Community Learning Centre for Social Reconciliation,

Respect of Human Rights and Better Democracy in the Autonomy Era in West Kalimantan, Indonesia

By Yohanes Supriyadi

As other provinces in Indonesia, West Kalimantan is in a difficult situation. While on the one hand the central government gives opportunity to the province to be autonomous, democracy does not yet run well and human rights are not well appreciated. Suspicions among different ethnic groups prevail. Amidst the economic crisis and the integrity of members of local legislative body that is yet to be tested, powerful groups work into placing their favoured persons into power by way of money politics. Powerful groups and capital owners tend to pursue their own interests sometimes by doing things that violate human rights of the people at the grass-root level.

West Kalimantan is a province with multi-ethnic populations. The Dayaks, who are regarded as indigenous, make up 41 percent of the total population followed by the Malays or Melayu (39 %), Chinese (10.25%), Bugis (4%), Javanese (3%) and Madurese (2.75 %). The province’s history notes that political motives of the elites underlie conflicts among different ethnic groups.

The end of 1960s was the starting point when development projects came into the hinterland of West Kalimantan, creating new problems to the indigenous. Logging concessionaire and then pulp plantations and oil-palm estates contribute a lot in degrading the environment of the province. On the other hand, as Prof.Dr. Syarif Ibrahim Alkadrie (1992) says, logging activities do not lift up the economy of the local people.

Logging activities and activities of pulp plantation and oil-palm estates also directly pollute the rivers and affect the decrease of the debit of the rivers. The polluted rivers affect the health condition of the local people since the rivers are their source of drinking water while the decreasing debit of the rivers also makes water transportation difficult. While road network is not yet good, the difficulty in river transportation affects the economy of the interior area. The forest destruction also causes many species of plants and animals to disappear, causing certain pests to multiply quickly. In the district (kabupaten) of Ketapang, locusts (Locuita Migratoria Manilensis) attack crops in three subdistrict (kecamatan) areas, i.e. Kecamatan Marau, Kecamatan Jelai Hulu and Kecamatan Manis Mata within the past three years.

Up to the present, conflicts between oil-palm plantation companies and local communities keep on. The conflicts actually stem from the interests of the oil palm company in controlling as large area of lands as possible with as low price as possible and the indifference both central and local government to the local (adat) rights. On the other hand, for local people, lands are their existence. The local people are generally in very weak position in any conflict.

Very little attention has been paid to indigenous communities since the New Order era. The Law (Undang-undang) No. 5, 1960 regarding the Agrarian Matters actually gives room to local rights although in some aspects the law has some weakness. But the law was paralysed by other laws sunch as Law regarding forestry matters and law regarding the mining. The Law No. 5, 1979 (now replaced with Law No. 22, 1999) regarding Village Administration, was not always applicable to communities in islands other than Java. In West Kalimantan this Law was utilized by both central and local government to destroy adat institutions. Appointing government-favoured already “tamed” figures as adat leaders is among other examples of how the new order government destroyed the adat system.

Autonomous kabupatens (districts, regions lower to province) that is to be effective in 2001 surely requires strong communities, good and critical legislatures and clean and effective kabupaten-level governments. Otherwise local policies will be controlled by certain powerful groups and directed to benefit them only.

Strong communties means empowered and organized community groups at the grassroot level. Good local legislatures means legislatures that are able to produce fair local regulations that can give benefits to all stakeholders. Good legislatures require legislators who have integrity and who have awareness of the duty of representing the people. Local knowledge of the ethnic groups in the province, social and cultural values, expectations of the people are resources that should be taken into account in making local regulations. Local regulations that neglect these things will not be well accepted by the pople and will cause a lot of friction.

Discussions with the local community members led to conclusion that they already had the awareness of what and who caused the problems they were facing. Interesting ideas on how to solve the problems even sometimes occurred surprisingly. The constraints are that the communities still have collective sense of self-inconfidence and that they are not organized.

