Marginalization amid new beginnings . . .
Last March, Indonesian President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo gathered with his cabinet and provincial heads to celebrate the foundation of the new capital Nusantara (Bahasa Indonesia for "archipelago"). The city will occupy over 2,500 square kilometres of East Kalimantan Province, located on Borneo Island. However, Indigenous communities who have traditionally inhabited the area worry that the mega project will further push them out of their lands and threaten their cultures. At least 21 different Indigenous communities live where Nusantara will be built. Multiple communities, such as the Balik, already face encroachment on their farming and customary lands from resource extraction companies active in the region. According to Balik leaders, more than 100 extended families will have to relocate to make way for Nusantara.
Capital of an archipelago . . .
Proposed by Jokowi in 2019, the new capital will be Indonesia's administrative seat and likely lead to the resettlement of 1.5 million people, replacing local forests and displacing original inhabitants. Jokowi sold Nusantara as a new "green" and "smart" city built to be environmentally conscious and equipped with the latest emerging technology for a higher quality of life and efficient transportation – an attractive promise compared to the current capital of Jakarta, which has frequent floods and infamous traffic jams. Due to illegal groundwater extraction, the city of 10 million people is also slowly sinking.
A quest to reaffirm identity and land rights . . .
Despite a landmark 2013 Constitutional Court ruling giving back control of traditional land to Indigenous communities, they remain excluded from consultation on legislation that impacts and erodes their territorial rights. Such was the case with the new state capital law passed in 2021, which defines how the city will be funded and governed. Indigenous groups in East Kalimantan have filed a lawsuit at the Constitutional Court. They argue the new capital law violated the constitutional rights of citizens and that it cannot be legally binding given its drafting process did not consult or obtain informed consent from populations directly affected. Through the lawsuit and the salience of the new capital, advocates hope to pressure the government to pass the long-awaited Indigenous Peoples' bills, which would recognize customary laws and land rights for Indigenous communities across Indonesia.
- Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara: Masyarakat Adat Diabaikan, UU IKN Melanggar Hak Konstitusional Warga
- Mongabay: For Indonesian MPs, Indigenous rights may be bad for business, report says
- Nikkei Asia: Villagers fear Indonesia's new capital will bury their culture