Indigenous people have been given a glimmer of hope as President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has signed a presidential letter permitting the House of Representatives to begin deliberations with related ministries on the long-awaited bill on the protection of indigenous people’s rights.
“He has sent it to the ministers […] I received the letter from the State Secretary Ministry,” Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said on Saturday in front of around 300 indigenous people from across the country, who gathered in Minahasa, North Sulawesi from March 14 to 17 for the 5th National Working Meeting of the Indigenous People’s Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN)
Siti said the letter was sent to her ministry, the Public Works and Housing Ministry and the Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry, which were the government sectors leading the deliberation of the bill.
The news was welcomed by indigenous people, who were also celebrating the 19th anniversary of national indigenous community awakening day.
Rukka Sombolinggi, the secretary-general of AMAN, said they were grateful for the positive development but she hoped it could happen faster.
“This is not a present. This is the state’s responsibility. We should have had an indigenous people’s rights protection law years ago,” she said.
Rukka said the House’s draft bill still had a lot of problems, some of them related to indigenous women and the national commission that will organize the indigenous people.
“We continue to urge the House to revise the draft bill, while also communicating with the government about the current draft,” she added.
Rukka also said the key to successfully deliberating the bill was that related ministries must set aside their “sectoral egos” and start to focus and fight for indigenous people together.
The indigenous people bill was initially proposed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) party in 2012.
It was to be among the National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) bills in 2014, but was dropped from the list at the last minute.
It was two years later, in 2016, that the bill was finally added to Prolegnas for deliberation.