The government of Indonesia has responded to UN recommendations to recognise the rights of its indigenous peoples by claiming that none live in Indonesia. In fact, Indonesia is home to an estimated 50-70 million indigenous and tribal people.
In a response to the United Nations Periodic Review, a four–year human rights check-up for all countries, Indonesia said this month, "The Government of Indonesia supports the promotion and protection of indigenous people worldwide… Indonesia, however, does not recognise the application of the indigenous peoples concept… in the country".
The UN’s report recommended that Indonesia should consider ratifying ILO Convention 169, the only international law for indigenous and tribal peoples. It also recommended that Indonesia should secure the rights of indigenous peoples, especially to their traditional lands, territories and resources. Indonesia’s denial of the existence of indigenous peoples within its borders was in response to this.
Survival International, the NGO which campaigns for the rights of tribal people, believes that Indonesia treats its indigenous and tribal people, especially in West Papua, worse than any other country in the world. In West Papua killings, torture and rape of tribal people are commonplace – the figure of 100,000 people killed since 1963 is believed to be a conservative estimate.
The denial of the very existence of indigenous peoples in Indonesia is symptomatic of the government’s total disregard for their rights.
Indonesia’s President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, will travel to the UK for a State visit on October 31st.