The collective sense of self-inconfidence dates back to a long history. However, the 90 decade witnesses encouraging phenomena i.e. the emergence of initiatives among local communities. Yayasan Pemberdayaan Pefor Nusantara (YPPN) has documented success stories of at least 5 communities

Communication and information are among other significant factors in boosting the sense of self-confidence among the local communities. YPPN’s experience so far shows that in gatherings that involved representatives of communities from different places, participants were eager to share experience and learn one to another.
Community Learning Centre Building
Costly formal education and the fact that many of the target community members have a little educational background make community learning center a strategic option in empowering the people. In a community learning center (CLC) community members can learn anything that they need through many ways. A CLC, however, is meant more as a form of commitment of a community than merely a place.

Community learning centers are the core of the community activities. A village (kampung) can set up a community learning community. But it will depend on the decision of the community regarding their social, geographical and other situations to decide whether they will have a community learning centre in each kampung or several kampungs join together to set up a community learning centre.

Organizing, however, is the first thing the communities should learn because without organizing any effort they make will avail nothing. And since CLC is more of a commitment than anything else, the setting up of a CLC might indicate the beginning of being organized of a certain community. It will be those are already trained in community organizing who are in charge of the CLC. NGO activists act as facilitators.

Program activities to support CLCs at the target areas are: Consultative Discussions. Discussions will be frequent both in the preparation and during the implementation of a CLC. At a CLC community members will set their agenda of learning, determine activities to organize themselves, making plans and the like. When community members indicate that they are already capable of doing these jobs themselves, the frequency of these consultative discussions can be decreased. Community media development. The development of popular media is directed towards better communication among communities or CLCs. The popular media is also meant as a media or learning through which community members can get necessary information.

In the context of the advocacy work, in order to determine to make a new policy or revise or annul old regulation, a study to find out how, and why the policies that relate to the condition of the fragile social cohesion should be studied. It is also expected that the communication building between community representatives and the local legislatures and also the dialogues bring about common agreement to have things investigated.

Me project activities are directed towards the achievement of the following objectives: (1) Create a foundation of strong, empowered and human rights-and-democracy -conscious communities by boosting their human rights understanding and increasing their capacity in organizing and in finding alternatives to solve their basic problems. (2) Increase local legislatures' capacity and sensitivity to the people as a base for policy dialogues and “people-friendly policy making”. Create a foundation of democracy mechanism in the district level.
Create a foundation of reconciliation among different ethnic groups in the West Kalimantan.

It is expected that the community organizing training re-vitalize target community members’ eagerness to organize themselves. Starting with bringing the habit of gathering into life again, discussing things related to their day-to-day life, the whole village gathering is expected to end in an agreement to set up an organization. The community learning center will enable them do more than merely getting together. They will be stimulated to think that their problems can only be solved when they are united and organized. Exchange of information, experience at the CLC, the media that the community members themselves develop, will increase their eagerness. Discussions and exchange of information on how the local democracy work in reality will stimulate them to respond. Meanwhile with human rights training they become aware of their rights as well as other people’s rights.

The exchange of information and communication with other community groups, especially with those of different ethnicity to them can be encouraged at this step. This is expected to boost their understanding of other “different” groups.

The human rights training and also democracy training are expected to stimulate community members to do monitoring to the practice of democracy in the district. Their awareness of democratic values and human rights will also give them benefit when they have to push the legislature to make policies that will benefit the people, policies that encourage different groups in the community understand one to another more.

Community learning centers are designed to allow them to make replication. Trainings, apprenticeship system (activities first started by the leading organisation while partner organisation and community-based organisations are involved and learn during the process) , and the dissemination of ideas done by the local communities (with their community-based organisations) will enlarge the coverage of empowered communities as basis of "strong" grassroots forces to promote democracy. The experience of legislatures in concern with the project will be shared to other kabupaten (district) level legislatures, either directly by the legislators or through activities of outreach (publication).

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