Washington International Law Journal


The Indonesian government's land laws and policies lead to displacement of and hardship for the indigenous peoples of the archipelago. The Basic Agrarian Law, Basic Forestry Law, and Spatial Planning Law all allow for expropriation of indigenous lands formerly governed under the adat legal system. In addition, the central government's policy of transmigration—the shifting of people from the populous Inner Islands of Java, Bali, and Madura to the Outer Islands—only increases the economic and cultural pressure on indigenous peoples of the Outer Islands. The hopelessness and anger that result from the marginalization of traditional adat societies fuel violent ethnic conflicts, in which tribes such as the Dayak of Kalimantan seek to drive out the transmigrants and the timber and mining interests that have acquired rights to the Dayak's traditional lands. Thousands of people have been killed or displaced as a result of these clashes. The government of Indonesia needs to reform its land laws and honor adat principles of land use, before further violence erupts. The ultimate stake in this bloody game is the very survival of the indigenous peoples' way of life.

First Page