the Office for Justice and Peace of the Merauke Archdiocese (SKP-KAM) published “Lives Portrayal and Conflict of Natural Resources in Kimaam.” This is a report about the lives of people in Kimaam Island surrounded by various natural resources conflicts. The findings illustrate that erroneous local government policy concepts have created conflicts such as the conflicts of tribal land property borders, bloody Maskura in 2003 and bloody Korimen-Kontura in 2001-2003. The facts need to be revealed and capture our attention. We need to care about mothers and children who die from disease and malnutrition. We should understand that it is not a fate imposed on them by God but rather due to our mistakes and negligence. Paulus Levitar, one of the Waan villagers and a voluntary teacher, told SKP-KAM investigators about his concern that “If we are sick, a bottle shard is our medicine. We use a bottle shard to slice our body so that the dirty blood can escape. Doctors, nurses and any other medical staff, hardly ever visit us. This poor health condition is exacerbated by a poor education situation. In Kamaan the illiteracy rate is very high because teachers leave their profession resulting in a shortage of teachers.

The presence of “Non-Papuans”

The southern beach of Kimaam Island is rich in sea resources. It attracts many people to come, creating a more heterogeneous population. Most of the non-Papuans who come to Kimaam iIsland are from Bugis, Makasar, Maluku and Java. They live in the northern beaches of the Island, especially in Waan and Konorau village. With economic improvement as their main motive, they come to look for sea resources such as fish and crocodile which they then sell to fishing ships from PT. Djarma Aru. They also usually conduct a barter system-changing the for-sale things with the resources the community catch.

Natural Resources Conflict

On 21 December 2006, an incident of torture occurred against 14 Konorau villagers of the southern beach of Kimaam Island. Based on the investigation undertaken by SKP-KAM 9-15 February 2007, it shows that the perpetrators were Thomas Wanggai, an Indonesia Military officer, Abukasim, a Malukunese. The main motive relates to the lucrative natural resources of Kimaan Island. The question is, why should natural resources be the triggering factor in the area? The answer lies in that fact that the southern beach of Kimaam Island is famous for its natural resources. This richness has inspired many people, particularly non-Papuans to come and take the available resources such as fish, shrimp and crocodiles. The presence of non- Papuans has caused the native Kimaam to become marginalized. This marginalization has touched all aspects such as the economy, education and culture as a result of Kimaan low human resources as compared to non-Papuans’. The non-Papuans are starting to use and manipulate the native Kimaams. This disability of the native Kimaam’s is clearly indicated by their inability to manage their natural resources. The question is: why is the native community unable to manage its own resources? Based on the date collected, it clearly shows that there are two major causes. First, the native communities still preserve a sub-system economy and the second is a teaching-learning process does not take place in the southern beach of Kimaam Island.

Conflict of Tribal Land borders

Tribal land borders keep haunting the community in the southern beach of Kimaam Island. It is still a major problem. Based on the SKP-KAM investigation, the tribal land problem was a result of a government policy which does not accommodate local potential such as in the policy about village-ation and village extensions. A clear example of the situation is in Waan and Konorau villages. SKP-KAM investigated and found that the tribal land of Waan village, administratively belongs to Konorau village and vice versa. This problem was getting complicated with the presence of fishing ships from Djarma Aru Company and “non-Papuans, who catch fish without asking permission from the tribal land owners. Another strategy used by non-Papuans is taking native Kimaam as their wives in order to have access to sea resources and tribal lands as demonstrated by the actions of Abukasim. If the problem is not solved soon, the rich island with its resources and people will become extinct. The extinction of the natives on the island is on-going and “do we let this extinction process keep going on? I hope we still have the heart to prevent such deliberate negative actions. Therefore, let us show our care for Kimaam Island and the people there. It is much better if we are pro-active and take action now before it is too late


The views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC, and the AHRC takes no responsibility for them.

ETC-Wensislaus FatubunAbout the Author:
Wensislaus Fatubun is a Papuan activist and blogger working in Merauke, Jayapura and Jakarta. He is advocating issues of land rights, indigenous peoples rights and problems of development in West Papua.

Document ID :AHRC-ETC-029-2011
Countries : Indonesia
Date : 17-06-2011