Indigenous Papuan Man Killed by Brutal Beating at Korindo Palm Oil Plantation

Mighty Earth recently received news of the tragic death of an Indigenous Papuan man and former palm oil plantation employee named Marius Betera, who was brutally beaten at the hands of the local police authorities and died hours later.

The news came from Mighty Earth’s civil society partners in Papua, Indonesia. SKP KAMe Meruake, a Catholic humanitarian organization based in the area where this incident occurred, issued a statement in response to the killing, which shares detailed testimony from witnesses concerning the circumstances of Betera’s death. The statement also notes that large companies like Korindo frequently use violence to repress community concerns, with local police commonly acting as company security. The statement further calls for immediate action to bring the perpetrator to justice and for the local government to provide strict sanctions on companies that violate laws and regulations, ranging from the revocation of licenses to the restoration of Indigenous rights.

According to eyewitness accounts, Betera was attacked at the office of a palm oil plantation company owned by Korindo Group, a notorious Korean-Indonesian logging and palm oil conglomerate with a long record of deforestation and exploitation of indigenous communities in Indonesia. Betera had reportedly come to the company’s office to lodge a complaint after the recent destruction of his banana plantation, which he suspected had been cleared by a Korindo company excavator the previous day.

In response to the news, Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director, Deborah Lapidus, released the following statement:

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marius Betera, who are now suffering as result of this appalling act of violence. There must be swift action by local law enforcement and Korindo to ensure justice is provided to Betera’s family and his community.

“But the response can’t stop there. Our investigations into Korindo’s operations have exposed the company’s record of wanton disregard for and exploitation of Papuan rainforests and the indigenous people who call those forests home. Yet Korindo has largely dismissed these concerns, or, when it could no longer avoid accountability, merely paid lip service to agreements to improve its practices. One such agreement, as stated on the Korindo website, is to ‘resolve grievances promptly, responsibly, responsively, and proactively;’ yet Betera’s grievance resulted in his death.

“The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which certifies its member companies’ adherence to environmental and human rights standards, should also immediately open its own investigation into this alleged act of violence and suppression, especially in light of Korindo’s earlier agreement with FSC to ‘comply with the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and remediate its negative impacts on communities.’”

A two-year investigation of Korindo’s deforestation practices by the FSC, prompted by a complaint filed by Mighty Earth, found that, among other violations, Korindo had violated traditional and human rights in Papua and North Maluku, Indonesia. The investigative reports detailed how Korindo had repeatedly manipulated, intimidated, and cheated communities, impacting their health, livelihoods, and rights.

Under pressure from Korindo, the FSC stopped short of sanctioning or withdrawing its certification of Korindo. Instead, in its agreement with the FSC, Korindo committed to “Undertake remedy and improvement processes to assure social measures have been and will be fair and proportionate and subject to FPIC of affected communities in Papua and North Maluku.” To date, the FSC has not provided any updates on the stakeholder process it promised to initiate that will determine Korindo’s liabilities to local communities and its deforestation legacy. The FSC further stated that “FSC will closely monitor Korindo’s progress of its implementation of the measures and conditions stipulated by FSC. Failure to satisfactorily meet these conditions would be basis for FSC to end its association with the company.”

Photo: A Korindo-owned plantation in Papua, © Mighty Earth 2016