Indonesian law may lead to ‘sale’ of islands

The Jakarta Post 12 Mar 11;

The enactment of the 2007 Law on Coastal Areas and Small Islands Management will prompt rampant sale of small islands and sea frontier areas, depriving residents from their homes and livelihoods, activists say.

People’s Coalition for Fisheries Justice Indonesia (Kiara) program director Abdul Halim said the law would break down areas into lots and require licenses (HP3) for economic activities utilizing natural resources in coastal areas.

“Local communities living in coastal areas might lose their livelihoods,” he said during a discussion held by the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam).

Kiara is one of 10 non-government organizations and 27 fishermen’s organizations that submitted a judicial review of the law to the Constitutional Court Jan. 10, 2010. Until now, no response has been delivered by the court.

Should the law survive the review, it will authorize local authorities to govern economic activities in coastal areas, including issuing HP3 permits, Halim said.

He cited as an example the law’s Article 1 (18), which stipulates that the HP3 permit provides rights on certain parts of coastal areas for fishery and other marine-based economic activities, but also for tourism and conservation.

Companies with HP3 permits can carry out economic activities in certain parts of coastal areas for 20 years and may extend their license if necessary.

Halim said the law was obviously aiming to only achieve significant economic growth from fishery and marine resources sectors, without paying adequate attention to local communities living in coastal areas.

Local communities living in coastal areas even might face criminal charges under the law.

Article 61 of the 2007 law stipulates that local communities should surrender certain parts of coastal areas, on which they depend on for their livelihoods, to entities which obtain HP3 permits. They would receive compensation for leaving their villages, but may be evicted or punished if they refuse to move from their living areas.

Halim said similar commercialization of islands and coastal areas had impacted local communities in the coastal areas of Senggigi in Lombok, Tomia Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi and Bidadari Island in Thousand Islands regency.

Residents lost their livelihoods after being evicted by private companies which took over their fishing villages and changed them into exclusive resort and tourism areas, he said.

Halim said some regional administrations had issued bylaws that refer to the law.

Sudirman Saat, director general of maritime, coastal areas and small islands at the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, said the 2007 law aimed only to better regulate the use of coastal areas.

“Most Indonesian coastal areas had been divided into lots by local communities which use them for economic activities such as fishing ponds, pearl farming, and sea-weed breeding fields, but in unsustainable ways,” he said, adding that none of the HP3 permits had yet been issued. (ebf)