Sacred Heart Archbishop Nicolaus Adi Seputra of Merauke
The Archbishop of Merauke in Indonesian Papua has denied accusations that he forced indigenous people to accept a controversial estate project, saying he had never collaborated with investors.
“As far as I know and remember, the district head, legislators, government officials and custom and religious leaders never sat together to talk about important matters related to investors,” Sacred Heart Archbishop Nicolaus Adi Seputra of Merauke said in a letter issued on Jan. 12.
He said he only heard information that Merauke district will be turned into an agropolitan, agrotravel and agro-industrial city in 2006. After that the district was chosen as the site for the plantation project.
“What the project’s programs are, who involves, what institutions run the project…everything is unclear to me,” he asserted.
In a November rally, Diana Gebze, head of Papua Solidarity Against MIFEE (Sorpatom, Indonesian acronym), said the archbishop must take responsibility over Papuans’ suffering because he forced them to accept foreign investors and the project.
MIFEE or the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate, is a project to convert 1.6 million hectares of land belonging to the indigenous Malind people into an agro-industrial land and biofuel factory to feed global demand for commodities.
The opposition group claims the project threatens Papuans’ livelihoods, food security and cultural security.
However, “I do understand and support the presence of investors,” said Merauke archbishop.
He said the district needs many investors since it will not be able to develop the society on its own.
Archbishop Seputra maintained that he had not met or collaborated with investors as he was out of town attending a meeting for bishops on Nov. 1-18 and the 40th anniversary of Agats-Asmat diocese on Nov. 19-23.
“I arrived in Merauke in the afternoon of Nov. 25,” he said.
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