Fighting for ecological justice

A Life Choice for Protecting Small Islands

Only a few people want to spend time empowering communities in small and remote island areas in Indonesia. But Imanche dared to be different.

Imanche Al Rahman, commonly called Manche, is a Kaoem Telapak member from Southeast Sulawesi. It’s been more than ten years since Manche and his colleagues pioneered the non-governmental organization of Southeast Sulawesi Village Communities, abbreviated as Komnasdesa-Southeast Sulawesi. This institution focuses on social and environmental issues in remote areas and tiny islands in Southeast Sulawesi.

“At first, it was just a hobby. Indeed the intention was for social work,” answered Manche when asked about the history of Komnasdesa. Manche chose to work on this issue because he realized that the most minor and remote islands often overlooked the government’s attention, and even civil society organizations rarely worked on this issue. Finally, in 2007, Manche and his friends officially established the NGO Komnas Desa Southeast Sulawesi. Since its establishment, Komnas Desa has been active in building the capacity of local communities, opening market access, and is currently focusing on social forestry issues.

“We are advocating 4,000 hectares of land to become social forestry under a community forestry scheme,” said Manche, whose real name is Rahman Hashim. This proposal is still relatively new. All the necessary files are still in the Social Forestry Working Group of the Regional Government of Southeast Sulawesi. “Just waiting for the technical verification,” he said.

Imanche Al-Rahman, member of Kaoem Telapak

According to information from Manche, small islands are vulnerable to damage due to the uncontrolled mining industry. “Mining permits are very common. Small islands that do not reach 100 thousand hectares, but companies are permitted to conduct mining, even though this violates the Law,” said Manche.

In 2021, Konawe Islands Regency ratified a Regional Regulation concerning Spatial and Regional Layout Plans. The regional regulation allows companies to mine small islands in the Konawe Islands Regency. However, this is against many higher rules. It is against the Law on the Management of Coastal Zone and Small Islands, the Law on Spatial Planning, the Law on Formation of Laws and Regulations, and the Regional Regulation on Spatial Planning and the Region of Southeast Sulawesi, in which there is an article 39 which states that there is no space allocation for mining activities in Konawe Islands.

Recognizing the arrival of the mining company invasion, Manche and the network and community groups of Wawoni Island sued the Konawe Islands Regency Regional Regulation. As a result, the Supreme Court (MA) granted their judicial review rights. The Supreme Court decision released on December 22 2022, stated that the Konawe Archipelago Regency fit in the small island category, so mining activities are forbidden. But unfortunately, despite a legal ruling, the mining practice is still going on.

To substantiate this Supreme Court decision, Manche admits that he needs one research whose aim is to show the vulnerability of a small island if people keep allowing mining industries to live. “It is important to have a scientific basis. Hence we must prepare it,” said Manche.

For more than ten years working for the environment and community issues, Manche admits that he has often received threats of criminalization, intimidation, and attempts at bribery. But for Manche, this is a life choice, and he admits it’s enough to live it.