Fighting for ecological justice

Cultural Approach Advocating the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

There are various ways of advocating the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Raden Mohamad Rais, a member of Kaoem Telapak from Lombok, chooses a cultural approach.

Raden Mohamad Rais, was born in Mambalan, Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. He has been active in the Indigenous Peoples movement for a long time. The Mambalan Indigenous Community, where he works, is a member of the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN). Due to his activism, he met Kaoem Telapak in the late 90s. At that time, Kaoem Telapak was still called Telapak.

Then, Rais engage in many discussions with many Kaoem Telapak. Hence, Rais and Kaoem Telapak were getting close. Seeing that Kaoem members have diverse backgrounds, plus Indigenous Peoples are the main constituents of this association, Rais was excited to join. “So AMAN is active at the community level, and Kaoem is for networking,” he said.

As an activist, Rais knows that Indigenous Peoples face several problems in Lombok. Rais said that due to poor land governance in Lombok, many ancestral territories convert into housing. “We are collecting community data and mapping the area to address those issues,” said Rais.

He and his colleague collect information regarding Indigenous Peoples communities in their area, then document its boundaries. When finished, they proceed to the map. “Currently, we are mapping in Mondok Village,” said Rais.

According to Rais, Mondok Village is prone to yearly landslides and floods. Therefore, Rais and his colleagues at PD AMAN NTB carried out land rehabilitation by planting trees. “Some areas have been running, but there are still some who don’t get it because resources are limited,” Rais added.

Raden, Mohamad Rais, Member of Kaoem Telapak from Lombok

In carrying out the data collection and mapping program of Indigenous Peoples’ territories, Rais admitted several challenges. Rais deplored the Regional and District Governments for responding to this issue normatively. In addition, many Village Chiefs need to improve their awareness about the Indigenous Peoples.

In addition, Indigenous Peoples Communities are scattered in many administrative areas, making consolidation of the movement quite tricky. “There is one Indigenous Community spread over eight villages, so when you want to unify perceptions, you must unify the perceptions of eight Village Heads. That is the challenge,” said Rais.

Not to mention the stigma against Indigenous Peoples that is still attached, “They see the Indigenous peoples as a barrier to development,” said Rais. This stigma makes the voices of Indigenous Peoples barely heard.

To answer this challenge, Rais advocates for the rights of Indigenous Peoples using a cultural or cultural approach. Rais creates spaces for informal discussion, for example, meeting on the plantation. The language he chose is not confrontational. He also often reminds local officials to remember their origins as Sasak people. “By taking a cultural approach, the government is starting to open up a bit,” said Rais.

Rais admitted that Kaoem Telapak influenced the pattern of his activism movement. From the diverse Kaoem Telapak network, Rais learned from the experiences of other members from various regions in Indonesia. “The influence is extensive. The discussions that have triggered the movement, developing the minds, and make a lasting impression,” Rais explained.

After that, Rais revealed problems plaguing Indigenous Peoples in Lombok. The problem is that there needs to be a Regional Regulation that recognizes the existence of Indigenous Peoples there. “I hope that Kaoem can help push for the regional regulation that acknowledges Indigenous Peoples,” he said.