Raja Ampat indigenous communities saddened by damaged coral reefs

Fighting for rights: Raja Ampat Customary Council head Kristian Thebu (center) gives a press statement at Conservation International in Sorong, West Papua, on March 17.
The Jakarta Post/ANN

Indigenous communities from Yembuba village in Raja Ampat regency, West Papua, were saddened by the damage to the coral reefs after British cruise vessel MV Caledonian Sky ran aground in shallow waters in the area last week.

"For decades, we have been preserving the coral reefs, which were even protected by our ancestors. But within hours, a cruise ship destroyed the 1.3-hectare area," Yembuba village head Habel Sawiyai said as quoted by Antara in Sorong, on Friday.

He further said waters in Yembuba village were protected by a customary law local people called sasi. Sasi, which had been passed down generations, prohibited people from catching fish illegally and destroying coral reefs in the area.

The customary law also supported local administrations to conserve sea ecosystems for the development of tourism in Raja Ampat, he explained.

"Frankly, we, as traditional communities, feel sad to see damage to the coral reefs. Moreover, we have not been included by the government in the process to claim compensation for the damage," said Habel.


Meanwhile, Raja Ampat Customary Council head Kristian Thebu said separately that the council fully entrusted the governmental process to claim compensation for the damaged coral reefs.

However, it would be ideal if the government could involve the residents of Yembuba village, who had lived in the area for generations watching over the conserved coral reefs that were destroyed by the cruise ship.

"Local people must be involved in the settlement of tourism problems in Raja Ampat," said Kristian.

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