Advocacy for Justice for Indigenous Peoples

On Wednesday, October 5, 2022, academics, activists, journalists, students, and NGO representatives discussed the book “Nunga Leleng Hami Mian di Son” at Kopi Toast Café Medan. After two consecutive days of book discussions with students, this time KSPPM invited various layers of society so that all parties know how the struggle of indigenous peoples faces formal state law.

The speakers for this discussion were Delima Silalahi (KSPPM), Abdon Nababan (AMAN), Yando Zakaria (Researcher), Sandra Moniaga (Komnas HAM), Tongam Panggabean (BAKUMSU) and Apri Dwi Sumarah (PSKL Sumut). Each of them has qualified experience on the issue of indigenous peoples so the discussion runs very substantially.

Delima Silalahi shared the process of the birth of the book “Nunga Leleng Hami Mian di Son” which began with her anxiety when observing the verification and identification process carried out by the Technical Verification Team (Vertek) from KLHK for indigenous peoples in Toba and North Tapanuli Districts in 2021. He witnessed how the verification process was very hurtful to indigenous peoples because it was full of prejudice. The Vertek team often laughed at traditional objects belonging to indigenous peoples and this is a violation of human rights. For him, such prejudice is outrageous considering that indigenous peoples consider these traditional objects to be of sacred value.

Yando Zakaria, who also contributed to the birth of this book, also spoke about the authority of the verification team. The authority to conduct verification and identification should not be the authority of KLHK, but local governments. He also offered an advocacy agenda for the abolition of article 67 in Law 41 of 1999 on Forestry, which is a source of obstacles to the recognition of indigenous peoples.

Tongam Panggabean from Legal Aid North Sumatra (BAKUMSU) said that there are around 90 indigenous communities in North Sumatra that have been criminalized for fighting for their customary territories. Indigenous people are often victimized when demanding their rights. The government has aggravated the struggle of indigenous peoples through Permendagri No. 52/2014, which stipulates five cumulative indicators of the existence of indigenous peoples. In fact, from a human rights perspective, the existence of indigenous peoples only needs to be based on self-identification and attachment to a certain geographical area. That means, the other three indicators are facultative or supporting. With the way of working used so far, the verification team seems to be destroying the natural rights (innate / origin) of indigenous peoples.

Abdon Nababan, an indigenous activist, expressed a similar opinion. He also often receives complaints from indigenous peoples about the verification and identification process. The verification team is like a superior teacher who is testing his students and looking for indigenous peoples from hundreds of years ago in this day and age. The verification team assumes that indigenous peoples must be primitive. She also expressed her disappointment about the statement of the expert staff of the Toba Regency Regent who stated that there are no indigenous peoples in Toba Regency.

Finally, Sandra Moniaga hopes that the book “Nunga Leleng Hami Mian di Son” will be read by policymakers so that they understand how the verification and identification process has violated human rights. Indigenous peoples have not received respect, protection, and fulfillment of human rights because there has been no formal recognition of their existence. The existence of indigenous peoples is still considered by the government as a matter of administration and legalization. This misunderstanding needs to be reviewed so as not to perpetuate human rights violations of indigenous peoples.

Marsen Sinaga, the moderator of the book discussion, was quite successful in ‘maintaining’ the discussion process in such a way that the speakers focused on presenting points of thought that could provoke discussion. The discussion participants were involved in giving very diverse responses and questions about the very complex issue of indigenous peoples.**

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