a message from the
WORLD RAINFOREST MOVEMENT
BENTIAN CASE, EAST KALIMANTAN
BORNEO, INDONESIA, 1995
INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED “DEVELOPMENT” AND LOGGING DESTROYS INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ SUSTAINABLE AGROFORESTRY SYSTEM
The Bentian, a Dayak people of East Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo, are confronting the logging, clearance and takeover of their traditional lands. Timber estates and transmigration settlements threaten to undermine their traditional way of life, which has successfully adapted to the market economy by the production of rattan (a vine used in basketry and furniture. The company responsible belongs to Bob Hasan, Indonesia’s leading timber tycoon. Indonesian NGOs are calling for international support to challenge these encroachments.
The Bentian Besar District is located in the Middle Mahakam region of East Kalimantan, Indonesia. It is home to Bentian Dayak (indigenous) rattan producers. Several of the Dayak groups of Kalimantan, including the Bentian, Benoaq, and the Pasir have developed a unique system of market-oriented rattan cultivation linked to their swidden agriculture system.
Dayak rattan gardens act as “savings accounts” for their owners, as well as biodiversity conservation areas. These systems of rattan cultivation represent a rare example of market production, sustainable forest management, biodiversity conservation, and local income generation — all designed and implemented by indigenous Dayak peoples of East Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo.
In 1981, Georgia Pacific, one of the largest American timber companies, built a logging camp on traditional Bentian lands in the Anan River area. They came close to sparking an armed conflict with the Bentian when they resettled villagers and destroyed ancient grave sites and rattan fruit gardens during base camp construction. Georgia Pacific built a corridor logging road approximately 100 km long, parallel to the Lawa River, the main transportation/communication artery for the area. Instead of building bridges over the feeder streams to the Lawa, the company dammed all of the feeder streams for the entire length of the road. This severely reduced water flow to the Lawa and created malarial swamps on the other side of the road.
Transportation and communication with the outside world become increasingly difficult for the local people who were not given easy access to logging company transportation. Due to an unsatisfactory business climate, Georgia Pacific pulled out of Indonesia in the mid-1980′s and concession areas were taken over by Bob Hasan, an Indonesian timber tycoon with close links to President Suharto. Georgia Pacific, while it no longer conducts logging operations in East Kalimantan, remains one of the largest purchasers and distributors of plywood from its former concessions (now the Kiani Lestari/Kalimanis group) to the American market.
Attempting to secure the rest of their ancestral lands, the Bentian have been petitioning the Indonesian government since 1986, completely without results. In July, 1993, the new concession holder PT Kalhold/Kalimanis sent armed bulldozer and chainsaw crews onto Bentian lands to prepare for a new transmigration settlement and an “industrial forest plantation”. The bulldozers plowed 150 hectares of Bentian forest and rattan gardens, destroying over 10,000 rattan clumps and 2000 fruit trees. In addition, Bentian grave markers were bulldozed and burned and the bones of Bentian dead were scattered over the charred ground.
Beginning in 1993, the Bentian publicly protested the destruction of their traditional lands by logging companies and industrial forest plantations. They have repeatedly requested a stop to the violations of human rights and environmental destruction which have accompanied the land clearing of the first 150 hectares of thousands of hectares of Bentian lands scheduled for destruction.
As a result of their protests they have been met with increased repression, threats, and intimidation from Indonesian governmental officials and security forces. On March 29, 1994, a Bentian leader was interrogated for 12 hours by security forces and government officials in an attempt to force him to sign letters voiding Bentian ancestral rights. The Bentian report numerous other acts of intimidation to try to force them to relinquish claims to their lands and rattan gardens.
The Bentian’s demands are as follows:
1. RECOGNITION OF THE BENTIAN’S LAND RIGHTS.
2. RETURN OF THE (partially bulldozed) LANDS OF JELMU SIBAK
VILLAGE (JATO REMPANGAN) TO THE BENTIAN PEOPLE.
3. LEVY FINES AGAINST LOGGING COMPANIES AND INDUSTRIAL FOREST PLANTATIONS WHICH HAVE DAMAGED BENTIAN LANDS AND RATTAN AND FRUIT GARDENS.
4. STOP THE TRANSMIGRATION/INDUSTRIAL FOREST PLANTATION
PROJECTS ON BENTIAN LANDS IMMEDIATELY.
President Suharto (President of Indonesia)
Fax: 62-21-345 7789
Bob Hasan (the Indonesian Timber Tycoon)
Fax: 62-21-390 9222
FASUMAD (environmental & indigenous rights group)
Jl. Pertahanan 1
WALHI (environmental & indigenous rights group)
Jl. Mampang Prapatan XV No41